Kelsea Ballerini on Striking Balance, Appreciating Her Hometown and Her ‘Die-Hard’ Skin-Care Favorites


Country singer-songwriter Kelsea Ballerini has been aptly recognized as one of the most influential women in country music today—but at 27 years old, she’s just getting warmed up. 

In the last six years, Ballerini has already earned two Grammy nominations, won two ACM awards and is currently the youngest member of the Grand Ole Opry. This year alone, the Knoxville native has collaborated with country-music great Kenny Chesney on her latest single “Half of My Hometown,” announced she will be opening up for the Jonas Brothers on tour this summer and is gearing up to co-host next month’s CMT Music Awards. She’s also the first to admit it hasn’t always been easy.

After releasing her namesake album, Kelsea, “the week the world shut down,” Ballerini had no option but to pivot, an action many of us also perfected in March of 2020. “I felt so guilty taking up any kind of space when the world was scared and hectic and in the middle of a crisis. But the train had left the station and the album was coming out,” Ballerini tells NewBeauty. Her solution: Do it again. “I realized that I couldn’t change the circumstances of when I put out the record, but I can always make another one.”

And so six months later came its companion album, Ballerini, a body of work the singer recounts was meant to be about the storytelling and lyrics, rather than the “boom” of it all. The 13-track album retells each song from its prequel in a deconstructed, more intimate fashion. “I needed something that felt connected. It was my way of falling back in love with a record that I made. Ballerini was made for a living room rather than an arena.”

We sat down with the country star to talk about the importance of striking balance, appreciating your roots and everything in between.

On finding balance…

I learned so much about myself this past year. I don’t think I realized how much I thrive in balance. I really love being busy. I love always having forward motion and looking to what’s next, but I think I’ve learned that I can do that better when my roots are deep and watered. And so having time with my husband and my dog, and my mom and my dad and my really close small group of friends, I think has replanted me this last year. And now it’s up to me to keep that balance and keep those roots watered while I start going, going, going again. Because I do owe it to myself and to my dream to give it everything. But I think I do that better when I’m balanced.”

Instagram/Kelsea Ballerini

On growing in the music industry…

“I think I’m always finding my footing, especially as a woman, which sounds so oversaid, but it’s just true. It is harder, and you have to be more nimble, and you have to be smart, and quick and sharp, and all the things. But also when it works, it makes victories sweeter because it’s harder this way.

I think I’m always growing and learning. Over the last two years is when I’ve finally started feeling confident enough in myself as an artist and as a woman to start standing up for myself in a business sense. For a long time, I would be in the room, but I would be a sponge and I would learn from the wonderful people around me and I would listen and observe and take mental notes. And now, I think I trust my gut a lot more and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve gone to the greatest school in the world for music just by living it the last six years. And so I trust myself now and I stand up for myself and I have opinions and I’m not scared to voice them to whoever’s in the room.”

On reconnecting with her roots…

“I was super emotional filming the video for ‘Half of My Hometown.’ We wanted it to be the hypothetical story of if I had never left my hometown at 15 before I moved to Nashville to try to do this. And so it’s this really beautiful life, it’s just not mine. And so it was really grounding but also a really emotional story to tell. 

As I’ve gotten a little bit older, I have a new appreciation for my hometown. When I was younger, all I wanted was to leave because I thought, ‘I can’t do what I want to do with my life in these city limits, I have to go to Nashville.’ I thought it was holding me back. And so I left. And now that I’m older, every time I go back, I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s why I’m like this.’ You just understand so much more about yourself when you take the time to know where you’re from. And so I think I have an appreciation for my hometown and my roots more than I ever have. So to me, that’s the emotional side of the song and the video, and then obviously having Kenny [Chesney] on it just adds another level to it. Little me would be so happy.”

Instagram/Kelsea Ballerini

On building confidence…

“I remember when I was 20 or 21 and walking my first red carpets, I was so obsessive about how I looked and wanted to make sure that my body looked a certain type of way to fit into certain types of dresses. And I think part of that is just the girly girl me who loves to get dressed up and do that, but part of that was a really massive insecurity that I had to grapple with for a long time. 

Now, I still love getting dressed up, but the best thing I can do for myself is show up as I am, and not show up starving myself or show up really unhappy to get to a certain point you feel a certain way. The stronger I feel, the more confident I feel. I really try to maintain taking care of myself and then show up as I am, and I love it.”

