by Matt Bishop | July 17, 2015

It’s the middle of summer, and no one is heating things up quite like Kelsea Ballerini. The Knoxville, TN native is riding the wave of her debut LP The First Time which dropped back in May. The album’s title was more poignant than ever last night, and she played her very first concert in New York City at the Gramercy Theatre. When people think country music, they think of the South. They think of Nashville. But Ballerini’s Big Apple debut was in front of a packed house, proving that this southern belle already has some serious reach.


“Are we listening to country music in New York?” Kelsea exclaimed. Clearly she was as excited to be there, maybe even just a little bit more, than the fans. She started the night off with “Yea Boy,” with Ballerini dancing around just as much as her fans. Even this early in her career, it felt like she’s been doing this for a long time.


Kelsea cranked out fan favorites like “First Time,” “XO”, “Stilettos,” and others. After the crowd sang along we her on “Siren,” Ballerini exclaimed, “You guys already know that song? What is happening?” Audience members also sang along to “First Time,” nearly eclipsing the volume of Ballerini’s mic at times. Definite testaments to the dedication of her rapidly-growing fan base. Another example of the love her fans had for came when Kelsea was given flowers by a fan in the front row. “Thank you for these, they’re beautiful!”


In addition to original tunes, Ballerini paid homage to her influences. “Who in here loves country music?” she asked. “Well, this one’s for the girls.” And Kelsea proceeded with a cover of Martina McBride‘s “This One’s For The Girls.” She also performed Rascal Flatts’ “What Hurts The Most.” She capped off the night with the lead single “Love Me Like You Mean It,” her biggest hit so far. “New York City, love me like you mean it,” she asked. And love her they did.


In addition to her stellar voice and catchy tunes, Kelsea’s grace and humility are two more qualities that make her so lovable. “I started writing songs when I was 12 years old,” she stated. “My dream was to play them on stage, so thank you for being a part of that dream tonight.”


Kelsea Ballerini’s debut studio album The First Time dropped on May 19 via Black River Entertainment. The disc debuted at #31 on the Billboard Top 200 and #4 on the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart. The album’s second single “Dibs” is set to impact country radio next week.

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