Dubbed "Country's Next Queen" by Billboard, Kelsea Ballerini continues to blaze her own trail to superstardom as she is the only female artist in country music history, including female duos and groups, to go #1 with her first three consecutive singles from a debut album.
Her critically acclaimed Gold-certified stunner, The First Time, has Kelsea's credit behind every song, as it radiates positivity while exploring all facets of the human experience. She is a bonafide poet and The First Time reflects just that.
Skyrocketing into the spotlight with her Platinum-certified #1 breakout "Love Me Like You Mean It," the 23-year-old Knoxville, Tennessee native has dedicated the better part of the last decade to creating inspiring music based on her life, to further motivate others to live without fear of their emotions.
Kelsea's honest approach to music is rooted in a truly vulnerable place. Turning to songwriting to help her through her parents' divorce, she first discovered Keith Urban's "Stupid Boy." Captured by the gut-wrenching lyrics and the raw story, Kelsea knew she had found a creative home in country music and continued to uncover strength and inspiration from such artists as Shania Twain, Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, and the Dixie Chicks.
"Life got rocky when I was 12," Kelsea admits, "and this gift of songwriting just fell into my lap. It was literally this blessing that came at the perfect time. And for me, it's always been that steady thing in my life that I can always go back to."
Songwriting propelled Kelsea forward. With a resounding melody in her heart, she moved to Nashville with her mother to pursue music at 15. Her fresh sound builds on her East Tennessee upbringing with eclectic musical influences ranging from Britney Spears and Kelly Clarkson, to Frank Sinatra.
Kelsea's innovative vision, passionate ambition, natural-born talent, and genuine charm quickly captured Music Row's attention. "I would meet with anyone that would meet with me," Kelsea recalls. "I always approached meetings not expecting anything but just asking for advice. That way I never left disappointed."
Black River Publishing VP Celia Froehlig signed the burgeoning artist to a publishing deal in 2013. And at the company Christmas party that December, Black River Entertainment CEO Gordon Kerr offered Kelsea a record deal in the form of a sweetly wrapped present.
With the release of The First Time in 2015, the irresistible twelve-track collection showcases Kelsea's sweet yet sassy side with her current chart-rising hit "Yeah Boy" and the catchy #1 Gold-certified "Dibs." She sings of getting stood up by a former flame in the soul-stirring title track, while delivering a fiery head-spinning fan-favorite "XO," which bravely calls out a man who's still hung up on his ex. In the striking "Stilettos," she offers an insider's perspective to the quiet pain that most women keep secret. The hard-hitting ballad takes inspiration from the Pinterest quote that reads, "Strong women wear their pain like stilettos. No matter how much it hurts, all you see is beauty."
Kelsea proves stronger than the heartbreak of her parents' divorce in the revealing "Secondhand Smoke." And further addresses how running from love affects personal growth in her Platinum-certified #1 smash "Peter Pan." Loaded with Neverland imagery, she sings in the chorus, "Always going to fly away; Just because you know you can; Never going to learn there's no such place as Neverland; You don't understand; You'll never grow up; You're never going to be a man; Peter Pan."
"It's been so cool to see this album be embraced by radio, embraced by fans, and then embraced big enough to make a headline tour out of it," Kelsea shared with Taste of Country. "The Grammys are just the pinnacle of music. For this album to get me a nomination like that, I'm so proud."
After receiving CMT's second-annual Breakout Artist of the Year award during the network's Artist of the Year 2016 special this past fall, Kelsea has been nominated for Best New Artist in the all-genre category at the 59th Annual GRAMMY Awards. She is also vying for Favorite Female Country Artist at the fan-voted People's Choice Awards and Best New Country Artist at the 2017 iHeartRadio Music Awards.
With a bold approach to life, Kelsea's unwavering connection to her fans comes from an unapologetic authenticity that is utterly refreshing. "Letting yourself feel whatever you need to feel, not protecting yourself from emotion and dealing with it is what makes people, people," Kelsea explains. "It's what makes writers good writers. It's important to me to be vulnerable and transparent - that's when people relate to music best. It's not sugarcoated and it's not super pretty. It's just real."
That shameless realness has superstars, media, and fans alike falling head over heels for her. "Driving around with the @KelseaBallerini EP on repeat. So lovely," Taylor Swift tweeted in early March. Little Big Town gushed, "We've gotta #GirlCrush," as Dustin Lynch agreed with Swift, "Hey @taylorswift13 you were right ... @KelseaBallerini is on fire!"
Honored by Billboard with the "Rising Star" award at their prestigious 2015 Women In Music event and crowned one of CMT's "Next Women of Country," Kelsea was praised as "The Country Sweetheart" in People Magazine's elite "Ones to Watch" portfolio and the "Nashville It Girl" by Rolling Stone.
With her name splashed across every major media outlet, a co-host spot alongside Arsenio Hall on ABC's summer replacement series Greatest Hits, and critics gushing over her glittering live shows, she's also earned her first ACM Award for New Female Vocalist of the Year, fan-voted Radio Disney Music Award for The Freshest - Best New Artist (all genre), and the American Country Countdown Award (ACCA) for Breakthrough Female of the Year. Not to mention, becoming a welcomed familiar face on the iconic Grand Ole Opry stage.
Having opened for country greats including Alan Jackson, Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood, and Keith Urban, Kelsea's life has already come full circle as she lived a childhood dream this past summer when she hit the road with one of her early inspirations, Rascal Flatts, on their Rhythm & Roots Tour, followed by her own first-ever sold out 13-city fall/winter headline tour, aptly titled THE FIRST TIME TOUR. She's now gearing up for a trek with Thomas Rhett as a special guest on his HOME TEAM TOUR 2017.
"Dreams do come true. I'm seeing it firsthand. While I want to do it all, the arena tours and award shows, most of all, I just want to put out good music that matters," Kelsea concludes. "When I signed the record deal, in my heart I thought, ‘What do you want to say to the world? Because now, there are people who are going to help you say it.'"