The Untold Truth Of Kelsea Ballerini

Kelsea Ballerini has been part of the country music scene for so long that it's easy to forget how young she is, having celebrated her 28th birthday in September 2021. A big part of that comes from the fact that she was signed to her first record deal when she was just 19; in the years since, Ballerini has released four studio albums and racked up numerous hits. In fact, in 2016, Billboard lauded Ballerini for being the first female artist in history to simultaneously hit the No. 1 spot on both the Hot Country Songs and Country Airplay charts. In 2019, she was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry by Carrie Underwood, becoming the Opry's youngest member in its century-long history.

Meanwhile, IMDb pointed out that she's received 25 award nominations, including eight nods for the Academy of Country Music Awards (winning twice), six CMT Music Award nominations and two Grammy nominations. Ballerini's history with the CMT Music Awards deepened in 2022, when The Hollywood Reporter was among the media outlets to report that she and "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" star Anthony Mackie had been enlisted to co-host that year's edition of the award show, something that will certainly raise her profile even higher.

One of country music's most popular and intriguing artists, there's still a lot her fans may not know about this massively talented singer and songwriter. Here's the untold truth of Kelsea Ballerini. 

The first song she ever wrote was for her mom

Kelesa Ballerini's career as a songwriter had a somewhat inauspicious origin. As she explained in an interview with the Boston Globe, she was just 12 years old when the self-described procrastinator found herself in a conundrum, realizing she'd forgotten to buy a Mother's Day gift for her mom, Carla Ballerini. "I forgot it was Mother's Day the next day, and I knew that my mom loved what she calls 'gifts of the heart' — you know, things that are just really sweet," she explained. "I was like, 'Oh, I'll just write her a song.' That was the beginning of the end for me."

As Ballerini recalled for USA Today, she titled the song "Oh Mama," revealing that her mother "loved it — she cried." In fact, the youngster's song went over so well that she went back to that same well for future Mother's Day gifts. "For a while, I would write her another verse every Mother's Day," Ballerini recalled.

All those years later, Ballerini remains close with her mother, even taking her with her as her date to the 2017 Grammy Awards. "The best accessory I have is my mother," Ballerini told People, recalling how they watched the Grammys together when she was 13, promising, "Hey mom, if I ever get to go you're my date!" According to Ballerini, her mother had not forgotten that invitation when Ballerini was nominated for Best New Artist that year. "She was like, 'Hey ...'"

Kelsea Ballerini never intended to pursue music as a career

Had life gone in a different direction for Kelsea Ballerini, she'd be taking care of animals instead of entertaining humans. Interviewed by CMT, Ballerini explained that music was always part of her life growing up, performing with her school glee club and leading her church choir. "I always loved performing and music, but I didn't want do it [as a career]," she said. "I wanted to be a vet. I really thought that's what I wanted to do. It was a real job, and I could stay in Knoxville, you know what I mean?"

That dream of becoming a veterinarian, she said, took a back seat to songwriting after her parents divorced. Working through her feelings by writing songs became "the outlet [she] needed" during that rough period in her early adolescence. "I found it right in that time," she said. "I started coping with life through that way and never stopped."

As Ballerini told Rolling Stone, she's certainly not the first child forced to deal with the turmoil of divorcing parents, and it's a topic she returned to with her 2015 song "Secondhand Smoke." "It's so many people's story, and a story that needs to be told because I know when I was 12 and 13 when [the divorce] was happening, I felt super alone," she explained. "I want to be a voice of comfort for people going through that."

Her first trip to Nashville in hopes of landing a record deal was a disaster

Kelsea Bellerini's gift for songwriting was evident when, at age 14, she made her first trip to Nashville in hopes of being signed to a record deal. As she told CMT, that was during a time "when a lot of young females were launching" in the country music scene. Promised she was going to be going home with a record deal in hand, she met with the president of a record label. As she recalled in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, "he looked at me and said, 'There's already a Taylor Swift. That slot's taken.'"

While that withering assessment "broke [her] heart," she told CMT, it also led her to realize that she simply "didn't want it yet." In addition, the experience wound up teaching her an important lesson that guided her career from that moment on. "You really do have to be different," said Ballerini of what she'd learned. "You really do have to set yourself apart."

