Earlier this week, Kelsea Ballerini was in New York to perform her Top Ten single “Dibs” on Good Morning America. She extended her stay in the Big Apple with a guest shot on Wednesday’s Late Night with Seth Meyers, where she offered a cool, gritty take on “XO,” the opening tune on her debut disc The First Time.
Backed by her three-piece band, Ballerini played electric guitar during the number and grabbed a drumstick to punch up the instrumental break with a couple of dramatic cymbal crashes that were accompanied by some recorded vocal effects. The high-energy performance also spotlighted Ballerini’s flawless delivery of the rapid-fire lyrics and her gritty, forceful vocals on the tune about a guy who can’t hide the lingering interest he has in his ex.
Such in-command performances have quickened the pace of Ballerini’s acceptance from the country-music community, earning her CMA nominations for Best New Artist and Female Vocalist, and her pop sensibilities have naturally invited comparisons to the early success of pop-country tightrope walker Taylor Swift. Ballerini is acutely aware of the balancing act.
“I’m such a huge Taylor Swift fan and have been on that side of it with her for so long, Ballerini tells Rolling Stone Country. “If there’s anyone’s career who I’d like to have a sliver of similarity to, it would be hers. So I’m glad for the comparisons. The way she puts songwriting and her fans at the forefront, instead of letting everything else fall where it’s supposed to fall, that’s always something I’ve really respected about her. So if people see that in me, I really hope it’s what it is.”
Ballerini has a variety of upcoming shows on the books, including her guest spot on several of Billy Currington’s Summer Forever Tour dates.