Kelsea Ballerini Initially Struggled to Make It as a Country Star

Gina Vaynshteyn - Author

Jun. 9 2021, Published 9:40 p.m. ET

Kelsea Ballerini
Source: Getty Images

The 2021 CMT Music Awards are tonight, and all we can talk or think about is Kelsea Ballerini, who's performing as well as co-hosting with Kane Brown. "Kelsea and Kane are two of the brightest, most sought-after stars in country music today and we're thrilled to welcome them both as hosts of the 2021 CMT Music Awards," CMT producers stated.

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They added, "This dynamic duo reflects the show's revitalized energy as live music returns to center stage in a night filled with incredible outdoor performances, cross-genre collaborations and a few surprises!"

If you aren't super familiar with Kelsea, then you might be surprised that the country singer is only 27 years old. And her background is pretty impressive.

kelsea cmt
Source: Instagram
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How did Kelsea Ballerini get her start?

Kelsea Ballerini released her first full-length album, "The First Time," in 2015, with "Love Me Like You Mean It" playing non-stop on every country radio station. But success didn't come easily. When she was 14 years old, she tried to get a record deal, only to be told that there was already a Taylor Swift on the scene. Determined, she ended up going to college and signing with an indie label called Black River. She was 19 and finally started to find her footing.

She shared her experience trying to get a record deal at 14 with the Chicago Tribune, saying,

"I walked in, and I had my big, pink, sparkly guitar case. I could barely play guitar, but I played him a song that I had written, and (the label guy) looked at me and said, 'There's already a Taylor Swift. That slot's taken.' It broke my heart, because I was 14 years old, I was super starry-eyed, but it was such a good lesson to learn early on. He was right. ... It was the first time I realized I had to dig into myself, and figure out what I wanted to say."

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kelsea ballerini guitar
Source: Instagram

She felt like it took forever to get started and officially get a deal. "It took a long time for people to actually listen to me and actually take me seriously. But I learned that if I walked into meetings and could sit down and actually communicate my dreams and my vision ... if I took myself seriously, then other people would, too," she said. The Knoxville, Tenn. teen ended up moving to Nashville for good.

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When she released "The First Time" in 2015, it instantly became a huge hit.  "Love Me Like You Mean It" became a No.1 single. According to the Chicago Tribune, Kelsea became the first female country singer to have three of her songs from her first album make it to No. 1 since Wyonna Judd.

kelsea ballerini selfie
Source: Instagram
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"I remember the impact (Underwood's) song had. Not to compare 'Love Me Like You Mean It' to 'Jesus, Take the Wheel,' because it's not even in the same ballpark. ... And to have two more follow-ups, I guess the stat is that no female has had that before in country music history. That's crazy and exciting and maybe a little intimidating," Kelsea admitted.

Watch the CMT Music Awards tonight at 8 p.m. EST on CMT, MTV, MTV 2, Logo TV, Paramount Network or TV Land.

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