The following year, Ballerini and her recently divorced mom moved to Nashville, where she studied marketing and communications and continued to write songs. Eventually she was signed to a publishing deal, and then, at 19, a recording contract. "It took a long time for people to actually listen to me and actually take me seriously," she told the Tribune of that period, learning that "if I took myself seriously, then other people would, too."

She's a little too in love with ranch dressing

When Kelsea Ballerini is on the road, she strives to eat healthy, telling Delish that she tries to keep her tour bus stocked with fresh juice. However, she also admitted her food choices become far less healthy after a show, when she and her band tend to gravitate toward fast food (Chick-fil-A is a favorite). Chicken nuggets, she revealed during a conversation with comedian Chelsea Handler on her Netflix talk show, remain a favorite. "Chicken nuggets are actually my love language," Ballerini told Handler, as reported by Sounds Like Nashville.

She also shared the unusual condiment she uses when enjoying a steak. "I put ranch on steak. Even fancy ones!" she told Delish, declaring her devotion to ranch dressing. "I put ranch on pizza, too, but ranch on steak is a weird one," she admitted.

Ballerini combined her obsession with ranch dressing with her devotion to fitness in a video she posted to Instagram. Kneeling on the floor, Ballerini does pushups while clamping a potato chip between her teeth; each time she goes down, she dips that chip into a tub of ranch dressing and then consumes it. She then pulls another chip from a bag, places it in her mouth and repeats the process. 

Her favorite song comes from her favorite movie

Interviewed by the Nashville Business Journal in 2017, Kelsea Ballerini was asked to single out her favorite song that she hadn't written, and responded with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." The signature song of Judy Garland, she added, is "just classic, and it's stunning, and it's perfect. And timeless. I think when you can write a timeless song like that then you've accomplished everything." As she wrote on Instagram, accompanying a video of herself singing the song, "when I was a little girl, this song always brought me peace when life felt uneasy and calmed my anxiety."

Not surprisingly, Ballerini has also expressed her admiration for the beloved 1939 movie from which that song originated. "'The Wizard of Oz' is my favorite movie of all time," she told Us Weekly

During a 2020 appearance on "Today," Ballerini told host Hoda Kotb that "The Wizard of Oz" remains her "favorite movie in the whole world," revealing she costumed herself as the film's protagonist, Dorothy, "for like five Halloweens in a row. Every time I outgrew the ruby slippers, my mom would get me a new pair." Discussing the lyrics in "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," Ballerini admitted that she "didn't really understand" the sentiment underlying the song when she was younger, but simply "loved the way it made me feel." Now that she's older, she explained, she feels the song "represents like the dream, whatever that is to anyone ..."

Her biggest showbiz dream involves a hydraulic lift

Kelsea Ballerini may be one of Nashville's biggest country music stars, but she feels there's still much she wants to accomplish in her career. "When I signed my record deal, they [asked], 'What's your dream, what's your goal?'" she told Nashville Business Journal in 2017. "And I [said], 'I want to come up on a hydraulic lift.' It sounds silly, but that's truly my goal."

In a subsequent interview, Ballerini revealed she still held that same dream of being raised up onstage via hydraulics. As she told Audacy, "it's just this slow, dramatic thing. I think I saw so many of those entrances as a kid going to concerts, that I was like, 'that's it!' I've gotten to do cool intros, but not that one. That's the pinnacle to me."

Ballerini did get to experience that entrance — not at one of her own shows, but when she was a surprise guest at a Taylor Swift concert back in 2015. She recounted the experience of being beneath the stage, waiting to rise up, in an interview with the Tennessean. "I was down there looking at it like, 'I can't get off of this thing now,'" she said. "I have to go up and do this right now. What am I going to do?' It was insane. And it's Taylor Swift. I was painfully nervous."

She met her husband in Australia

Tapped to co-host Australia's Country Music Channel Awards in Brisbane in March 2016, Kelsea Ballerini's journey down under became a fateful one. Her co-host for the event was fellow country music artist Morgan Evans, known for his hit "Kiss Somebody." As it turned out, Ballerini told People, the "somebody" Evans wound up kissing that night was her, after they toasted their successful co-hosting gig by downing a tequila shot. "I remember taking that shot and putting it down and looking at him like, 'Oh ... he's superhot [sic].' Later that night he leaned over and asked if he could kiss me, like a proper gentleman, and I said yes."

