Kenny Chesney Tells the Story Behind His Duet With Kelsea Ballerini

Here's how "Half of My Hometown" came to be.

Written by Chris Parton
Kenny Chesney Tells the Story Behind His Duet With Kelsea Ballerini
MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 31: Country artist Kenny Chesney attends day 3 of SiriusXM at Super Bowl LIV on January 31, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM )

Country superstar Kenny Chesney doesn’t duet with just anybody. He’s gotta feel a real connection to the song in question, and that connection was especially strong with Kelsea Ballerini’s “Half of My Hometown.”

Talking about the nostalgic collab on Today’s Country Radio with Kelleigh Bannen on Apple Music Country, the iconic star admitted he felt something special when he first heard “Half of My Hometown” — the latest single from Ballerini’s riveting 2020 album, Kelsea. And that connection likely came from the fact that he and Ballerini both grew up in the same “hometown” — or at least close to it. They’re both from the Knoxville area of East Tennessee.

“She just called me one day and she goes, ‘I’m calling you to poke the bear,’ and I went, ‘What are you talking about?'” Chesney told his host. “She says, ‘I’m getting ready to send you a song. I want you to listen to it and think about singing on it.’ And so I said, ‘Yeah, of course, send me the song.’ And I listened to it, and it was hard to listen to because it was so beautiful and it was so much about not only her life, but it was about my life and the same roads we drove down and I knew I wanted to sing on it.”

Chesney went on to explain that he gets asked to team up with other artists all the time — but this time was different. The heartfelt song’s imagery of high-school drama, growing up and taking your memories was so vivid to him — and so familiar — that he couldn’t say “no.” And he’s glad he didn’t.

“I’m really proud of it,” he continues. “And I told her when we were done with it, that I was glad she asked me, but I’m very proud that I’m on that song with her. If the song was terrible, I wouldn’t sing on it, because trust me, I get asked a lot to sing on a lot of records and I turn them down because the song just isn’t perfect for me to sing on. But when I heard ‘Half of My Hometown’ I just I went, ‘Yep, I’m going to sing on this song.”‘

Chesney and Bannen went on to talk about how he broke into Nashville as a songwriter — scoring an early chance to learn from the greats. And how he took that experience with him for solo-written hits like “I Go Back,” “Beer In Mexico”, and more. Kenny Chesney just released the dramatic video for his reflective new single, “Knowing You,” and is set to get back on his stadium stage May 1 in Tampa, Florida. Ballerini’s “Half of My Hometown” is out now, along with her reimagined-in-quarantine album, Ballerini.