What You Don't Know About Kelsea Ballerini

Country singer-songwriter Kelsea Ballerini — who's co-hosting for the second time the CMT Music Awards in 2022 alongside actor Anthony Mackie (per the Tennessean)– is an open book with fans, sharing glimpses of her personal life and her triumphs and failures on Instagram and in interviews. However, there's a lot to the Knoxville native you may not know, like her battle with an eating disorder as a teen to her decision to drop out of college and move to Nashville for her music career.

Ballerini has spent all of her young adulthood in the public eye since her debut single, "Love Me Like You Mean It," hit the airways in 2014 and topped the Mediabase country radio singles chart, as reported by The Boot

Ballerini's motto has always been to be herself through and through. In an interview with Shape in 2021, she said: "A lot of artists and public people have a persona that they step into, but I can't do that. I don't want any surprises. I just want it all to be out there." While Ballerini shares a lot about herself with fans, here are some things you may not know about her.

Kelsea Ballerini struggled with an eating disorder

Kelsea Ballerini suffered from an eating disorder as a teen until age 18, batting bulimia and developing unhealthy habits like working out excessively and taking diet pills. She had also passed out several times until she finally asked for help, the country singer told People in 2021. "My parents had just gotten divorced, and I think for me, it was a source of control," Ballerini told the outlet. 

While she no longer deals with an eating disorder, there have been moments in her career where her body-image issues have resurfaced. After a performance on Today in 2015, Ballerini read an article alleging she was pregnant because of her belly, she told People, adding, "I reverted back to that 12-year-old version of me." However, she overcame those insecurities.

Ballerini has been an open book about her struggles with fans. In July 2020, she shared on Instagram a photo of her in workout clothes. In the caption, she spoke about body image and how the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on hers. "If you've been silently insecure about the way your body has handled this year, you're not alone and I'm sending you a big hug," she told fans.

She used songwriting to cope as a child of divorce

Songwriting was a source of comfort for Kelsea Ballerini during her parents' divorce. The song "Secondhand Smoke" off her debut album, "The First Time," was inspired by that time in her life. "I haven't been able to sing it live yet, because I sob every time," Ballerini told Rolling Stone in 2015, adding, "It's so many people's story, and a story that needs to be told because I know when I was 12 and 13 when [the divorce] was happening, I felt super alone."

When Ballerini started songwriting as a teen, she mostly wrote about cute boys, she told Rolling Stone. As she matured, her songwriting did as well, and she was able to write "Secondhand Smoke." 

Ballerini confessed to CBS News in 2016 that she wouldn't be an artist if not for songwriting. "I grew up singing and I always loved it, but it was never anything that I thought, 'oh I'm going to be a singer when I grow up,'" she told the outlet, adding, "When I started writing I felt like whatever it was that I was going through and writing about was probably what other people were going through too."  

Kelly Clarkson told her to become an artist

Kelsea Ballerini had an epiphany during a Kelly Clarkson concert — she was going to move to Nashville. 

As a teen, Ballerini attended a show on Clarkson's "Behind These Hazel Eyes" tour. In an interview with BuzzFeed, Ballerini said any doubt she had of moving to Nashville washed away when Clarkson appeared to wink at her through the concert's massive video screens. "It was right when I thought I was gonna move to Nashville and be a singer, so I was super into it, and I remember I was watching her sing one of these songs and I was having a moment of like, that's exactly what I'm gonna do with my life, this is it," she told the outlet. Then Clarkson winked, and Ballerini took it as a sign. "I swear, true story," she told the publication.

Later in her music career, Ballerini would meet Clarkson and even take her place (at least temporarily) on Clarkson's chair on "The Voice." "When @kellyclarkson calls and asks you to keep her seat warm, you put all those years of being her super fan to work," she tweeted before appearing on the NBC show.

Kelsea Ballerini dropped out of college after scoring a record deal

When Kelsea Ballerini landed a record deal at age 19 when she was a sophomore at Lipscomb University in Nashville (per CMT), she sang goodbye to her studies. 

Ballerini was a communications and marketing student, and while school was important, music was even more so. The country singer told the Chicago Tribune in a 2016 interview that while she took classes, she worked diligently towards landing a gig in the Nashville music industry. "It took a long time for people to actually listen to me and actually take me seriously," she told the outlet. "But I learned that if I walked into meetings and could sit down and actually communicate my dreams and my vision ... if I took myself seriously, then other people would, too."

