Just four years after her Grand Ole Opry debut on February 14, 2015, Kelsea Ballerini has joined the royal family of country music. Originally from Knoxville, TN, Ballerini wrote her first song at only 12 years old and moved to Nashville to pursue writing and performing three years later.
Of all the incredible women in country that have shaped who she is as an artist, Ballerini credits Carrie Underwood as one her biggest influences and inspirations. It was therefore fitting that the American Idol alumn surprised fans Tuesday night (April 16.) to make Ballerini’s induction official. “This is the heart and soul of country music, the family,” said an emotional Underwood, “Welcome to the family.”
Ballerini echoed the sentiment in a tear-filled speech thanking the Opry, her family, and her friends for giving her a home. “It’s so nice and comforting to know that no matter where life takes me…and whatever happens, that I can always come here and I can always play country music.” The two female powerhouses then joined forces for a special duet, a cover of Opry legend Trisha Yearwood’s, “Walkaway Joe”.
Of the 26 artists and groups inducted into the Grand Ole Opry since 2000, Ballerini is only the fifth woman. At a time when female and male artists alike are taking notice and speaking out about the lack of equal representation of women in country music, choosing to have Underwood induct the newest member undoubtedly held special significance, not just for Ballerini, but for the country community.
One of the beautiful traditions of the Opry is that invitations are offered by existing members live from the wooden circle. Earlier this year, Little Big Town joined Ballerini for a duet, but instead of finishing the phrase of the song, they harmonized an invitation to the shocked songstress. “I thought getting to sing ‘Girl Crush’ was the biggest present in the world,” Ballerini said. Turns out she was wrong!
With the first handful of shows on the Miss Me More Tour behind her (her first as a headliner) Ballerini has already had quite the week. She is also set to open for Luke Bryan later this year on one stop of his Sunset Repeat Tour. Congrats, Kelsea, you earned it!
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