200. That’s the number, more or less, of songs Kelsea Ballerini had to sort through in order to narrow down her second album track list to 12. The singer/songwriter spent countless hours writing songs for her sophomore project in the two years since releasing, The First Time, and had to decide what kind of message she was going the second time around.
“The First Time was an introduction. I wanted that record to be reaching out and shaking my hand. I wanted it to cover who I was, where I was from, the age I was, first heartbreak, first crush, parents getting divorced, insecurities, that’s what that first record was,” Ballerini explained to Sounds Like Nashville and other media recently.
“I really wanted to laser focus of what this record was, and when I was listening to everything I was like, ‘The last two years of my life have been literally jam-packed, like a lifetime into two years,’” she continued. “When I put out my last record, I was going through a gnarly breakup and it was this really weird time of highs and lows. And then that relationship ended, and I went through this growing up period of my life, and self-discovery and fighting off some insecurities, and getting some more, and just learning a lot about who I am and who I want to be. And then, I met Morgan, and now I’m engaged and getting married.”
The highs and lows created three pieces to her record… loss, life and love. In thinking of those themes, the process of narrowing songs down for her sophomore effort, Unapologetically, became a little easier for the Tennessee native.
“If you listen to it, in order, I made you a chronological album of my last two years. It’s very dark in the beginning, there’s a song called ‘Graveyard’, super dark, and then it goes into the moment where I discover myself again.”
Part of her discovery is chronicled in a song called “High School,” the only track solely written by Ballerini.
“I wrote ‘High School’ the week after my last record was done. It was too late to put in on there, I was devastated. It’s the first song I’d written by myself in two years and it’s the only song I’ve written by myself since. It was just this weird, pure moment of, I had just gone to my hometown, I’d just been reminded of a lot of things that had happened. I realized that some people never really leave who they are in high school and some people do.”
The third chapter of Unapologetically chronicles new beginnings and love, something Ballerini found quickly with her fiancé, fellow singer/songwriter Morgan Evans. The song not only encompasses how she feels about her husband-to-be, but also wraps up the entirety of the project as a whole.
“I’ve never really written a proper love song, until this song. I wrote this three weeks after meeting Morgan Evans. And I felt like I really… album titles, I obsess over them because I really think that not only do they capture the twelve songs that you put on the record, but they capture the whole chapter of what that record will entail,” she shared. “’The First Time’ was perfect because it was the first time I got to do everything. It wasn’t just the title of the record, it was the title of that whole chapter of my life. And I feel like, when I was writing for the record, this one, and when I was picking the songs, or when I was just deciding who I want to be, I was like, I just want to be me. Whoever that is, unapologetically this. And so, when I wrote the song I was like, I feel like that’s what this is. It’s every corner of who I am: happy, sad, good, bad, and it’s just there. It’s just out there now. And that’s why I picked it is the album title.”
Unapologetically is available in stores and online now.