A sound that “feels like the next step”: Kelsea Ballerini hints at what’s in store for her new album


Kelsea Ballerini’s “Heartfirst” is a breezy single that she says is very different from last number-one hit, “Half of My Hometown” — and that’s on purpose.

“In my career, I’ve loved to zig zag with singles,” she tells ABC Audio. “With ‘Half of My Hometown,’ it’s a ballad about the story of me leaving my hometown. The fact that it was accepted like it was — it just went number-one, [and] that’s so incredible — that gives me the confidence to zig zag back.”

That “zig zag” leads Kelsea to “Heartfirst,” an uptempo song that she describes as a “breezy, summer, warm, ‘90s-inspired country bop.” It’s fans’ first taste of the record that lays ahead, though Kelsea admits that she doesn’t have all the details nailed down about what that project will be just yet.

“It’s not finished,” she continues. “It’s kind of all I’m doing. I have worked really hard on finding a sound that feels like the next step.”

Kelsea’s working with new producers this time around, she continues, and honing in on a smaller circle of co-writers. “I just really wanted to zoom in and find something special and different and finesse it,” she explains.

But while some of the new album is still up in the air, there’s one thing she knows for sure: The sonic leanings of “Heartfirst” are here to stay.

“Sonically, that is the direct of the record,” Kelsea confirms. “So I’m excited to see what people think.”

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