Kelsea Ballerini Celebrates Fifth Career No. 1

Pictured (L-R): Producer Jason Massey, Kobalt’s Jesse Willoughby, David Hodges (BMI), Black River Publishing’s Rebekah Gordon, Kelsea Ballerini (ASCAP), BMI’s MaryAnn Keen, ASCAP’s Beth Brinker, Leland (ASCAP), Kobalt’s Brad Beausir, Black River’s Rick Froio, Sony/ATV’s Josh Van Valkenburg, and Producer Forest Glen Whitehead. Photo: Steve Lowry

After a 15-month drought of female artists in the top spot on the Mediabase country singles chart, Kelsea Ballerini‘s industry fans and friends gathered to celebrate the feat for the Platinum-selling, punching track “Miss Me More.”

ASCAP’s Beth Brinker and BMI’s MaryAnn Keen led the charge for ASCAP writers Ballerini and Brett McLaughlin, as well as BMI writer David Hodges. Producers Forest Glen Whitehead and Jason Massey were both on hand to celebrate.

“Since her Gold-certified 2015 debut, she has consistently made history,” Brinker said. “She’s the only female country artist to achieve three consecutive No. 1 songs from a debut album, the Grand Ole Opry welcomed her as its youngest current member, she has garnered two Grammy award nominations, won two ACM awards, took home iHeart Radio’s amazing honor Best New Artist. Kelsea was also the first female to top the Mediabase chart in 15 months, and earned back to back No. 1’s with ‘Legends’ and ‘Miss Me More.'”

“Girl, you are an undeniable vocalist, a singer, a songwriter, a performer, and you continue to elevate country music for a new generation, a new era,” Brinker gushed. “And here’s the thing, when you have an audience, you have to know that people are listening. It’s important that you’re not just saying something, you’re saying something. And we hear you.”

Brinker also let the crowd know that the “Miss Me More” No. 1 party was also a first No. 1 party for co-writer Brett McLaughlin—also known as Leland—an L.A.-based songwriter, producer and artist that has had hits with Daya, Selena Gomez, Tryoe Sivan, Lauv, and more.

“He was born and raised in Mississippi, he moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University. We’re so happy that with all of the success that you’ve had in Los Angeles, you’re coming home a little bit too. You’re bring your very thoughtful lyrics and your powerful messages to another format, and helping to create such meaningful anthems,” Brinker said to the beaming songwriter.

Keen stepped up to the mic to talk about co-writer David Hodges.

“David is a multi-Platinum, Grammy and BMI-award winning songwriter and producer, I think many of us are familiar with his talent. But just to reiterate, of course David was a founding member of Evanescence, as you can see,” Keen said motioning to Hodges’ tattooed covered arms while he and the crowd laughed.

“But I also have to name some of his top singles just to give you a span of his talent. ‘My Immortal’ for Evanescence, ‘A Thousand Years’ for Christina Perri, ‘Because of You’ for Kelly Clarkson song, ‘Dear Hate’ for Maren Morris and Vince Gill, and ‘See You Again’ for Carrie Underwood. He’s all over the map with talent and covering all different genres,” Keen said.

Kobalt’s Brad Beausir spoke at his first No. 1 party, “I’m like sweating and this is my first one, so if it’s terrible, sorry,” he joked.

“I started working at Kobalt like two and half months ago and largely to work with people like David Hodges,” Beausir said. “I have admired you from afar for a long time. The more that I get to know you, the more that it’s true. You are absolutely amazing. You’re everything you could ever want in a hit songwriter. When you sing a demo, I die. When you let someone else sing it, it’s not as good.

“Lately I’ve been booking a ton of people that have been coming to Nashville, and I always tell them, ‘This is a lot harder than you think.’ It’s not easy to break into this community. It’s tight-knit, people know who they love and honestly we have the best writers in the world. So if you’re gonna do it, don’t just try to do it. Do it your very best. Get to know them, meet them, have dinner with them, get to know their families, David did that. He has really invested in this place. You did it right and you’re the example that I try to tell everyone of how to do it best,” he continued.

“Kelsea, you are what our city needs. You’re honest, you’re real. In a struggling environment for women, your songs shine,” Beausir summed.

Sony/ATV’s Josh Van Valkenburg stepped up to the mic to speak about Brett.

