"Answer" songs have been a long-standing tradition in country music, from Kitty Wells' "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels" (the response to Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life") all the way to Travis Tritt's "Strong Enough to Be Your Man," the 2002 answer to Sheryl Crow's "Strong Enough."
It's a rare thing to hear the answer sung ahead of the original that inspired it, but that's what happened earlier this week at Nashville's famed Bluebird Café, when 12-year-old singer-songwriter Landon Wall from Trinity, North Carolina, took the Bluebird stage to perform the song he wrote in response to Kelsea Ballerini's current single, "Peter Pan." Taking its title from the legendary children's tale about the boy who never grew up and spends his time with the Lost Boys in Neverland, Ballerini's third single from her debut LP, The First Time, is currently in the Top Twenty.
Introducing his answer song to the Bluebird audience, Wall explained, "Me and my dad were driving down the road the other day and we heard Kelsea Ballerini's 'Peter Pan.' There's two sides to every story so we wondered, 'What would Peter Pan's side of the story sound like?'"
The heartfelt lyrics of Wall's tune, delivered with a confidence that belies his age, include the lines, "You're saying' I'm a lost boy / Well, girl that's probably true, 'cause I lost my mind when I found myself in love with you." No amount of poise, however, could prepare the youngster for the surprise that awaited him after he finished his performance. After strumming his last note, Wall's eyes widen as he spots Ballerini in the crowd, making her way toward the stage. "If you're gonna sing the response, I get to sing mine, too," she says before the two share a hug and a still-stunned Wall hands his guitar over to her.
"My name's Kelsea," she says. "That was a better version of my song." After her performance, Ballerini and the young musician shared the stage again, not to perform but to Snapchat a video and take a selfie at her request. Naturally, it didn't take long for the photos to find their way to Wall's Facebook page.
Ballerini is currently on tour with Rascal Flatts and Chris Lane, with upcoming shows this weekend in North Carolina and Michigan.