A few months later, in December of that same year, Evans and Ballerini announced they were engaged. "This morning, 9 months and 13 days later, he got down on one knee in the kitchen while I was burning pancakes and asked me to marry him," wrote Ballerini in an Instagram post she shared on Christmas Day. "Loving him has been the greatest gift of my life."

Just under a year later, in December 2017, Ballerini and Evans tied the knot in a ceremony held in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. "I'm gonna love you forever. Forever and Evans, Amen," she tweeted on her wedding day, tagging the groom.

She inspired one of her husband's hits (and then starred in the music video)

Given that Kelsea Ballerini's spouse is also a country music star, it would seem inevitable that she and husband Morgan Evans would wind up inspiring each other's music. That proved to be the case with Evans' 2018 single, "Day Drunk." 

As Evans told Taste of Country, he wrote the song about how his plans for an epic day of fun in celebration of Ballerini's birthday completely fell apart. "I had this whole day planned out for her. We were gonna eat here, we were gonna go do this. She got home from the road and she was dead tired. She came in and said, 'Do you mind if we skip that stuff and close that blind and maybe open the champagne?'" he recalled. The resulting song, he explained, is "about spending the day with your girl," although he admitted his fans had begun to embrace the song as "this drinking anthem." 

Not only is Ballerini the song's inspiration, she's also the star of the resultant music video — which features footage of the couple vacationing together in Hawaii, shot by Evans on a GoPro. "I've never been the drinking song guy, but this song came from a real place and is really more about spending a day with your person than it is about just going getting drunk," Evans told ET.

Her dream collab isn't with another country singer, but a rapper

Sharing "25 Things You Don't Know About Me," Kelsea Ballerini told Us Weekly that one of her dream collaborations would be "to duet with Macklemore! Country and rap — why not?" 

She elaborated in an interview with Downtown Country. "I want to work with a lot of people, I love blending genres, I think it's a really cool way to get new ears on my music and country music that maybe wouldn't have listened to it and then vice versa," she said. "I love putting people together that like wouldn't make sense, like I would love to do something with a rap artist, like Macklemore."

Meanwhile, Ballerini has had the opportunity to share the stage with some of country's top performers, which was undoubtedly the case when she performed a duet with the legendary Dolly Parton at the ACM Awards in March 2022. "This is a once in a lifetime," Ballerini told "Access" of the opportunity of performing alongside Parton, whom she described as "the most role model of role models I could think of."

Kelsea Ballerini has experienced a lot of success at a comparatively young age

Kelsea Ballerini celebrated her 28th birthday in September 2021, underlining just how much this talented singer-songwriter has achieved at such a young age. Not only has she written numerous songs and charted several hits, Celebrity Net Worth estimates that she's accumulated a fortune estimated at $6 million. 

Among Ballerini's big-ticket purchases in recent years has been a new home, replacing the downtown Nashville apartment where she and husband Morgan Evans lived previously. "It's a big pain to go from downtown Nashville to the 'burbs, but it's so good for us, especially this year, just to have a little more space, to not hear the interstate and not hear the bachelorette parties," Ballerini told People of the couple's new abode. "It's been good for us to start settling in."

Meanwhile, Ballerini took a big leap career-wise in 2018, when Variety reported that she parted ways with Icon Management's Fletcher Foster and signed with Jason Owen of Sandbox Entertainment, described as a "powerhouse Nashville management firm." Sandbox Entertainment, the outlet noted, also represented a roster of top female country artists, such as Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town, and Faith Hill. Discussing Ballerini with Hits Daily Double, Owen praised her for being "fearless. And such a star." According to Owen, his plans for Ballerini were to let her continue to "be who she is ..."

Why she's taking a 'heavy pass' on future acting roles

According to IMDb, Kelsea Ballerini made her acting debut in a 2016 episode of "Nashville," the soapy drama set in Music City. As Entertainment Weekly noted, she didn't have to dig too deep to get into character, given that she was playing herself, performing her hit "Peter Pan." 

Interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter later that year, Ballerini was asked whether she wanted to do any further acting following that "Nashville" cameo. "It's a heavy pass for me," she said of any future acting roles. "So no, I'm not an actress. Never going to happen."

