Kelsea Ballerini Wanted to Be More Vulnerable and Boy, Did She Ever Succeed
Kelsea Ballerini is known to show vulnerability through her music, but her new book of poetry is a cannonball in comparison to the pebble of emotions she shows on projects like Kelsea. Those are her words, and they're not meant to diminish what she puts into each song.
Feel Your Way Through (out now through Ballantine) is what she focused on creatively during the pandemic. It's an extension of the Kelsea record, she admits during an interview with Taste of Country. However, it's also something of a knee-jerk response to what was happening at the time. March 2020 was a really bad time to release a record. Plans to support the new songs were scuttled as everyone shuttered to avoid COVID-19.
"I honestly had to detach myself from music after I put out my album Kelsea because I put it out the week the world shut down from the pandemic," Ballerini says. "I got sad. Music made me sad for months. It didn't feel like a place of celebration or a place of connection. All the things that I go to music for, it was not that for me."
Later that year she'd revisit the songs to produce Ballerini, making the two projects albums No. 3A and 3B of her career. The CMA Award-winning "Half of My Hometown," "Hole In the Bottle" and "Homecoming Queen?" are the three hits from the album. From time to time the east Tennessee native will revisit old albums, and when listening to this project, she recognized the same headspace she was in when writing Feel Your Way Through.
"I kept writing, just without the music," Ballerini says. "Very quickly I realized it was something that was a book and something that I wanted to push myself to go deeper and be more vulnerable and more open. And it is. It's all those things."
It sure is. Topics of select poems discuss her battle with bulimia as a teen and how she witnessed a fatal school shooting when she was a sophomore in high school. She also revisits a tweet she sent after fellow country artist Morgan Wallen was caught using the N-word on camera in January.
"Did I misstep? Did I misspeak? / Did I f--k up with that one tweet?" she writes in the poem, which is titled "The Right Side of History." Ultimately she acknowledges that she did and later pledged to be more selective about when she speaks up, perhaps never doing so. There's a wealth of stories to pull from for the book, but that doesn't mean she breezed through the project.
"Easy?" she reflects when asked about the process. "No. Satisfying? Absolutely. I never set it out to do it. It just kind of happened."