Kelsea Ballerini is an American country singer and songwriter, currently signed to ‘Black River Entertainment.’ She was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, and was the only child in her family. She started attending dance lessons at the age of 3 and continued for the next 10 years. As she entered her teenage years, she drifted toward music and sang in school and church choirs. She got her major career breakthrough in 2014, at the age of 19, when she signed a deal with the record label ‘Black River Entertainment.’ She released her debut single, ‘Love Me Like You Mean It,’ in late 2014. This was also the lead single from her debut album and created a soothing country–pop blend. In November 2014, she released a self-titled EP. She was named one of ‘CMT’s ‘Next Women of Country’ in 2014. She released her debut album, ‘The First Time,’ in May 2015. The album peaked at the 4th spot on the ‘US Country’ chart.’ A single from the album, ‘Peter Pan,’ topped the ‘Billboard Country Airplay’ and the ‘Hot Country Songs’ charts. Her second album, ‘Unapologetically,’ was released in November 2017 and peaked at the 3rd spot on the ‘US Country’ chart.
Childhood & Early Life
Kelsea Ballerini was born Kelsea Nicole Ballerini, on September 12, 1993, in Knoxville, Tennessee. She was the only child of her parents, Ed and Carla. Her father worked as the sales manager for a country-music radio station, and her mother worked for a publishing company. In the initial years of her life, she had no significant interest in music and was more inclined toward dance.
Her mother got her enrolled into dance classes as soon as she turned 3. By the time she was 10 years old, she had become a graceful dancer and was proficient in a number of dance forms. However, by the time she was 13 years old, she grew bored of it and stopped attending the dance classes. She soon began developing an interest in music. She had discovered her songwriting talent totally by accident, when she was 12 years old.
She loved her mother, and in order to give her a gift, she wrote a song about her. Her mother had tears in her eyes, listening to the song, and that was the turning point in Kelsea’s life. She realized she could do well in music. At 15, she began practicing on her guitar.
She soon started singing in churches and school choirs. The confidence she gained helped her build a career in music. She attended the ‘Central High School’ in her hometown. She then attended the ‘Centennial High School’ when the family moved to Franklin. She finally graduated from the school and moved to Nashville. She then joined ‘Lipscomb University,’ where she studied communications and marketing for two years, before beginning to explore her music career.
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In 2013, at the age of 19, she bagged the first professional deal of her music career, with ‘Black River Entertainment.’ In October 2014, she ventured into country music, with her single ‘Love Me Like You Mean It.’ Kelsea had co-written the song with Josh Kerr and a couple of other writers. The single gained the top spot on the ‘Billboard Country Airplay’ chart, and with this, Kelsea became the first female country artist, working under an independent label, to have attained the top spot on the chart.
‘Love Me Like You Mean It’ was the lead track from her debut album ‘The First Time,’ which was released in May 2015. The track had already made waves around the country-music landscape, and the album benefitted from the anticipation surrounding Kelsea.
In November 2014, Kelsea released her debut self-titled EP, which was received well by critics. The album’s success helped Kelsea earn more fame. She exhibited a mature side of her personality through her songs. Most of her songs were seemingly inspired by actual events in her life, such as her parents’ divorce and the heartbreaks she suffered. Through the emotional lyrics, she connected with music lovers on a deeper level.
The first three singles from her debut studio album, ‘The First Time,’ namely ‘XO,’ ‘Peter Pan,’ and ‘Love Me Like You Mean It,’ graced the top spot on the ‘Billboard Country Airplay’ chart. Hence, Kelsea became the first new female artist to have the first three songs of her career topping the chart. The album received great reviews upon its release but was criticized for being too flirty. ‘Peter Pan’ was a highly successful single, and Kelsea ended up performing it at the ‘Academy of Country Music Awards.’
Another song from the album, ‘Dibs,’ ended up becoming the second-most successful track from the album, after ‘Love Me Like You Mean It.’ It reached the seventh spot on the ‘Billboard Hot Country Songs’ chart, and its music video received praises after being released on ‘YouTube.’ A few critics praised the song wholeheartedly and compared Kelsea’s artistic sensibilities to that of Taylor Swift.
The album sold more than 300 thousand copies in the US, as of October 2017, and over time, it was certified “gold” by the ‘Recording Industry Association of America’ (RIAA).
Following the success of her debut album, she became an artist in demand. She collaborated with country-music legends such as Alan Jackson, Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw, and Keith Urban. She also headlined her very own tour, to promote her debut album on a larger scale.
In 2017, she received accolades from all ends. She reached the 2nd spot on ‘Forbes’s ‘30 under 30’ music list, in 2017. She received nominations for the ‘Academy of Country Music Awards’ for ‘Video of the Year’ and ‘Female Vocalist of the Year,’ for her single ‘Peter Pan.’ In early 2017, she announced her second studio album and then released its lead track, ‘Legends.’
‘Legends’ aced the ‘Billboard Country Airplay’ chart and reached the 10th spot on the ‘Hot Country Songs’ chart. The song was promoted by Kelsea at the 2017 ‘CMT Music Awards.’ Critics reviewed the single favorably and stated that the song was more mature than any other song on her debut album. The single was certified “gold” by the ‘RIAA.’
Her album ‘Unapologetically’ released in November 2017, to a favorable critical and general reception. The album earned a score of 74 out of 100 on ‘Metacritic,’ indicating generally favorable reviews. The album featured 12 songs, and most of them adorned the country-music charts in several countries.
Kelsea Ballerini began dating Australian country artist Morgan Evans in March 2016. The couple got engaged on Christmas that year and got married a year later, in December 2017.
Kelsea is a dog lover and has a dog named ‘Dibs,’ named after her successful single of the same name.