Over a year ago, I interviewed a new country up-and-comer for AXS. Her album hadn’t been released yet, but she had just picked up some press for a recommendation from pop/country goddess Taylor Swift.
I seconded that emotion, writing, “Kelsea promises to be the breakout star of 2015.”
Fast forward to 2016: Kelsea Ballerini is a verifiable star.
Since our chat, she has had two #1 singles on the Country charts and her newest “Peter Pan” has already found its way in the top ten and rising. She’s been nominated for a CMA Award, CMT Award, American Music Award, Teen Choice Award and taken home the coveted Billboard’s Women in Music Rising Star Award and the ACM for New Female Vocalist of the Year.
Oh, and Taylor’s simple endorsement has evolved into Kelsea being a member of quite possibly the greatest “squad” in history.
One could say Kelsea is doing alright for herself.
Kelsea played the outdoor stage at Jimmy Kimmel Live! last night, and it was the first time I had the opportunity to see her play live. Before she sang the first note, her interaction with the crowd made me swell with hometown pride for Nashville. This was country music: she treated the crowd as friends, not fans.
“Y’all promise to stay with me after I finish the two songs?” Kelsea asked the crowd coyly with a big smile on her face, referring to the fact that artists are only scheduled to play two songs for TV and have the option to stay or leave on their own time to play more for fans.
The answer was a resounding yes.
Everything about her from head to toe was pure perfection: she had arrived and this was her moment. As she began her first tune “Peter Pan,” she sounded even better than the record. Her voice is incredibly strong yet emotional, and she is a seasoned performer that feels comfortable hopping all over an unfamiliar stage. She made her way from one end to the other, strutting in heels that simultaneously made you wince in pain for her but also rush to Google where to find some for yourself.
It seems like the music world is so often a land of throwaways anymore. In lieu of records, we listen to artists’ singles and we don’t build the same connection with them. Longevity is a thing of the past and artists struggle to be heard over all the noise that clutters our timelines these days.
Kelsea is not a flash in the pan. She is one of those rare talents with an inexplicable X-factor. In Hollywood, you don’t expect a large crowd to know every word to a country song. Yet at times, I couldn’t even hear Kelsea for the passionate crowd singing along so loudly.
I remember the last time I witnessed that happen, and her name was Taylor Swift.
Things turned out ok for Ms. Swift.
Kelsea just announced her first headlining tour. Don’t miss this one. It’ll be the last time you’ll ever see her in venues this small (and they aren’t that tiny to begin with!).
Tickets for the tour will be available to fan club members on Aug. 3 and go on sale to the general public Aug. 5 at 10AM local time.
Kelsea Ballerini’s The First Time Tour Dates:
Oct. 21 – Houston, Texas @ House of Blues*
Oct. 22 – Dallas, Texas @ House of Blues *
Nov. 11 – Knoxville, Tenn. @ TN Theatre +
Nov. 12 – Atlanta, Ga. @ Buckhead Theatre +
Nov. 18 – Mahnomen, Minn. @ Shooting Star Casino
Nov. 19 – Minneapolis, Minn. @ Mill City Nights ^
Dec. 2 – New York City, N.Y. @ Irving Plaza ~
Dec. 3 – Buffalo, N.Y. @ Town Ballroom ~
Dec. 8 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ Wiltern
Dec. 9 – Las Vegas, Nev. @ Orleans Casino w/ special guest Cam
Dec. 10 – Las Vegas, Nev. @ Orleans Casino w/ special guest Cam
* With Carly Pearce
+ With Morgan Evans
^ With Levi Hummon
~ With Jacob Davis