She’s described as an “East Tennessee farm girl who’d studied Taylor Swift’s template.” At 23-years-old, she’s already accomplished what no other female country music star ever has. What’s more amazing is how unlikely she was to do it.

Kelsea BalleriniKelsea Ballerini (photo from

A Nashville Nobody

As Vulture described it, Ballerini entered Nashville as a nobody.

She didn’t have the backing of any stars. No well-known collaborators were working with her. There wasn’t a big label behind her. In fact, her independent label, Black River Entertainment, was rather new. 

As she discussed with GQ, she had studied major stars who preceded her, including Carrie Underwood and Beyoncé.

But what she really had was herself. She also had a sound that Vulture described as “seem[ing] perfectly in step with the aesthetic and tonal shifts happening in the country mainstream.”


A Meteoric Rise

Her first breakout single, “Love Me Like You Mean It” went Platinum-certified in 2014. “Dibs” followed in 2015, with “Peter Pan” released in 2016. 

What is notable, besides the fame that she almost instantly-reached, is that all three songs were from her debut album (The First Time). Even more notable: they scored her three consecutive No. 1 hits. 

Billboard magazine put it in perspective: “With “Peter Pan” reaching the No. 1 spot…Kelsea is now in the exclusive company of Wynonna, who is the only other female whose first three singles from a solo debut album reached No. 1.” (And Wynona was already a known-quantity, given her career with The Judds for eight years prior to her solo release).

Billboard also noted that “Kelsea has the distinction of writing all three of her No. 1 songs, a feat not even Wynonna can match.”

Going From Here

Ballerini will be hard to miss in the coming days.

She is slated to perform at the UK’s 2018 C2C Music Festival and is nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year at the 2017 CMA Awards. Her new album, Unapologetic, releases November 3.

If her second album performs even close to her first, she will long be remembered in country music history. As it is, she won’t be forgotten anytime soon.



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