Kelsea Ballerini at Erie Insurance Arena
Country starlet 'Unapologetically' tours
By: Alan Sculley
Going into her second album, country rising star Kelsea Ballerini didn't know how the project would take shape.
Coming off a successful debut album, The First Time, she had been writing and co-writing (teaming up with such A-list collaborators as Ross Copperman, Shane McAnally, Ashley Gorley
"I mean, I never stopped writing from the first record," Ballerini said in a recent phone interview. "I just kept on writing, and all of a sudden it was time to make the second record and I had over 200 songs and I had no idea of what to do with them. I guess I'm old school because I love listening to actual full albums. And I think as the music industry continues to change continues to be more
She had no shortage of topics she could cover since the release of The First Time, which gave her three No. 1 hits on the "Billboard" magazine Country Airplay chart -- "Love Me Like You Mean It," "Dibs" and "Peter Pan," while a fourth single, "Yeah Boy," went top 3 at Country Airplay.
But while Ballerini's career was getting off to a terrific start, things weren't going as well on a personal level for the now-25-year-old native of Knoxville, Tennessee. As the hits were coming, Ballerini was seeing things go sour with a boyfriend. The difficult breakup that resulted provides the starting point for the Unapologetically album, with "Miss Me More" striking a particularly insightful moment as Ballerini laments the notion that she lost her identity and sense of independence while caught up in the rush of love.
"I forgot I had dreams/Forgot I had wings/Forgot who I was/Before I ever kissed you," Ballerini sings.
"I think the best thing you can do after a breakup
As the album moves into its fifth song, things shift from loss into the second chapter of the story — life. Over the course of the songs "Machine Heart," "In Between," "High School" and "End of the World," listeners hear Ballerini rediscovering her sense of self, her confidence and rebuilding her life.
The final four songs on Unapologetically, introduce that next chapter — new love.
In spring 2016, Ballerini traveled to Australia to co-host an awards show with Aussie country artist Morgan Evans. Sparks flew and the two have been together since. The title song pretty much tells the story of love re-entering Ballerini's life and her finding herself willing to go all in on with her new beau and ready to take their journey together, wherever it may lead.
That's exactly what Ballerini has done in real life, as she and Evans married in December 2017 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Life sounds pretty magical for the couple so far.
"Everyone has been asking me like 'So what's different? What's different?' I'm like 'Nothing, that's why we got married. I didn't want anything to be different,'" Ballerini said, offering her thoughts on her marriage. "I think that's the best part. That's
Musically, Unapologetically finds Ballerini largely sticking to the template of The First Time to create a warm, mainly mid-tempo and ballad-oriented soundtrack to her stories.
While several songs are rooted in country, Unapologetically also has a pop dimension. "Machine Heart," "End of the World" and "I Hate Love Songs" are among the songs that lean pop and even incorporate synthetic tones and rhythms into the mix.
Now Ballerini hopes to help fans get to further know the music, messages and the woman behind Unapologetically as she tours with Brett Young. She plans to feature a good bit of Unapologetically, which has produced a #1 Country Airplay single in "Legends" and has a new single, "Miss Me More," in the top 20 and climbing, while conveying the story of her second album in her set.
"My album is a story, from top to bottom. Yeah, it's a chronological story and I really want to keep telling people that," she said. "Especially with this (Unapologetically) record, I just invested so much heart in it. And for me, it was just really important to play my album and to see it connect because it's so close to my heart."
Kelsea Ballerini will perform at Erie Insurance Arena on Saturday, April 13 at 8 p.m. For tickets, visit erieinsurancearena.com