On her fitness routine…

“Different things work for different people, so I would never suggest that what worked for me should work for everyone. But I workout with my trainer [Erin Oprea] three times a week, and I’ve worked out with her for six years now, so she’s just a friend of mine at this point. And as much as it is for my body and for my strength, it is so mentally healthy for me to do that. I always feel better and stronger after I do it. I have a SoulCycle bike and that makes me feel really strong. I do that a couple times a week. And then also one thing I learned during the pandemic is if I don’t feel like going to the gym and doing the whole thing, I’ll just take my dog for a walk. And that’s okay, too. I try to do something nice for my body every day, but it doesn’t have to look like crushing it in the gym. It can look like a 15 minute walk with my dog. And that’s okay.”

Twitter/Kelsea Ballerini

On touring with the Jonas Brothers…

“I’m really trying to walk the line between just being an absolute Jonas Brothers fangirl and playing it cool, but there’s no line [laughs]. There have been so many full-circle moments that have happened in my life. This year alone, having Kenny on a song about my hometown where I used to drive around listening to him on the radio, that’s very full circle. Having this tour come about with the Jonas Brothers is another one. There’s a video online of me at 13 submitting a video of why I love them to a contest to meet them—it’s very full circle. And honestly when those things happen, to me, it’s just a sign from God, or the universe, or whatever you believe in, saying you’re on the right path, keep going.”

On her skin-care staples…

I used to really not care about my skin-care routine and then I turned 25 and realized I should probably start wearing sunscreen [laughs]. I use a vitamin C in the morning, I’m pretty religious about that. There’s a place based out of Nashville called SkinPharm, and they have a whole line of stuff that I use, but they have a vitamin C serum called Glow Factor and it’s the most potent vitamin C I’ve ever used. You put it on and you feel your skin just tighten up and get really glowy and I love glowy skin. So that’s my hero product. I use that every morning and I swear by it. 

Then I have another die-hard product from a brand called OSEA. They have this hyaluronic acid that, it sounds gross, but has algae or something in it. It’s so good. I use that twice a day. Then I’ll do a scrub once a week. I do these clarifying pads once a day that have salicylic and glycolic acid in them and I wear sunscreen religiously. I’m pretty crazy about my skin now.” 

Instagram/Kelsea Ballerini

On her go-to makeup look…

“I love a natural, glowy look—the JLo look, if you will. I think it’s a really good marriage of glam and being understated and displaying your natural features, which is kind of my vibe, but at the same time, I love doing a really bold book too. I get to work with amazing hair and makeup artists, and every time we do a look I’ll learn from them and they’ll teach me different tricks and tips and stuff. So whenever I’m on the road and I don’t have one of them with me, I’m able to try to recreate it on myself. And it’s also kind of meditative to me whenever I get to shut the door in the back of the bus and just have that hour to myself to paint my face and listen to music and warm up. It’s just me time. So I think it’s a creative outlet and it’s also just a little bit meditative.”

On her everyday face…

“Dermalogica has this amazing SPF primer. It is literally like a skin blur and it has SPF in it, but it also is like this primer that makes your skin look poreless. So I’ll do that, and then if I have any breakouts, I’ll cover those with a little foundation—I use Charlotte Tilbury. And then I’ll do ILIA blush. It’s a cream stick and looks super natural when it’s blended. And I’ll do some sort of brow gel. I just stopped using eyelash extensions because I’m just trying to give everything a break, so I’ve been using this new mascara from CoverGirl. They just started doing a clean line without using parabens and without testing on animals. It’s amazing. And so they have this mascara that I’ve been obsessed with. And so day-to-day that’s all I really use just to keep it really simple.”

On what’s to come…

“There’s a lot of stuff we haven’t announced yet, but honestly, I’m just going to keep saying yes. I think for so long, I’ve overthought everything and said, ‘Oh my goodness, Do I deserve this?’ And now I’m just owning things and going. Like when I got a call from Kelly Clarkson asking if I would sit in her chair for ‘The Voice’ the next day. It was so major. Years ago I would have been so terrified and probably said no, but I said yes, and it was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. And so I think I’m just in a season of saying yes and showing up and knowing that I’ve earned that.”

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