By Claire Salinas
Kelsea Ballerini is a new name in country music, but her song “Love Me Like You Mean It” made history this week when it hit No. 1. This marks the first time a female country artist debut single claimed the top spot since Carrie Underwood in 2006.
Ballerini came to Nashville at the age of 15 to pursue her dreams, but success of this magnitude is new for the 21-year-old, and her main goal right now is to introduce herself to the world. The country sweetheart has recently recorded her first music video, is opening up for Lady Antebellum on select tour dates this summer, and will be heading to Baton Rouge for a show at The Texas Club on Friday, July 2 at 10 p.m.
DIG caught up with Ballerini to find out what inspired her hit song and how she’s handling her success.
DIG: Was there a certain situation that inspired “Love Me Like You Mean It?”
Kelsea Ballerini: Writing it wasn’t inspired by a situation or anything, I was just in a room with three of my guy friends who are writers too and we were listening to a song called “Take a Bow” by Rhianna and that was the hook that came out and we just kind of wrote this song around it. I feel like the underlying message is empowerment and I feel like it’s so important to have that voice on the radio. I really wanted to lead with that.
DIG: Was there a moment during the recording process that you knew “Love Me Like You Mean It” would be a hit, or did it not hit until it started climbing the charts?
KB: For this song I believed in it from the very beginning because I wasn’t even signed as an artist yet when I wrote it. When we wrote the song, it was the first time I really felt like I locked into a sound that felt true to me, and I feel like the rest of the record is kind of shaped around “Love Me Like You Mean It.” I feel like your job for a first record is to introduce yourself and to kind of put every different layer of yourself that you’re comfortable with on it. For me I really wanted there to be songs where people could zone out and listen to the beat or if they wanted to cry and connect with something, they could do that too.
DIG: You got to co-write all the tracks on your album. Was there any recording moment that was really enjoyable?
KB: “The First Time” is the song I wrote by myself on the album, so I was really protective over it. I remember Forrest, one of my producers, was working on it and he was nervous because I was so particular about it. We kept doing mixes back and forth and it just wasn’t there yet. Then he put a cello on it, and I remember he sent me the mix, and I just listened to it with my headphones on and cried because it sounded how I felt when I wrote it.
DIG: Have you been to Baton Rouge or Louisiana before?
KB: I have been to Louisiana, but always super briefly, so I haven’t had time to perform too much or explore, but I’m excited about it. All I know is you guys have good seafood, and I’m excited about that.
DIG: Is there anything people can expect at this show in particular?
KB: I feel like at my shows I really try to keep it fun and let people know who I am, what I grew up listening to and what I like on the radio right now. My favorite thing is when people sing and dance along.
DIG: What did you listen to growing up?
KB: I grew up listening to a lot of top 40 before I really knew what country music was, so we do this big mash-up of songs with Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, and NSYNC because that’s what I grew up listening to before I really knew country.
DIG: You’re kind of a new girl in country; a lot of eyes are on you right now. If you’re introducing yourself, who are you?
KB: I’m so normal, kind of lame, kind of a homebody, super socially awkward the majority of the time. I like my dog, I like chicken tenders and that’s basically it.
DIG: You keep talking about how you want your music to empower people, so what would you say to any girls to help them overcome and be confident?
KB: For me, I struggle with being insecure every day. I’m such a girl. I think that’s why it’s important for me to sing songs like “Love Me Like You Mean It” and “Stilettos” and a lot of the songs on this album, because it reminds me every time I sing that song to stand up for myself and demand respect. I think it’s important for girls to find their value and stick up for their value. It’s a big thing for girls, and I would love to be someone to kind of speak into that.