(Nashville/LA/NY): Kelsea Ballerini did something bold – and unthinkable: she created an intimate, songwriter EP to capture a jagged moment in her life. It was intimate, small and a document of a moment of strength and chaos in her own life; she didn’t do it for awards or acclaim, but to share with anyone who might need a steadying hand facing similar circumstances and not sure where to turn.
Today, Kelsea’s Rolling Up The the Welcome Mat becomes her fourth GRAMMY nomination – and it is in the prestigious, wildly competitive Country Album category. At her most deeply personal, she joins everyman populist sensation Zach Bryan, critically acclaimed hard country songwriter Tyler Childers, progressive rock-country firebrands Brothers Osborne and working woman country force Lainey Wilson to create a sense of what country music’s future offers.
“Making this record was simply my way of making sense of a really emotionally complicated place in my life,” says the woman who’s recently graced the cover of TIME100's Next and NYLON, as well as performing on the MTV Video Music Awards. “I went to one of my best friends and collaborators, Alysa Vanderheym, and she quietly and diligently helped me write my truth. I really don’t have the words for the pride I feel for this music and the way that it’s connected with people. It’s like nothing I've ever experienced. I'm deeply grateful to the Recording Academy for this honor. I am truly beaming.”
Having just returned home for a sold-out concert at Knoxville’s Thompson-Boling Arena, it’s been a year of incredible highs. Beyond a major New York Times profile, her Saturday Night Live debut, three sold-out legs of her first true headlining tour, CMA Award wins for “half of my hometown,” her duet with Kenny Chesney, and being an industrial strength advocate for the LGBTQ+ community with various videos, photo shoots and award show appearances, Kelsea was named to TIME’s prestigious 100 Next list as an artist. In her appreciation, country legend Shania Twain writes, “I remember thinking back then how talented she was as a songwriter at such a young age. She’s an old soul in many ways. As a veteran songwriter, I’m always looking for authenticity, and I’m really inspired by clever songwriting – songwriting that is not only thought-provoking and meaningful but most of all original. Kelsea writes with all those qualities. She isn’t afraid to be vulnerable and really brave in her songwriting.”
The multiple GRAMMY-winning icon closes her essay with this final assessment of the artist and woman Kelsea has become, “She has a powerful sense of self in those moments: she knows exactly where her heart is, and she always leads with love and inclusivity.”