It was a Fountain City Homecoming.
“It’s good to be back,” says Kelsea Ballerini. “I went to Shannondale Elementary, Gresham Middle, Central High.”
The Saturday night concert at her former high school was a defining moment in Ballerini’s career.
“I’ve done a few hometown shows, but this one in particular feels like super full circle and super special," she said. "This is where I really decided what I wanted to pursue in my life.”
Central High has always been a home away from home for Ballerini.
“I’m so tied to this place. Every time I come home on weekends to visit my dad, I always sneak over here when it’s empty. I love it here," she said.
So, when the Tennessee Department of Tourism approached her about partnering in concert as part of its “Soundtrack of America, Made in Tennessee” campaign, she had one condition.
“I was like, 'Well, we have to do it in my hometown, and I have to do it at Central.' And they were like, 'Alright,'" she recalled.
It was the perfect stage to launch her sophomore album, “Unapologetically.” It’s more serious than her debut record.
“I’m an artist because I’m a song writer. I think I’ll always write everything I record," she said. "This album is just more intentional. I had more time to think about it, to put it together, to make sure it was perfect. It’s way more me and way more in-depth, heartfelt, vulnerable.”
Perhaps, her fiancé might have influenced her. Ballerini and Aussie country star Morgan Evans will soon tie the knot.
“It’s (the wedding) soon! We have album Friday, Nov. 3. We have CMA’s Nov. 8. And then, I’m going to breath for a second. And we get married in December. It’s crazy. It’s awesome, though. I feel like there are so many amazing, beautiful big life moments that are happening this year," she said.
But bridezilla isn’t one of them!
“We’re not wedding people … we’re stoked about getting married, but not the actual wedding part. We have a wedding planner. We’re so excited to share that with our really close friends and family, but we’re just excited to be together," she said.
Which is a challenge when you’re touring around the globe!
“I love touring. I’ve gotten to open for some of my favorite acts in country music. I’ve gotten to headline. And we’re announcing two tours again for next year," she said. "It’s just amazing to be able to write these songs in a room in Nashville and then watch the life they get to have and watch the connection it brings. It’s a magical thing and I’ll do it as long as I can.”
Click here for announced tour dates.
A fun fact about Kelsea's visits to Knoxville. She has four must stops when she comes home - Littons, Rita's Bakery, Fountain City Park and Market Square.