The title of Kelsea Ballerini’s new album is Subject to change, and that certainly sums up his state of mind right now. She has just gone through a major change in her personal life, announcing that she is divorcing her husband, country singer Morgan Evans, after nearly five years of marriage. And while she doesn’t discuss the details of the split in her Yahoo Entertainment interview – which was conducted days before the couple’s announcement – as she embarks on a new chapter both personally and professionally, she opens on most of its vulnerable folder so far.

“Obviously we have all changed a lot in the last few years, because life has strength us to. … And I feel like in the last few years, in my twenties, I’ve grown so much. I learned so much about myself in this extra space that we were kind of forced into,” says the country/pop superstar, who just turned 29. “And I loved it Subject to change represented my life. He represented everybody life, and that kind of guided me thematically through the story that I was writing. And so, we just went back and forth, like, ‘Do we make it wide, or do we just do it like me?’ And we ended up going very inward, very personally, to set the tone for the whole album.

This isn’t the first time Ballerini has turned inward to create his art. Subject to change serves as a kind of companion to his 2021 confessional poetry book, Feel your way throughin which she wrote about everything from her body image issues, to witnessing a school shooting as a teenager, to the backlash she received for what some people considered deaf and simplistic, though well-meaning, Tweeter reacting to country star Morgan Wallen’s use of a racial slur.

Kelsea Ballerini (Photo: Black River Records)

“Writing Feel your way through was super cathartic, obviously, because some of it is lighthearted, and some of it feels like funny stories, and some of it is stuff that I’ve definitely never talked about before that covers a lot of trauma,” says Ballerini. “I felt so free to put this book out, and I think it unlocked that part of my creativity, but also just like my soul, as crazy as it sounds. I felt how the people connected to it gave me the confidence to keep pushing in that direction. So there are certain songs [on Subject to Change] that you listen to and it’s almost a little discordanthow honest.

Ballerini quotes two Subject to change tracks, ‘Marilyn’ and ‘Doin’ My Best’ as the ones that ‘probably opened my chest the most’. The first, inspired by the ultimate idealized/objectified woman, Marilyn Monroe, is somehow related to Ballerini Feel your way through poem “Kangaroo”, in which she wrote about her body dysmorphia and her past battles with eating disorders. “Marilyn is a metaphor in this song for me,” says the singer-songwriter. “To me, Marilyn in this context represents a woman who presents herself in one way and deeply feels another. I definitely relate to that, and I think with social media, maybe everyone relates to it.

As for “Doin’ My Best,” this track, like Ballerini’s poem “The Right of History,” addresses his aforementioned Wallen social media controversy. In this song, she sings about getting her “ass kicked on Twitter,” and she tells Yahoo Entertainment, “Honestly, I haven’t had Twitter since, and that was a good lesson for me. I think I’m a chronic people-pleaser, and being an artist and a public person, I really had to learn to stand up for things I believe in. But sometimes when you do that, you’re gonna trip and you’re gonna do it wrong. And, you know, I didn’t do everything right. … I think the intention is one thing, but I think the rebuttal of [that Wallen tweet] was my refusal to acknowledge the systematic racism that occurred – which I fully understand. I took a step back, I listened, I learned. … I got my ass kicked and I learned a lot from it. And I fully own it. »

Ballerini adds with a laugh, “And I literally don’t miss Twitter at all!”

Ballerini says she’s taken a step back from social media in general for her mental health. “Honestly, I think it was after that incident that I kind of realized I had a choice. It was like, ‘Do I shut up and post the pretty parts of my life , and that I no longer open myself to that?’ Because I’m really sensitive and feeling everything, and I think that’s what makes me good at my job. Or, ‘Do I personally work on myself in therapy…and stay open and find the tools ?’ »

Ballerini has been a vocal advocate for mental health awareness in the country music community for years, and she’s her own advocate — but that hasn’t always been the case. “Growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee, nobody ever talked about it. Like, I didn’t even know the term ‘mental health,'” she says. because of two different things that happened to me when I was younger: one was my parents’ divorce and the other was the school shooting that I wrote about in the book. And it wasn’t my choice to go either. And so, my younger relationship with talk therapy and just mental health was very negative. It wasn’t until I grew up and people started normalizing it in the media and talking about it that I was even interested in rediscovering this path to mental health. … I would say the last five years are really where I dove in and started to really take care of myself in that way. And it’s been such an important part of my life, to take care of my brain and my mind and my soul like that.

Opening up about his past trauma – like his experience witnessing the murder of his classmate Ryan McDonald in a 2008 cafeteria shooting at Central High School in Knoxville, which inspired his poem ‘His Name Was Ryan’ – helped her heal. “It was one of the last poems I wrote for the book, and I remember I was sending drafts to a couple of my very close friends, and my friend Christina was like, ‘If you’re gonna go out there and talk about all the great things that have made you, you leave something out. Maybe it’s time you talked about it. And that was what I needed.

Writing about her life also reinforced Ballerini’s strong bond with her fans. “When you’re talking about big things, whether it’s body dysmorphia, eating disorders, gun violence, families breaking up, whatever…when you’re able to have a conversation about something thing, you automatically build a community,” she explains. “And when you have a community, you are able to move healthier and faster. Like, I still suffer from PTSD [from the school shooting]; I’m an artist and I’m on stage a lot, so I have to be told if there’s pyro around or else it’s not a good day for me. It’s really something that I deal with on a regular basis, so I think just posting this information will hopefully help people understand my reaction to certain things. [onstage].”

Ballerini has taken to her platform to speak out in a number of ways, including addressing “Tomato-gate,” a country music scandal that stemmed from when radio consultant Keith Hill used an insulting salad analogy, describing male performers as “lettuce” and female performers as simple tomato garnish. One could argue that Ballerini’s success (she has had four No. 1 singles on the Country Airplay chart and is the only female country artist to reach No. 1 with her first three consecutive singles from a debut album) has reopened the doors for country women artists. And Ballerini says, “I see it starting to change a bit and be more inclusive; I have good hope. But she admits there is still a long way to go.

Kelsea Ballerini (Photo: Black River Records)

Kelsea Ballerini (Photo: Black River Records)

“I mean, I mean [things are changing at radio], but then I look at the graph. I obviously checked where [the Subject to Change single] ‘Heartfirst’ is today, and I think there’s like Three women in the top 40. So, I don’t know. All I know is what I control – and what I control is showing up as a woman in country music, uplifting other women I believe in, to write with other women, to work with women, producers, to work with women in my team.

“I have a collaboration on this record with Carly Pierce, who I’ve known for 10 years. We’ve seen each other through so many lives and in every season of our careers and we’ve always wanted to do a song together. And then Kelly Clarkson , who is like my idol from the very beginning… I asked Kelly to be part of the song, and she sang that night. It’s called “You’re Drunk, Go Home,” and it’s like a sassy little country bomb. I’m really excited about this. I like having two women of different genders, who all respect each other, are part of it. I just want to surround myself with epic women in a creative way, in a business sense. This is what I control. And I think when more women have the opportunity to do that, that’s how real change happens.

As Ballerini approaches her thirties as a newly single woman, she marvels at how fans have joined her on her journey, even when she’s made mistakes or shown the less pretty parts of her life. . “I just recognize that life is so messy and so multifaceted,” she muses. “When it’s good, it’s good, and we should feel it. But when it doesn’t, it doesn’t, and we should feel it too. …I just feel like the more I can dig into the things I care about, the better.

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