Kelsea Ballerini Celebrates Historic Number One
After so much talk this year about the lack of feminine presence on country radio, country’s newest hit female, Kelsea Ballerini, celebrated her first Number One, “Love Me Like You Mean It,” with a party Monday full of awards and gratitude on Nashville’s Music Row.
More than just her first Number One, the gold-certified “Love Me Like You Mean It” also marks the first time a solo female has held radio’s top spot since 2013 (Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away”), and it makes Ballerini one of only 11 females in history to notch a Number One with her debut single.
Lively, light-hearted and romantic, the song rings true to a 21-year-old’s trials of love and was co-written by Ballerini with Josh Kerr, Forrest Glen Whitehead and Lance Carpenter. But rather than appearing during a scheduled writing session, the country newcomer says her debut’s inspiration came from an unlikely source — a night of eating pizza and listening to Rihanna’s “Take a Bow.”
“All of a sudden we were so inspired by the swag and the sass she had as an artist on that song,” Ballerini told Rolling Stone Country before the party. “I wasn’t even signed as an artist yet, but we were all determined to create a ‘sound’ for me together as a group, and that night marked the beginning of it.”
For their part, her co-writers all agreed Ballerini’s sound is mostly of her own making – which is something many young artists aren’t ready for yet.
“The biggest thing is she knows who she is and what she wants to say,” said Kerr. “There are always ideas that come about, but she knows, ‘This is how I would say this and I have this style.’ It just comes out of her naturally, which is very unique. Not a lot of people can do that.”
It was also the first Number One for each of the co-writers, so the party was full of industry colleagues, family and friends. Held in the white-marbled lobby of the performing rights organization ASCAP’s headquarters, the party kicked off with a speech from Senior Creative Director Mike Sistad, who recalled first meeting Ballerini when she was just 15. The time wasn’t right back then, but after handing out a round of plaques signifying her and her co-writers’ achievement, Sistad said he fully expected to be celebrating at more of these parties in the future.
Celia Forehlig — the vice president of publishing at Ballerini’s record label, Black River Entertainment — coaxed the first round of tears from the singer, saying, “When your dreams come true, mine come true.” After sharing a heartfelt hug, Forehlig also handed out a round of plaques, asking if maybe she should hang on to them since so many were yet to come.