Kelsea Ballerini released her debut album titled The First Time yesterday. The “Love Me Like You Mean It” singer combined her self-titled five track EP with seven new songs including the powerful “Secondhand Smoke” to create the twelve song project that should serve as an anthem for teen girls everywhere. We chatted with the singer about her new album, getting a shoutout from Taylor Swift, and more!
Your debut album is out now, what can you tell us about it?
It’s my first album so I could not be more excited. I feel like it’s a snapshot of my life from twelve to twenty one. I started writing these songs when I was twelve, and now we’ve finished the album when I’m 21. It covers all the emotions, the highs and lows, that I’ve experienced over those years and I hope other girls have too.
If you’ve been writing for all those years are there any songs on there that come from your early days as a writer?
I think they’re all from the last two and a half years. But the song “Secondhand Smoke” that is about my parent’s getting divorced, which happened when I was twelve. So that’s the first one chronologically.
The lead single “Love Me Like You Mean It” sits just outside the top ten. Take us back to writing that song?
It was such a fun song to write. I was hanging out with three of my guy friends, who just happen to be song writers in town. So we ordered pizza, were having a jam session and listening to Rihanna and they were like “Kelsea you need a song with swag in it.” I was trying to tell them that I don’t have any swag, but we ended up writing “Love Me Like You Mean It.”
I remember it just felt good writing it. I loved the groove of it, and the way it sang. I wasn’t signed as an artist yet when I wrote that song, so when it came back to me after being demoed I was thinking this is me – this is my sound. The confident girl message is what I want to lead with, so it being my first single and the success it’s having really blows my mind.
Was that song pitched to other artists then?
I protected that song so hard. I’ve always believed that song was for me, so that was always my song.
Well it’s a good thing that you held onto it. Obviously it’s still too soon to judge the success of the album, but were you pleased with the reception that came from the EP?
My main goal was for people to fall in love with the single. It’s fun, happy, and bubbly and I feel like the EP follows that track. You can put the windows down and jam. The album offers more of the depth – and as a song writer I’m really excited for people to hear that.
You’ve certainly gained a lot of fans in the past six months, but none bigger than Taylor Swift who tweeted about loving the EP. What was that like?
It was so crazy! I have always been a huge fan of Taylor. I’ve met her a couple times as a fan in a meet and greet situation – so I like waited in line a couple hours. So to have her even know who I am, let alone listen to my music is one of the highest compliments anyone could ever give me.
She must have been a pretty strong influence for you?
Definitely a huge influence. As a young singer, songwriter she was it in country. She’s someone I’ve looked up to and admired since I started writing songs when I was twelve.
Does her shoutout open your eyes to the type of impact other singers can have on the industry?
I think it’s so important for artists to look out for each other. Even right now there’s a lot of young females coming up with me, Maddie & Tae, Raelynn, and Mickey Guyton. We’re all constantly together doing shows and what not, so to build this community with real relationships is important. And to have someone like Taylor Swift reach down and compliment someone who is where she was about seven years ago shows that community is still important. That’s such a country music thing too.