Kelsea Ballerini Shines on First Headlining Tour
Kelsea Ballerini has spent the past two years as an opening act, and now it's her turn in the spotlight.
The "Yeah Boy" singer kicked off her first-ever headlining tour, appropriately titled The First Time Tour, on Thursday (Nov. 10) in Washington, D.C. Taste of Country caught up with Ballerini during her third consecutive sold-out show at Atlanta's Buckhead Theater on Saturday (Nov. 12), where she filled us in on being a headliner, as well as some details about her new music.
While Ballerini has two years of touring under her belt with acts like Billy Currington and Rascal Flatts, she admits that she was nervous for her own headlining tour, as she wasn't quite sure what to expect.
"I've gotten so used to that challenge of trying to get new fans," she says of her time as an opener. "I was anxious to see what that energy was going to be like with people who knew my record — not just the singles — and people who will make T-shirts and are really showing up to be here for my music. As soon as we did the first show, I get why people want to headline. It's a different kind of energy because you feel like you know the people in the room."
Ballerini says the fans who have showed up and sold out her first three tour dates care about the words and the lyrics she's singing — they are often girls who have been through the same things that she has.
"It's this really comfortable feeling because most of the people in the room are people just like me," she reasons. "It's cool to be able to know that going into it because it makes it easier for me to sing my songs in there and know they're going to have fun." Even more fun for Ballerini are the fans that come out to her tour bus after the show to take pictures and chat with her.
While her set is filled with glitter, sparkly costumes and bright spotlights, the main focus is on the music, and in addition to Ballerini's three No. 1 singles "Love Me Like You Mean It," "Dibs" and "Peter Pan," she's also playing three new songs, which will likely be on her sophomore album. That includes the talked-about "Roses," which created a wildfire-like frenzy online earlier this year when it was rumored to be a collaboration with Taylor Swift (it's not). Ballerini also shared the nostalgic "High School," which she wrote right after she finished her debut album, and the fun, '80s synth-infused "We Were Like."
Ballerini previously revealed that she's been writing with Nashville hitmakers Hillary Lindsey, Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman, Josh Osborne and Luke Laird for her upcoming project and tells Taste of Country the album will be a little darker than her debut and have more honesty within its tracks. One song in particular, "Unapologetically," which she co-wrote with Lindsey, she says was "really freeing" to write while another track, "Graveyard" penned with McAnally and frequent collaborator Forest Glen Whitehead, was written when she was in a dark place.
Lindsey, who wrote Little Big Town's "Girl Crush" as well as Carrie Underwood's “Jesus Take the Wheel,” “Church Bells” and “Dirty Laundry,” is one of Ballerini's favorite songwriters and says she is everything she thought she'd be.
"She's a brilliant songwriter [and] brings out the best of everyone in the room. It's always good to write with another girl," the singer admits. "It's harder because there's fewer girl writers in Nashville."
Fans will get to hear some of this new music throughout Ballerini's tour, and the response she's already been getting on the road and through social media makes her even more eager to put out new music. The positive reinforcement also encourages her to keep working on the record and finish it. She adds that her sophomore album will be bolder and more honest, because those are the songs that her fans gravitated most towards on her debut release, referencing tracks like "Secondhand Smoke" about her parents divorce. While her life has changed tremendously since the release of her debut album last May, she looks back on the freedom of her first release and smiles.
"We made this album with no names attached to it and it was me and my friends being creative, naive and free," she says of The First Time. "I think that's what makes it so beautiful. I'm able to celebrate this as a first for me but a first for everyone. It's been really cool to celebrate that together."
Ballerini's first headlining tour runs through Dec. 10.
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