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Kelsea Ballerini on Hosting the CMT Music Awards for One Final Time




Kelsea Ballerini has been the hostess with the mostest, so far as the CMT Music Awards, however it’ll quickly be time to slap an “emeritus” on that. She hosts the awards present, now seen on CBS, tonight for a fourth and final time. Ballerini is revealing she can be relinquishing the function after dealing with emcee duties since 2021; Kane Brown was her associate in co-hosting earlier telecasts, main as much as her solo reign over the ceremony this time.

Sitting in her dressing room backstage at Austin’s Moody Middle the day earlier than the telecast, she was something however moody in discussing why she’s loved the CMTs journey thus far, however why she’ll additionally get pleasure from delving additional into different alternatives she’s hoping to give attention to extra within the time to come back.

“It’s my remaining yr, yeah,” Ballerini confirms. “I’ve hosted or co-hosted this present for 4 years now, and I’ve gotten to host a whole lot of totally different sorts of ventures during the last decade — and I actually get pleasure from it. It was the very first thing that I did exterior of music actually, that allowed me to ask myself the query: What else? Like, what else can I do? And I’m able to ask myself that query once more, and I actually need to give myself the area to see what else there’s. By no means say by no means — I’ll by no means say that I received’t come do that once more. I like it. I simply am excited to see what else I can do.”

It’s not any secret that Ballerini has her eyes set on different media; she mentioned it in a earlier interview with Selection… for an article in any other case targeted on her renewing her Black River file deal, indicating that she’s positively not dropping all the things to discover new avenues. So in the case of what else is likely to be forward, for now, she says, “I’m actually creatively fulfilled by the thought of discovering a approach to get entangled with newer artists and discover a approach to creatively collaborate. And I’m actually excited concerning the concept of performing some stuff in movie and TV and simply pushing myself exterior of my consolation zone. Music is at all times gonna be my child and my focus and the factor that I shield essentially the most, however within the area round it, I need to continue to grow and I need to maintain difficult myself.”

Going it solo on the helm isn’t in any respect daunting. “I like Kane and I miss him this yr, however I really feel like I’ve gotten sufficient expertise below my belt the place I really feel geared up — yeah, I’ll take the job.” With one asterisk to that confidence. “I put on a whole lot of very giant heels, and now I don’t have a pleasant arm subsequent to me to assist me not journey. In order that’s terrifying.”

AUSTIN, TEXAS – APRIL 05: Kelsea Ballerini attends the 2024 CMT Music Awards – Rehearsals – Day One at Moody Middle on April 05, 2024 in Austin, Texas. (Picture by Catherine Powell/Getty Photos for CMT)
Getty Photos for CMT

Ballerini has a brand new album-in-progress, to comply with up her Grammy-nominated “Rolling Up the Welcome Mat” undertaking. However earlier than she begins teasing that, the singer has simply launched a between-albums one-off — a newly rearranged model of her breakout hit “Love Me Like You Imply It,” which she considers “just a bit thank-you” to the followers who’ve been together with her for 10 years. That’s the music she’ll be seen doing on the CMTs, pre-taped in entrance of a crowd on the tower at UT Austin.

“I stand by the music and the sentiment a lot, nonetheless,” she avows. “The center of ‘Love Me Like You Imply It’ is that we settle for the love that we predict we deserve, and inspiring one another to carry ourselves accountable to simply accept good love. And me as a 30-year-old feels the identical means, however has a whole lot of life since I wrote that music at 19. So I used to be like, how would 30-year-old me sing this? And that was a extremely enjoyable discovery. To me it was just like the ending of a decade of music collectively, and after which a continuation of ‘Welcome Mat’ and sonically sort of a touch as to what’s subsequent.”

Her function within the present apart, Ballerini has picks for what she thinks telecast highlights is likely to be.

“In my view, the efficiency of the night time’s gonna be Little Large City and Sugarland, that they have already got such a synergy and a historical past collectively,” she says. Though the id of the music the 2 acts are doing collectively isn’t being revealed previous to showtime, “I’ve heard the music, as a result of Karen (Fairchild) is only a pricey sister to me,” she says. “And I bear in mind once I heard ‘Life in a Northern City once they did it collectively years in the past” — on the CMT Awards in 2008, the final time these two teams collaborated on a efficiency — “and it simply brings me proper again to that, and I believe it’s gonna be a second.”

She’s additionally excessive on a model new artist, Dasha, who’ll be making the transition from TikTok star to prime time tv for the primary time with a efficiency of “Austin.”

“I imply, we now have Trisha (Yearwood) and we now have Keith (City) holding it down, as pillar, household-name nation artists that folks have tuned into these reveals for years and years to see. After which the vary goes all the best way to Dasha, who’s blowing up on TikTok. I referred to as Jason (Owen), my supervisor, a couple of month in the past, and I used to be like, ‘I don’t know if all of the efficiency spots are booked or not, but when not, can we get her on the present’ She has the music referred to as ‘Austin’” — as in, completely coincidentally, the host metropolis — “and it’s excellent. I believe we want her, and I’m so completely satisfied she’s on the present now. And it’s her first awards present efficiency and her first efficiency in an enviornment, so it’s a giant deal.”

Dasha was, in truth, leaving Ballerini’s dressing room simply minutes in the past, after beforehand telling Selection how a lot she regarded ahead to probably hanging with Ballerini. The host finds herself now in that hopefully candy spot the place she’s regarded as much as as a veteran by a few of the youngest feminine artists developing, however continues to be a veritable child to a lot of the trade that’s stored her as a star for 10 years — a center floor she’s completely satisfied to inhabit proper now, nonetheless laborious it’s to completely understand from the within out.