Several years later, however, Ballerini broke her promise by taking on an acting role for an audiobook. This was no run-of-the-mill audiobook, but "Run Rose Run," a novel co-written by Dolly Parton and James Patterson. As Music Row reported, Ballerini had signed on to narrate the character of AnnieLee, described by Parton as "a brilliant young singer-songwriter with a mysteriously dark past." As Parton explained, she "knew from the beginning" that Ballerini "could bring the right balance of vulnerability, ferocity, and sparkling wit to the character AnnieLee." In a statement, Ballerini gushed about the "incredible privilege" of "embodying this complex, bold, and sometimes secretive character through the unpredicted twists and turns of this Nashville-based thriller ... I can't wait for listeners to fall in love with her, and this story, too."

She received an unexpected career boost from Taylor Swift

There's a certain irony to Kelsea Ballerini's relationship with Taylor Swift. While early comparisons to Swift cost Ballerini a record contract when she was a teenager, Swift has also been one of her biggest supporters. "She tweeted about my EP before my first single was even Top 40," Ballerini told Elite Daily, recalling how Swift posted about her EP and the single "Yeah Boy" in 2015. "When people compare us, I hope that it's because she's always kept songwriting and her fans at the forefront. And that's always something that I hope to take from her and what she does." As The Washington Post pointed out, Ballerini's single jumped 25 spots on the iTunes country charts within a 72-hour period after Swift's tweet. Later that year, in September 2015, Swift invited Ballerini to be her special guest at one of her Nashville concerts. 

Ballerini has pretty much admitted that without Swift, she likely wouldn't be enjoying the level of success that she's achieved. "I don't think I'd have the opportunity to be an artist if she hadn't blazed the trail ahead of me," Ballerini told SiriusXM.

Over the years, Ballerini and Swift have grown to become friends. Back in 2015, Ballerini posted a photo of the pair on Twitter, noting that she was "always so kind!!" In 2018, Ballerini shared a photo on Instagram of herself and Swift, describing herself as Swift's "biggest fan and proudest friend."

Why she'll never 'jump ship' from country music to become a pop artist

While Taylor Swift made the leap from country music to pop superstardom, Kelsea Ballerini has no intention of following a similar trajectory. Speaking with People about her "genre-bending" 2020 album "kelsea," she insisted she remained firmly rooted within the country genre.

"There are a lot of pop and country elements on this record. It made me scared; I was like, 'If there's as many beat drops as there are banjos on this album, are people going to think that I'm not a country artist anymore? Are they going to lose respect for me in this journey that I've built in Nashville?'" she admitted. "But I never will jump ship. I am rooted and I've built my foundation [in country], but I'm allowed as an artist and a musician to explore and create."

After winning the Performance of the Year award for "The Other Girl," her duet with Halsey, at the CMT Awards, Ballerini addressed the criticism that she'd forsaken country for pop. "There was a lot of chatter on 'categorically' what genre this song did or didn't fit into. And the fact that you voted this as the winning performance tells me that you know where my roots are and that you know who I am," she said, via CMT. "But it also tells me that you hear music as music, and tells me that you love when people push boundaries and explore artistry."

Kelly Clarkson enlisted her as a last-minute replacement on The Voice

When viewers tuned in to NBC singing competition "The Voice" for the start of the Season 20 Battle Rounds, they were no doubt surprised to see Kelsea Ballerini sitting in the revolving red chair normally occupied by Kelly Clarkson

Speaking with ET, Ballerini recounted the whirlwind series of events that led her to fill in for Clarkson at the eleventh hour. "I was home in Nashville and got a text from Kelly at like 9 p.m., like 'Hey girl ... I'm not feeling well. I don't have COVID, but with the protocols, (I) don't feel safe going to set, could you cover the Battle Rounds for me?'" Ballerini recalled. "So I got on the plane, studied everything and watched everything. Landed, hair and makeup, set, said hi to Nick Jonas and John Legend and Blake Shelton, got in Kelly's seat, and said, 'Fake it till you make it!'"

Ballerini subsequently appeared on Clarkson's daytime talk show, where the "American Idol" alum revealed that she and Ballerini were "texting the entire time" while the live episode was shot. Ballerini admitted that watching the show on television and being there in person were two vastly different experiences. "Honestly, it's so crazy because obviously there's great talent on a show called 'The Voice,'" Ballerini explained. "But when you're actually sitting there in the room and you're watching these artists ... I just had goosebumps most of the time."