Seated in a sunny suite in downtown Nashville, Kelsea Ballerini starts the conversation like we’ve known each other for years and are meeting to catch up over lunch. “Where are your earrings from? Do you need a water? What part of town did you come in from?”
Some of that energy is the Nashville way, and some of that is a window into Ballerini’s warm and incredibly open nature. The pop-country singer-songwriter — arguably the preeminent female artist in that space at the moment — is on the verge of releasing her fourth studio album, SUBJECT TO CHANGE, available Friday, September 23rd. She’s barefoot and wearing a bright blue dress that she explains is the same color palette as the album artwork. “Because I’m a crazy person,” she jokes.
The album is a cyclical journey of fifteen tracks, all of which were co-penned by Ballerini. “This record is representative of the last two and a half years — which has been an interesting two and a half years for everyone, obviously,” she explains. While just about everyone working in the arts experienced some sort of personal transformation during these recent years of turmoil, not everyone dropped a book of poetry, as Ballerini did. Feel Your Way Through was released in 2021 and became a national bestseller. “It cracked me wide open as a writer,” Ballerini says of flexing her creative muscles in this entirely different space.
She describes SUBJECT TO CHANGE as an album built on a foundation of juxtaposition and contrast. “It’s that moment when everything is about to change, but what’s in my control is realizing that I have what I need,” she explains. “I guess they call it fallin’ cause you end up on the ground,” she sings on “I GUESS THEY CALL IT FALLIN;” later, on the light and airy “HEARTFIRST,” she’s “ready to jump right in with my heart first” nonetheless.
Many moments on the album feel heavily influenced by ’90s pop-country, and she cites Sixpence None the Richer, Sheryl Crow, and Shania Twain throughout the conversation. One of the tracks where this shines through most brightly is the joyful, nostalgic “I CAN’T HELP MYSELF.” There can never be too many songs about getting a call from the girls and spending too much money on a spontaneous night out, and Ballerini specifically mentions the importance of female friendships in this era. “It’s become a pillar of my whole life,” she shares. “They’ve brought so much light into my life.”