MusicRowPics: Kelsea Ballerini

Kelsea Ballerini visit

Kelsea Ballerini visit

Kelsea Ballerini just might be country’s female answer to the whole bro-country craze. Not afraid to blend country and pop influences with rock overtones and even a touch of hip-hop flavor at times, this Black River Entertainment songwriter and artist’s songs are undeniably catchy.

The Knoxville, Tenn. native visited MusicRow‘s office to perform songs from her self-titled Black River digital EP. “XO” is a rap-influenced kiss-off to an under-committed lover, while “Dibs” is a flirty, infectious country-pop confection. She showcased her soft side in the earnest ballad “Stilettos,” a track that didn’t make the EP, but one Ballerini predicts will make her upcoming full-length album.

Ballerini began writing songs at 13. “I always loved music, but I never thought it was what I wanted to do until I started writing. It just kind of  fell into my lap and I never really stopped writing songs. So I moved to Nashville when I was 15 years old with my mom and tried to figure out what to do. I ended up signing a publishing deal first, and I did that for a year before I signed my deal.”

Like most writers, Ballerini has found a group of fellow songwriters that share her vision and musical influences. “Josh Kerr, Catt Gravitt and Forest Whitehead and Jennifer Denmark are my go-to writers,” Ballerini says. “I know that whenever I write with that group of people, I’ll get something I will like.” In fact, Kerr accompanied her on guitar during the visit to MusicRow.

She ended the performance with her current single, “Love Me Like You Mean It,” a song that has gotten a lot of performances during Ballerini’s recent 22-week radio tour. “I always remember being in that period of being a songwriter…I always wanted to be an artist. That was my dream and goal,” she says. “I knew I needed to find a sound and a song that was different. I remember one night I got together with a bunch of writer friends and we were eating pizza and listening to Rihanna’s ‘Take A Bow,’ which is such a swagger song. She drips swagger in that song. Forest said, ‘Kelsea, you need a song with swag in it.’ And I thought that was funny because anyone who knows me knows I have little to no swag,” she quipped. “We wrote this song, and it felt really natural, and he did a demo for it. I remember listening to it, and thinking, ‘This is it, this is my sound.’ So this is the cornerstone for everything on the EP and everything on the record.”

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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