Ballerini eventually signed a publishing deal, and then a record contract, with the indie music label Black River. The singer told CMT she only enrolled in college as a deal to her mom. She promised her mom she'd go to school until she landed a deal. Her mom held her end of the bargain, and so did Ballerini, who went on to pursue music full time.

She looked up to Taylor Swift early in her career

Country star Kelsea Ballerini is a crossover artist in her own right with pop hits like "The Other Girl" with pop star Halsey, but she'll always look up to another crossover icon: Taylor Swift. In an interview with Buzzfeed in 2018, Ballerini said she's looked up to the "All Too Well" singer since well before she made herself a name in Nashville. 

"I mean her whole first album, she was like the only young female singer-songwriter in Nashville," she said, adding, "And so she was kinda the one that me and I think a lot of the new girls in country music looked up to, and we were like, 'She's doing it! So we can too.'" She also told the outlet that she received some of the best advice from Swift when she first started in the industry — to be herself.

In an interview with WWD, the singer said Swift unknowingly inspired her to move to Nashville, away from her Knoxville hometown, to pursue a music career. "Until I saw a girl named Taylor move to Nashville, I didn't know that I could do that," she told the outlet.

She was the youngest member to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry

At 25, Kelsea Ballerini became the youngest country star to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, the Tennessean reported. In 2019, country music star and fellow Opry member Carrie Underwood did the honors, introducing Ballerini as a member onstage in front of a live audience after Ballerini graced the stage with her chart-topping hits like "Peter Pan."

"The Opry has been and always be here, the heart and soul of country music. You are in it," Underwood told Ballerini onstage before embracing her and welcoming her into the Opry family, as seen in a video posted by the Tennessean. It was a full-circle moment for Ballerini, who wound up backstage with Underwood (their first time meeting) before her debut Opry performance in 2015. Ballerini told the outlet that moment was "the coolest thing that had ever happened to me at that point." 

Per another Tennessean article, country band Little Big Town invited her to join the Opry a month prior following a joint performance on the Opry stage. "This is the home of country music and I get to be a part of it, which is crazy," Ballerini said onstage after accepting the invite.

She doesn't consider herself a dancer

Kelsea Ballerini may wear many hats — she's a singer, songwriter, social media influencer, and published author — but the country music star is the first to confess she's not so confident about the dancing aspect of her line of work.

In an interview with CMT in 2020, Ballerini shared her hesitancy with the dance routine for her "Hole in the Bottle" music video. "I was a little nervous about dancing, I'm not going to lie, but by that point felt so comfortable with Hannah [Lux Davis, the director] and the incredible dancers, Lauren and Madison, that we all just hyped each other up and went for it," Ballerini told CMT. In one of the scenes from the music video, she did a short routine on a tall staircase with her backup dancers.

While dancing doesn't come naturally to the singer, she clearly enjoys the pastime at home while getting ready for the day. She shared a video post on Instagram in 2021 of her morning routine, which involved a little impromptu dancing. 

She became a published writer with her book of personal poems

Kelsea Ballerini added published author to her resume when she released "Feel Your Way Through: A Book of Poetry" in 2021.

The Nashville singer-songwriter told Euphoria in 2021 that she was inspired to write the book — divided into sections with topics personal to Ballerini, everything from body image and sexuality to family — in 2020 when the world shut down amid COVID-19. The singer had just released her new album, "kelsea," and was in the process of planning her headlining tour, but those plans fell by the wayside. So she turned her direction to writing poems instead of songwriting, and produced a book of poetry in less than a year. "I love making music and I'll make records as long as people want to hear music from me, but I have this peace knowing that when the radio stops playing me one day, I'll still get to write," she told the mag.

When the Tennessean asked her if she'd ever turn her poems into songs, she told the outlet, "Maybe," then added, "...I think because I have all this new space in me — that I discovered — I think there will be a lot of music that comes from that."

Kelsea Ballerini lived out her teenage dream while touring with the Jonas Brothers

Kelsea Ballerini lived out her teenage dream when she went on tour with the Jonas Brothers in 2021 (per CMT). To say Ballerini was excited is an understatement. The singer-songwriter shared with fans on TikTok in August of that year a video featuring a throwback clip of a teen Ballerini explaining why she loves the Jonas Brothers. Back in 2008, she had sent the video to a contest in hopes of meeting the Jonas Brothers. While she didn't win, she won in a big way over a decade later when she agreed to open for the band.

In the same video shared on TikTok, Ballerini added a clip of her accepting the trio's invite to open for them on tour via FaceTime. "I think it sounds like a really good idea," Ballerini said.

