when you see Kelsea Ballerini on stage alongside co-host Anthony Mackie Monday to 2022 CMT Music Awards at Music City Municipal AuditoriumUnderstand that the self-proclaimed “country music fangirl,” who was once a loyal fan-chosen CMT Music Awards voter, is living her best life.
“Country music is all I’ve ever known; it’s the most important thing in the world to me,” Ballerini said.
Ultimately, the reason for tuning in to the program, which aired live from Nashville — starting at 8:11 p.m. for its inaugural run on CBS Television Networks and streaming live and on demand on Paramount+ — is relatively simple. for Ballerini.
“The accolades are incredible, but shows like this celebrate the music that fans truly love the most.”
Ballerini notes that her return to the CMT Music Awards stage tells the state of country music and live events in general.
“Last year [was notable] because one of the first times [as an industry] back in an arena in front of people was pretty shocking. [Last year’s co-host] Kane Brown and I had found a few pockets of shows to play in front of crowds before this, but it still came as a shock to the system. But we have a year under our belt now, so it should be a little warmer and fuzzier this year,” she said.
Eight years into her mainstream career and the 2022 CMT Music Awards, Ballerini finds – a year after winning her first award nomination for two separate singles that were simulcast on country radio: duo Kenny Chesney topped from the “Half My Hometown” charts, plus LANY and the Paul Klein collaboration “I Quit Drinking”. The latter made his debut on the 2021 CMT Music Awards program.
“Having two hit singles last year taught me that maybe in the current industry climate, more is more. I love LANY and Paul, and working with Kenny was an opportunity to dream. Now, if you have the music, it doesn’t make sense to hold it close to your chest.”
The 2022 schedule also involves Ballerini performing (one of 17 performances scheduled for the event) “Heartfirst”, a new single. As for the debut of the new track, the country hitmaker is visibly excited.
“Yeah! I love zigzagging with my singles, while ‘Half of My Hometown’ was a storytelling ballad, this one’s a bop, baby!” She describes the song as “a 90s inspired song that will make you want to roll down your windows”. Additionally, she notes that fans can expect more songs like this on her upcoming album, which she is currently working on.
When asked to share an anecdote about the importance of the Judds – who are teaming up for the first time at an awards show in two decades – she offers a hilarious story reminiscent of her roots as a mainstream country performer.
As a 15-year-old country music fan aspiring to create a career in the genre, Kelsea Ballerini moved to Nashville and was told one rule: “If you see a famous country music singer in the wild, you don’t don’t go up for them.” However, when Ballerini, ever a fan of country music, saw 2022 CMT Music Awards performer Wynonna Judd at the mall, she broke that rule. She hopes that Monday night Judd won’t remember the encounter.
“I saw her, I was like, ‘That’s Wynonna, that fucking Judd’, and I immediately took a picture with her. She was lovely about it, and I hope she doesn’t won’t say, “Oh my god, it’s you again, ‘ if I see her on the mat.”