Kelsea Ballerini Is Writing Love Songs Now
She’s gearing up for her next album drop.
Kelsea Ballerini (Healed Version) is a force to be reckoned with. As we talk in a cozy Brooklyn hotel room, where the country singer is doing press for her healthy hair partnership with Pantene, she makes it easy to forget it’s a measly 19 degrees outside. The Tennessee native can be best described as pure sunshine — and it sounds like her next album will embody that same glow.
Although Ballerini plays it coy on details, like dates for her upcoming record drop or next live performance, she doesn’t shy away from teasing all that’s to come. “I probably shouldn't say anything, but I will,” the 30-year-old tells Elite Daily on Jan. 17. “I leave here [New York], and I have four more days working with the people who are making the album with me, and then, we're close to done.”
For fans of Ballerini’s February 2023 EP, Rolling Up The Welcome Mat, there’s plenty to look forward to. Per the singer, her approach to this new album is similar, so you can expect more detailed, autobiographical lyrics — just applied to “a whole different chapter” of her life. And according to the Grammy nominee, who just celebrated her first anniversary with Outer Banks star Chase Stokes, this latest chapter necessitated some love songs.
This new album is much more emotionally complex and mature than anything I put out before.
Here, the artist discusses what’s next, her latest musical inspirations, and her shifting perspective on “cheesy” love songs. Plus, she shares the one person she’s dying to meet at the Grammys this year.
Elite Daily: I know you and Chase just celebrated your first anniversary — congrats! You captioned your Instagram about the milestone, “thanks for making me write love songs.” Generally speaking, is that a way you like to process emotions?
Kelsea Ballerini: Oh, yeah. Songwriting is word vomit to me. Then, you can go back and edit if you want to. But I didn't [go back and edit] with Welcome Mat, so I kind of don't want to do that anymore. There's something really pure and beautiful about it not being perfect — like the rhyme not exactly matching up or the second verse being completely different than the first.
That's what felt right on Welcome Mat. So, I'm really challenging myself to not play by any rules right now. For example, a rule that I used to have for myself was thinking that love songs were so cheesy and repetitive. I'm really challenging myself on that now.
ED: Now that you have this new perspective on love songs, what's your favorite one to feel seen by?
KB: “Nobody Gets Me” by SZA. Of course, it's SZA.
If I meet [SZA] at the Grammys, goodbye. RIP to me.
ED: You’ve experimented with shifting the tone in your music before. For example, Rolling Up The Welcome Mat (For Good) featured more hopeful versions of your iconic tracks, like “Penthouse (Healed Version).” What was it like starting on an entirely new project after that EP’s success?
KB: It took me a minute to start writing again after Welcome Mat because that album really transcended music that I've made before. It challenged me to figure out why the hell that record worked the way it did. What I learned was that I shared a level of emotional intimacy and true detail in that album. I made it about my life. I didn't round the edges or cut the corners.
It's been really fun to now take that level of detail and put it to this season of my life about a whole different chapter. I think this new album is much more emotionally complex and mature than anything I put out before. I'm excited.
ED: You just mentioned Welcome Mat’s “emotional intimacy.” What’s it like to have that connection with people you’ve never met — people who cry to your music and mourn relationships while listening to your songs?
KB: Starting out, my first two singles, “Love Me Like You Mean It” and “Dibs,” were very happy-go-lucky. They were flirty and fun. My third single was a song called “Peter Pan.” It was about a breakup — about being hurt and being disappointed.
I was 21 or 22, and I remember the conversations at meet-and-greets changing. They went from “Oh my God, ‘Dibs’ is me and my boyfriend's song” to “This song made me feel like I wasn't alone in feeling heartbroken by a boy.”
I remember feeling that shift and thinking I needed to make more music that had that effect. Obviously, I want to have happy songs, too. But the connection that “Peter Pan” showed me is what I've been chasing ever since.
ED: What kinds of themes are inspiring you right now musically?
KB: I'm listening to everything right now, especially because I'm making a record. I'm listening to a lot of lo-fi. I'm listening to Noah Kahan, Post Malone, and the new Chris Stapleton record. SOS by SZA is a record I'll never stop listening to. We'll talk in 10 years, and I'll still be talking about it. If I meet her at the Grammys, goodbye. RIP to me.
I'm just trying to listen to everything to make sure I know what's going on in music and to see what's inspiring me sonically. I've never felt like, “OK, let's add a banjo to this to make sure it fits into country.” I'm always thinking about what the song needs, asking myself, “What's going to make it the best for what it is?” It's fun to know the options, and listening to every genre helps.
ED: Have you seen the viral Spotify daylists? They give you a name based on your listening habits — one of mine was “spacey contemporary country Thursday afternoon.” I wonder what yours would be called.
KB: Oh, what would mine be? Something like, “need to get out of the house, put on real clothes.”
ED: Speaking of getting out of the house, are there any live performances coming up for you?
KB: Probably. Grammys first. Then, I have to get new music out. That's the next step. Once I finish up this record, then, yes.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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