The two Knoxville, TN natives performed the nostalgic song seated onstage at the Grand Ole Opry house in Nashville, TN. Ballerini, dressed in a two-tone denim dress, took much of the lead vocals while Chesney, in his signature cowboy hat, added flawless harmony. As they sang the song, which is about remembering one’s hometown after moving on, colored lights shone around them and the band provided acoustic instrumentation. The two looked at one another while they sang, especially when singng the line that mentions their town: “‘Cause half of me will always be from Knoxville, Tennessee.”
Ballerini recently shared the story behind her collaboration with the country superstar during an interview with Taste of Country Nights. After seeing that she was performing at the Playstation Theater in New York’s Times Square, Chesney texted her saying “I’m so proud of you, hometown girl.” “Two and a half years ago, it was the most encouraging and magical thing that could’ve happened to me,” Ballerini shared. “The fact that [Chesney] knew who I was was wild.” She took that phrase to Ross Copperman, Shane McAnally, Nicolle Galyon, and Jimmy Robbins and they wrote “Half of My Hometown.” “We finished writing the lyrics at 2 AM, and I thought Kenny (her “hometown hero”) would be a perfect addition,” she admitted. She ended up sending him the song that night and heard a resounding yes from Chesney the next day. She recalled him saying, “I love this song. It made me emotional listening to it. Let me figure out my plans because I want to do [the collaboration] and do it right.”
Chesney recalled this moment in an interview with Today’s Country Radio with Kelleigh Bannen.
“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 the 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.”
“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.”
“Half of My Hometown” is the fourth single from Kelsea Ballerini’s album, kelsea. She recently earned her sixth Number One with “Hometown’s” predecessor, “Hole in the Bottle.” Ballerini has also been filling in for Kelly Clarkson during the battle rounds on NBC’s The Voice.
The 2021 ACM Awards, hosted by Keith Urban and Mickey Guyton, broadcast live on Sunday, April 18 (8:00-11:00 PM, live ET/delayed PT) on the CBS Television Network and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.
See all of our ACM coverage right here.