As country music’s heir apparent to Taylor Swift, Kelsea Ballerini seems to be filling that role’s perk of celebrating other female performers. During her show yesterday at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, Kelsea surprised the crowd by bringing out pop singer-songwriter Tori Kelly to share the stage.
“I decided I wanted to be about lifting girls up,” announces Ballerini between songs. “I’m about to bring one out in a second that is one of my favorite artists ever.” The crowd erupts into hysterics at the mention of Kelly’s name.
Before they begin singing, Ballerini and Kelly lavish one another with compliments — at least until Kelly starts to feel self-conscious.
“We’re being gross now,” jokes Kelly.
“So annoying!” agrees Ballerini.
The pair handles “Should’ve Been Us” — from Kelly’s 2015 album Unbreakable Smile — with only their acoustic guitars, swapping lines and harmonizing on the hooky-but-heartbroken chorus. Ballerini defers to Kelly for the bridge section, momentarily pausing to admire her singing partner’s soulful belting and looking pleased to see her shine. This isn’t Kelly’s first time to sing the song with a country artist — back in September, Little Big Town brought her out to perform “Should’ve Been Us” at one of their tour stops.
It’s been a breakout year for Ballerini, whose hit “Love Me Like You Mean It” made her the first female country artist since Carrie Underwood to have her debut single reach Number One. Along the way, she released her album The First Time and scored nominations at both the CMAs and American Music Awards. In December, Billboard will honor her with its Rising Star award at the Women in Music Event.