Ballerini hit the road with the trio in August of 2021. Their first performance was in Las Vegas, according to CMT. The singer documented her journey on social. In an Instagram post, Ballerini shared a photo of her and the band and wrote: "Only took 12 years to win the JoBro meet & greet."

She has dealt with social anxiety

Kelsea Ballerini may be a bonafide star, but she's got insecurities just like everyone else. In an interview with People in 2020, the singer-songwriter spoke about her album "kelsea," which was released in March of that year. The album was personal for Ballerini, who wrote and sang about many of her struggles, including social anxiety, prevalent in the song "LA," which she wrote while in the city of stars. 

"Part of it is I don't know where I fit in the celebrity culture because [I think] I'm a D-list country singer and I find myself in a room with A-list people and I don't know how to navigate it or how to talk to them," she told People.  

She went more into detail about the inspiration for "LA" in an interview with the Washington Post in 2020. She recalled that during a rare night off in L.A., she called a couple of her famous friends, like Taylor Swift. No one answered. "I went into this spiral of like, 'Oh my God, why did I think I was cool enough to call Taylor Swift? That was so embarrassing, of course she didn't pick up." In her moments of anxiety, Ballerini said songwriting has been like therapy.

The singer lives with her hubby in the Nashville suburbs

Kelsea Ballerini lives in the Nashville suburbs with her Australian country music artist hubby, Morgan Evans, and their dog, Dibs. While all we know about their house is that it's in Nashville, Ballerini has spoken about their abode on multiple occasions with different outlets. She told ET in 2021 that they purchased and moved into the house in 2020 after having lived in a downtown condo since they got married in 2017 (per People). "Having the condo, we loved it. It was nice to be able to walk to dinner or whatever, but yeah, I just felt like with everything that's happened this last year, it was time to get a little piece of land," she told ET.

The singer-songwriter loves sharing glimpses of her personal life with fans, and as a result, glimpses of her home life. At the end of 2020, she posted a photo on Instagram of her surrounding by moving boxes, and in March of 2022, she posted another photo of her and Dibs hanging out in bed.

Talking to People in 2020, Ballerini shared one of her home's must-have items — wallpaper. "I like a lot going on. I'm not a big minimalist person in a house," she said.

She's admitted to going to couples therapy with her hubby, Morgan Evans

Kelsea Ballerini and Morgan Evans enjoyed a whirlwind Nashville romance before tying the knot in Cabos San Lucas, Mexico, in 2017. And just like any other couple, Ballerini and Evans have their good and bad days.

Ballerini confessed to People in 2021 that they go to couples counseling. "We have really good couples friends that we vacation with, but we also can sit down with and have the hard conversations," she said. And while the two approach their relationship differently, Ballerini said of her hubby: "He shows up in every way he needs to."

She said the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdowns, which canceled everything, including their tours, helped the couple reconnect. "I'm really grateful ... to be able to have time that we'd never had before to not just see each other once a week, but see each other every day and cook together and buy a house together and walk the dog together and just do really normal things," she said.

The country star loves her me-time

Kelsea Ballerini makes time for herself to reset and unwind, but that hasn't always been the case. When speaking to Shape in 2021, she confessed she used to think me-time was "narcissistic," adding, "Now I realize it's necessary." A couple of the ways she takes time for herself is taking hot baths with essential oils and working out on her SoulCycle bike. And when she exercises, she doesn't do it to look a certain way, like she did in the past, but to feel good. 

"I don't ever want working out to feel like a punishment — like I'm doing this because I didn't do something else right," she told the mag.

Like everyone, though, she has her weaknesses with food and indulges in me-time at the drive-thru. She told ET: " You can't take the Knoxville out of the girl! I'm a 10-piece nugget meal, with honey mustard."

She's co-hosted the CMT Music Awards before

Kelsea Ballerini is no stranger to hosting award shows, including the fan-voted CMT Music Awards held in Nashville every year. 

The singer-songwriter made her co-hosting debut on the 2021 CMT Music Awards alongside country crooner Kane Brown. When news broke that she'd be co-hosting the show then, she shared her excitement with the outlet and said, "The CMT Awards are so special because they are truly fan-voted. Following a year plus where we have not been able to be with the fans and share music, will make this night even more special."

Previously, the country singer co-hosted the CMA Fest with country star Thomas Rhett and radio host Bobby Bones in 2019. Years before, in 2016, she dipped her toes into the world of reality TV and co-hosted an unscripted ABC singing show, "Greatest Hits," alongside Arsenio Hall, according to Variety. In an interview with Good Morning America in 2016, the duo shared that they bonded over their love of Aretha Franklin.