NEW YORK – Country music star Kelsea Ballerini had no intentions of starting a new job as an author in 2020. She did plan to tour her new album, “Kelsea” – then the coronavirus pandemic shut down most of the world. As COVID-19 all but stopped the touring industry, the Grammy nominee began to express her feelings through poetry.
“I just kept writing and didn't worry about the form of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, tag – whatever. I just kept writing. And I quickly realized that it was kind of coming out as an autobiography of me processing, not only my feelings as of current, but a lot of stuff from growing up,” Ballerini said. “It just happened to rhyme because that's always how I've written. And it turned into a book.”
“Feel Your Way Through,” released last month, is a book of poetry that touches on a variety of subjects, including learning to love herself.
“I've struggled with body image. I've had an eating disorder – all these things that I share in the book. I hope that for anyone reading it that is feeling alone in that journey, they no longer feel that,” said Ballerini, who titled the poem “Kangaroo” after a cruel childhood nickname. “That's my main reason. But also for me, like selfishly, just to get it out of me and go, 'Man, here's some truth-telling that I've not told before.' ”
The Grammy nominee also penned “His Name Was Ryan,” which details witnessing her 15-year-old classmate Ryan McDonald get shot and killed by another classmate in the school cafeteria at Central High School in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“I never even knew if it was part of my story that I would choose to share, but again, going back to looking at the puzzle pieces of my life, and if I'm going to explain that this book is my feelings as a 28-year-old woman, I can't leave it out,” Ballerini said. “It's something that happened that has really shaped a lot of the way I am and the way I feel.”
Ballerini, who wrapped a tour with the Jonas Brothers in October, also touched on new music. The “Half of My Hometown” singer, who just won her first two CMA awards last month, returned to the studio six months after releasing “Kelsea.”
“After I had time to be like 'music makes me sad' and then I started writing the book, then I was like, 'All right, let's get back to music, too,' ” said Ballerini, who said some of her poems – or at least the emotions behind them – could potentially turn into songs. “It's still so early that I don't know what it's going to end up being, but I certainly have songs that I love, and I'm not rushing myself.”
As she tiptoes along the very delicate line between country star and pop artist, she says the line is not blurred in her eyes.
“I'm a country artist – I will always categorize myself as that. But I listen to everything. And my first concert was Britney Spears, then I went home to literally a farm. So, I'm a product of my life,” Ballerini said. “I'm a product of what I listened to growing up, which was everything.”