Kelsea Ballerini to Perform With Reba McEntire at CMA Music Awards, Talks About New Album and Taylor Swift

Decisions, decisions. Country star Kelsea Ballerini initially wrote 200 songs when she started working on her recently released second album, Unapologetically.

“So the way that I narrowed them down was I decided I wanted to make a chronological story of my life the last two years,” Ballerini told Newsweek. “So if you listen to the record, track one to track 12, it’s in order of how it all happened.”

Ballerini, 24, began writing music when she was 13 and started playing guitar a year later.

And at the age of 19, thanks especially to her strong songwriting skills, she scored a publishing deal with the Black River Publishing, and then a recording deal with Black River Entertainment. I had never heard of Ballerini, until my eight-year-old daughter reported back to me after witnessing her perform “Square Pegs,” from her 2015 debut album, The First Time, on the Disney Channel. Soon, there was singing and humming, from both of us, as well as from my wife. What also appealed to us—well, especially me—were these lyrics: “What if we were all the same? Same rules, same game / And we weren’t allowed to change anything about anything / That anybody’s ever done before? Wouldn’t that be boring, yeah.” Yeah, right?

Ballerini broadens her country/pop approach on Unapologetically (somewhat similar to the way Taylor Swift expanded her sonic style on recent albums) with crafty keyboards, gleaming electronics and other contemporary pop elements—without sacrificing her rootsy, country cred.

Get ready for some of that cred on Thursday, when Ballerini performs her hit single “Legends” with the legendary Reba McEntire at the 51st annual CMA Music Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. Ballerini has performed at a slew of awards shows in the past few years, and has taken home a bunch of awards, including: the Gene Weed Milestone Award at the ACM Awards this year; Best New Country Artist at iHeartRadio Music…

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