“It’s so neat when you get to see people grow and become these amazing songwriters or artists or both. I was adjudicator for a Belmont showcase, and you go and you’re sitting in this empty theater and it’s quiet and awkward. And these kids are coming up one by one and hoping that you’ll vote them through to the showcase. Every kid would come up with their guitar and sing their sad, heartfelt ballad. And then here comes this guy and he gets up on stage in this snazzy suit and he’s got a full band, it’s like Prince. I was so surprised and I was so impressed, that I went to the show.

“I think the only thing that’s changed is you’re not surprising anybody, everybody knows how good you are. You continue to show it over and over, whether it’s through your artistry or your songwriting,” Van Valkenburg said.

Van Valkenburg made sure to recognize Jason Owen and the Sandbox Entertainment team.

Black River Publishing’s Rebekah Gordon was on hand to gush about Kelsea. “I know, Kelsea, we don’t have to tell you that five No. 1 songs in four years is a big deal, but it’s a big deal. Having multiple Platinum singles and streams totaling in the billions is a big deal. I’m honored to be able to recognize and celebrate your success today.”

Gordon also made a point to recognize the Black River radio promotion staff.

“She represents what Black River is all about,” Black River’s Rick Froio said. “She’s the heart and soul of our company, we all rally around her and we all rejoice in her victories which have been many.”

Pictured: (L-R): Producer Jason Massey, David Hodges (BMI), Kelsea Ballerini (ASCAP), Leland(ASCAP), Producer Forest Glen Whitehead. Photo: Steve Lowry

When it came time for the creators to speak, Kelsea’s longtime collaborator—and producer on “Miss Me More”—Forest Glen Whitehead led the way.

“We’re grateful for Black River for believing in a great record, for working it hard. I’m grateful to y’all for writing an awesome song, the guitar lick that inspired it all or whatever that thing was, it’s super inspiring. We’re excited to have another one, this is amazing. Blessings on blessings,” he said.

Producer Jason Massey echoed the praises. “Thank you guys for giving us something awesome to work with from the start,” he said to the writers.

“I just first want to say thank you to Kelsea for messaging me on Twitter the day you did, and saying you were in L.A. and wanted to see if we could write,” Brett said. “I was already planning my strategy of trying to set up a session with Kelsea anyways, so that was the best moment opening my messages.

“I couldn’t be more proud to have this No. 1 be with a female country artist,” he said. “That to me is very special and very important.”

“My wife and I and our family moved here about three years ago, but for the last twelve years, I’ve been coming to Nashville mainly because I’ve always loved the respect and the level craft of the storytelling that Nashville has, that truly no other city in the world has. London makes great music and L.A. makes great music, Sydney and other places but Nashville is really, really special. It’s meant a lot to me how much this Nashville community has embraced me,” Hodges said.

Hodges thanked Kelsea and Brett, Josh Van Valkenburg, Black River, Kobalt, and his team at Milk & Honey.

“I’m a singer, not a talker, first of all,” said the woman of the hour when she was handed the mic. “My first several songs were ‘Love Me Like You Mean It’ and ‘Dibs’ and ‘Yeah, Boy,’ and that kind of stuff and the comments that I would get in meet and greets were like ‘Oh my gosh, “Dibs” is like me and my boyfriend’s song,’ and I love that. I love having those songs that are like the soundtrack to people’s love stories and their crushes and all that stuff. This was the first song where people would come up and say, ‘This helped me get through a divorce, this helped me get through an abusive relationship,’ and for me, as a songwriter, to be able to be in meet and greets and hear people give me their testimony, it’s incredible.

“I wouldn’t have had the confidence to put out ‘homecoming queen?’ if I didn’t put this out first,” Kelsea said with emotion.

“Black River, you’ve done the thing that no one can do and that’s get a song from a female up the charts,” she said.

Kelsea made sure to thank the Black River radio promo team, her co-writers, and her manager, Jason Owen.

Pictured (L-R): Black River’s Rick Froio, David Hodges (BMI), Kelsea Ballerini (ASCAP), Leland (ASCAP), Producer Forest Glen Whitehead, Producer Jason Massey. Photo: Steve Lowry


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LB Cantrell is Project Manager at MusicRow magazine. She heads up specific, large-scale projects for the company and assists in day-to-day tasks. LB also manages the MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart and contributes editorial for both the print and online platforms. She joined MusicRow full time in January of 2019, after interning and working part time for the company for a year. She is from Blairsville, Georgia and graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a Music Business degree in 2018.

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