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Confessions Of A Country Music Superstar

Kelsea Ballerini spills on the highs and lows of Nashville – and being BFFs with Taylor Swift

“Confessions Of A…” is a weekly series by marie claire dishing the dirty little secrets of different professions. Put the kettle on, we’re about to spill some tea…

This week, we sit down with country music sensation Kelsea Ballerini ahead of her Country 2 Country arena tour.

The Nashville local has been nominated for two Grammy awards, is the only female country artist to achieve three consecutive #1 songs from a debut album, and has 1.7 billion streams to date. She’s also mates with Taylor Swift and married to Aussie country music star/spunk Morgan Evans. So yeah, life is good for Ballerini. But it’s not without its struggles.

Here, the 26-year-old gets candid. Real candid…

“I grew up in Knoxville Tennessee, and my parents were both incredible cooks. My earliest memory of music is being in the kitchen with my dad cooking pasta on the stove, playing Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin on the sound system. That’s where I fell in love with music.

I have four music idols who have shaped my love of music: Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Shania Twain and Taylor Swift.

When Taylor Swift tweeted about my EP [in 2015], it really changed the trajectory of my first single. She tweeted about ‘Love Me Like You Mean It’ when I was a brand new female country artist and the song wasn’t even in the Top 40 yet. It meant the world to me; not only because she’s one of my favourite female artists, but because it really helped me. I credit a lot of the success of that song to her.

Taylor is lovely; she’s literally exactly the same in real life as she is in the public eye. She’s a really good cook! The last time I saw her she made an amazing Indian feast. I poured the wine.

It’s interesting because she’s so busy and so famous, so I probably don’t see her or talk to her as much as I talk about her, which feels awkward to me. I never want her to be like, Kelsea talks about me a lot [laughs].

As soon as I moved to Nashville, I decided to make a career in music work. But I never would have imagined that I would get to meet Taylor, Shania or Kelly. When I met them for the first time, I was so overwhelmed with emotion.

I’ve been winging it the whole time. I think the greatest gift I had when I started out in the music industry was naivety. Even when I got my record deal, I didn’t know that there was a lack of women on country music radio. I never knew that it was difficult, and that naivety actually helped. If you don’t know what you can’t do or what you’re not supposed to be able to do, then you can just do it.

I’ve learned a lot, but I still want to keep some of my naivety.

Nashville is crazy, but it’s not really like the TV show. People aren’t that brutal – to your face [laughs].

My husband Morgan [Evans] is pretty great. When girls fawn over him, I’m like, same. I totally get it. He’s mine, but enjoy.

The one thing we keep separate is our music. I sang on his track ‘Dance With Me,’ but we haven’t worked together. I feel like I would overthink everything if I was in a writing room with him.

The best part of my job is that it’s not a job. Really! The only part that feels like work is the 4am airport run. Truly, the rest of it is so much fun; the songwriting, the interviews, getting dressed up for red carpets.

I appreciate it all. Doing a headline tour, to me, is the most special thing. When someone decides to spend their Friday night with you, it’s a real connection. We did a small arena tour earlier this year and that was the coolest thing I’ve done.

On my rider, I always have cold brew coffee and Oyster Bay white wine from New Zealand – and beer for my band. They have their own rider because they’re little divas.

I think there is a false reality that music artists are always surrounded by adoring people. It gets super lonely sometimes. You miss real life moments; birthdays and anniversaries.

I’m learning to cope with those darker times. I started therapy this year. I feel like I’ve had a negative connotation with therapy my whole life, until now. I decided to start therapy when I realised I was really bad at being at home. I love working and being busy, but I think a lot of artists hide behind that. I didn’t want to be in my mid-twenties having success in my career, but being bad at my real life. Because what happens when I turn 35 or when I’m not as successful? That felt scary to me.

I wanted to get good at balance and checking in with myself. I had time over the [US] summer to work on my new record and to just be 25 for a minute. It was the healthiest season of my life.

And I think it’s showing in my new music. The stuff I’m working on now feels free. It’s a lot more colorful and bold because I’m not worried about if it’s cool enough or good enough for the radio. I’m proud of it and I love it.”

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