When Kelsea Ballerini felt songs pouring out of her as she embarked on her first true headlining tour, she decided to heed their call. Writing and recording with her good friend Alysa Vanderheym, Rolling Up The Welcome Mat (Black River) became a tour du force anthology that’s taken the honey-tressed songwriter to her first Saturday Night Live performance, a major New York Times profile, the GRAMMY Museum, Country Music Hall of Fame and Whitby Theater to screen the award-winning accompanying short film for intimate direct-to-her-fans events and the cover of TIME100’s Next issue.
With that kind of momentum, heart on her songs truth and a fresh-faced approach to living post-divorce, Kelsea expanded Welcome Mat to write the final chapter of a young woman finding her strength – and moving on. Beyond the Country Music Association nominations for the coveted Album and wildly competitive Female Vocalist of the Year Awards, she goes into the holiday season as the bubble-gum pink cover girl of cutting-edge style magazine NYLON.
Sporting a pink cowgirl hat, equally pink marabou-feathered stiletto knee-high Giuseppe Zanotti boots and shorts, the multiple GRAMMY-nominee opens up in a deeper way. Explaining, “Your 20s are for self-discovery, for f*cking up, for trying your best, for succeeding in some and for failing in others. And I did that. I did all of that, and I stand by it. I experienced so much that I was lucky to get to do in my 20s…”
Accompanying the high-impact, high fashion shoot – featuring Kelsea in a flowy Balenciaga animal pattern coat, a black feathered Gucci dress and Stella McCartney cowboy/motorcycle boots and yes, jeans – is a wide-ranging discussion of power, self-actualization, growing up and art. Prescient and present, the always candid entertainer recognizes her own desires as an artist.
“I’ve always had this complex that people don’t think of me as a credible artist,” she confesses to editor-in-chief Lauren McCarthy, “that people just are like, ‘Oh, she got signed to a label and she had a number one right off the bat, she’s blond, she’s glittery, she posts stuff, she’s this personality. That’s the thing that I care about the actual least. I have fun with all of that, but I’ve never cut a song I didn’t write. I never will.”
Celebrated by Shania Twain in TIME100’s Next issue, Kelsea's next “mountain top moment” will be headlining a sold-out Thompson-Boling Arena show in her hometown of Knoxville, TN. on Nov. 2 and watching as her smash “IF YOU GO DOWN (I'M GOIN' DOWN TOO)” continues to climb the upper reaches of the Country radio charts.