“That makes me smile,” she says, when advised what number of younger girls with debut albums point out her as an affect or somebody they hope to fulfill. “I’m at all times in dialog with myself on discovering the fitting line of nonetheless considering I’m a brand new artist, after which additionally honoring the last decade that I’ve had and never discrediting the success I’ve had. I really feel like I’ve spent a whole lot of my profession sort of with my shoulders a little bit bit hunched in, and I’m actually making an attempt to face tall on this final decade of labor and be happy with myself and present up for that, whereas additionally figuring out that I nonetheless have a protracted approach to go and I at all times wanna push myself and continue to grow. So it’s actually enjoyable to have the ability to be buddies with and in the identical room and conditions as my heroes, however then additionally being assembly the newer artists that I nonetheless actually establish with, a whole lot of the time.”

Of her earlier three stints internet hosting or co-hosting the CMTs, final yr was her favourite. “I used to be happy with the present as a complete, and I used to be happy with what I used to be in a position to convey to the present,” she says of 2023’s present— together with a musical efficiency from her that included a phalanx of drag queens, proper as Tennessee legislators have been enacting anti-drag laws, plus a gap assertion addressing gun violence within the wake of a Nashville mass faculty capturing. “So far as my opening assertion, my efficiency internet hosting with Kane, being in a brand new metropolis, I really feel like we actually did convey a brand new breath of life to the present that was actually enjoyable to look at occur in actual time. So I believe that, for me, is the bar.”

Undoubtedly not the excessive level, however one thing she is ready to look again on with some affection, was the yr 2022, when she was scheduled to co-host in individual with Anthony Mackie however shifted to digital co-host when she examined constructive for COVID, regardless of feeling tremendous. Brown stepped in to imagine a few of the duties she would have had on the host enviornment in Nashville, whereas Ballerini did reside remotes from the socially distanced consolation of house.

“I snort at it now, and I’m actually happy with the pivot that we ended up with the ability to do,” Ballerini says. “It might’ve been very easy for them to be like, ‘OK, we’re gonna simply fill your spot,’ and so they didn’t. They put a satellite tv for pc truck exterior of my home with all of the gear that it was simple for me to determine and to nonetheless be part of it. It was very a lot a bookmark of that point, which was pivoting and figuring issues out because it was taking place to us. It positively wasn’t best, however we pulled it off, and I obtained to finish the night time in my sweatpants, so it was a win.”

She’s extremely approving of the CMTs being in Austin for a second yr, as each this present and the ACMs have shifted to a Texas base, for the sake of shaking issues up but in addition with no small assist from monetary incentives. “You recognize, I’m Staff Evolve. I’m Staff Attempt One thing New — see the way it works, see if it’s proper,” she says. “I simply assume particularly as a style, with the ability to put ourselves in new locations and check out new issues, that’s how we evolve. And to be right here, whether or not it’s for simply two years or the subsequent 20, I believe it was an superior, wholesome change.”

AUSTIN, TEXAS – APRIL 05: Kelsea Ballerini attends the 2024 CMT Music Awards – Rehearsals – Day One at Moody Middle on April 05, 2024 in Austin, Texas. (Picture by Catherine Powell/Getty Photos for CMT)
Getty Photos for CMT

This yr, “I do know going into these moments that I like having enjoyable with the style and the appears to be like and all that stuff, and I actually satisfaction myself on not taking myself too rattling significantly. And I believe particularly with this present, and actually with the script this yr specifically, I get to lean into that extra and simply sort of be who I’m.” Which is… “Actually, I’m a goofy lady, and I like with the ability to be that alongside being a reputable artist. Two issues can reside in the identical area.”

Some have questioned concerning the tone of her subsequent album, since she pivoted from making the largely upbeat — and, sure, generally goofy — “Topic to Change” in 2022 proper into “Rolling Up the Welcome Mat” in 2023. That EP (later expanded to album lengthin a deluxe version) was her “divorce file,” utterly holistic as a thematic look into darkish developments in her private life. If anybody following the nation world had failed to offer her credit score as a cred artist previously, “Welcome Mat” disabused them of these doubts, and racked up the sort of album of the yr nominations at awards reveals (together with the Grammys) that had generally eluded her when she was producing extra effusive materials. However talking of Staff Evolve, will the subsequent album undertaking be a pivot again to extra clearly mainstream fare, or…?

“Nicely, I believe that’s sort of like what I used to be saying earlier: two issues will be true. Like, I’m a deeply emotional and dedicated songwriter. That’s my absolute reality. It’s the love of my life; it’s my craft. And even on this new season of life, I’m actually being diligent about making a file that has that very same stage of songwriting and honesty and intention as ‘Welcome Mat’ in depth. In the identical breath, I’m a 30-year-old lady that actually is having fun with my life, and I’m in a distinct section of my life now that’s stuffed with much more mild and pleasure. And I like with the ability to have fun that, and there’s area for each.”

However you received’t see a lot of the “Welcome Mat” facet of her on the CMTs. For the larger viewers that now watches the present reside on CBS and Paramount+ (and, after a number of days, its namesake, CMT, too), she can be rolling out a real welcome mat, one which’s nearer to comedic in tone.

“You recognize, I’m gonna be doing a little bit ‘Barbie’ bit. I’m gonna be doing a little bit impromptu collab. And I’m gonna be making enjoyable of myself on the prime of the present. As a result of I similar to to beat folks to the punch, and I’m going to be in all probability shedding (as a nominee)… however wanting good and doing it effectively.”

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