Kelsea Ballerini has shown she is a rebel in a conservative music genre, and she is on a mission to diversify country music.
“It’s making sure that we’re giving a voice to new artists,” Ballerini said in the cover story of 2023 Time 100 Next, released on Wednesday, September 13 . “We’re giving a voice to unsigned artists who represent underrepresented groups in Nashville because they’re not getting a chance to be signed.”
“Nobody says people don’t want to jam out to guys on the radio. I do. I also want to hear from women,” Ballerini continued. “Just as much, maybe more. I also want to hear from people of color, from the LGBTQ+ community. I want to hear all the voices we hear on pop radio on country radio.”
The Tennessee singer has enjoyed great success during her eight year recording career, including two Academy of Country Music Awards, two Country Music Association Awards, as well as seven platinum or multi-platinum singles. Now, she’s using that platform to support the causes she believes in. In April, she co-hosted the CMT Awards, making a memorable statement by performing her song “If You Go Down (I’m Going Down Too)” alongside four drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
“At the time, a lot of anti-drag legislation was being proposed in Tennessee. I was not only hosting the CMT Awards, but I had a performance for a song of mine that is all about friendship and standing up for people that you love, and being ride-or-die for your people,” Ballerini added. “I realized that that would be a really good, important, loud, big stage to make that statement on, and CMT was all for it.”
Ballerini says she is determined to increase inclusivity in country music.
“I would say, for anything in life, when there’s a ‘group of people’ — and I use ‘group’ in quotes — one person cannot speak for everyone. That is true for country music. I am in control of standing in what I believe in — and being a kind, good person who works towards making the world a more heard, safe, and inclusive place in whatever capacity I can do. ”
Country legend Shania Twain paid tribute to Ballerini in the Time Article, applauding her controversial decision to perform with drag queens.
“She has a powerful sense of self in those moments,” Twain commented. “She knows exactly where her heart is, and she always leads with love and inclusivity.”
Ballerina has found happiness in her personal life after a traumatic 2022. Looking back at the songs on Rolling Up the Welcome Mat, she said, “Cathartic is the number one word I could use for that record.”
“The whole thing is a journey; it starts with the moment I decide for myself that I’m going to make a really big life change, and it takes you through more or less all the stages of grief.,” Ballerina revealed. “It’s scary to bookmark your life so precisely and then put it out so publicly. It’s terrifying and so absolutely rewarding.”