In a country-music radio environment notoriously stingy to women, 24-year-old Kelsea Ballerini is one of the only new female artists in the game who has managed superstardom. Since first breaking into the mainstream after her 2017 Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, Ballerini has had a slew of big country hits, including "Peter Pan," "Dibs," and "Yeah Boy." Although success for someone so young may seem lucky, Ballerini tells designer Zac Posen (a board member of Yahoo Lifestyle’s parent company, Oath, a division of Verizon) in the second episode of Yahoo Lifestyle’s new “Loud and Clear” video series (above), that the "overnight sensation thing ... just doesn't exist."
Ballerini, who looks up to artists like Taylor Swift and says her first concert was one with Britney Spears, explains that studying artists she admires has helped her to improve at her own craft. "What I did to get better at performing was I studied tour docs and I studied concerts that were on YouTube and stuff — how people intro their show, what their entrance is like, if they have an acoustic moment, how they talk to a crowd, how production plays a role in the world they create," Ballerini tells Posen.
In addition to being a fan of other artists, Ballerini is also a champion for them — her Instagram frequently includes shots with friends like Swift, Faith Hill, and Kelly Clarkson."I'm constantly seeing articles and people posting about, like, 'Who's your country queen? This person or this person,'" Ballerini tells Posen. "And it makes all of us feel like there's only one spot. And then when you feel like there's only one spot, even if you want to be friends with all the other girls, there's this weird negative competitive energy in the room that makes you feel awkward and like you can't be their friend."
But Ballerini refuses to subscribe to that. "My job is to be positive and encouraging and empowering to women. And that's kind of what I speak about through my music, and that's what I use my platform for and what I feel really, really strongly about," she says. "I feel like that's the influence that I can make."
As for what's next for the young artist, whose most recent album Unapologetically came out in 2017, "I have a goal list," she says. "It's just literally like a word document, I swear. And it just not only lists goals but things that I want to partner with, things that I want to do by this time."
No matter how big Ballerini's fame gets, or how many goals she ticks off her list, fans can be certain that they will always get authenticity from the singer. "I promised myself that when I got signed as an artist, I would be the same person on Instagram, as I was out to dinner with my friends, as I was I was onstage," she tells Posen. "Because my favorite artists are the ones you feel like you can reach out and touch, not the ones that are in a glass box."