Kelsea Ballerini at Grand Ole Opry Induction: ‘I’ll Always Love You’
Kelsea Ballerini officially became the newest (and youngest) member of the Grand Ole Opry on Tuesday night (April 16). Keith Urban and Vince Gill appeared throughout the big night, while Carrie Underwood officially inducted Ballerini -- and hung around for a duet.
"You have accomplished so much in your career, and you will undoubtedly accomplish infinite amounts more in your life. Awards, No. 1s, sales ... This is better than all of that," Underwood, an Opry member herself since 2008, told Ballerini onstage. "This is the heart and soul of country music. The Opry has been and always will be here — the heart and soul of country music, the family. You are in it.”
Ballerini made her Grand Ole Opry debut on Feb. 14, 2015, performing her then-current debut single, "Love Me Like You Mean It," as well as her song "The First Time." The latter is the title track of her debut album, while the former became her first No. 1 single. Onstage on Tuesday night, the country star admitted that's "rarely looked up" as her career has grown, but that night is one that "made me just stop, take a minute, be grateful and look up."
“It’s so nice and comforting to know that, no matter where life takes me, and no matter if the radio stops playing me tomorrow, and whatever happens, I can always come here, and I can always play country music," Ballerini shared. "Grand Ole Opry, thanks for seeing something in me and for believing that I’ll always love you like I do, because I do, and I will.”
Ballerini and Underwood's duet of choice to mark the momentous occasion was Opry member Trisha Yearwood's 1992 hit "Walkway Joe." Ballerini also performed her song "In Between," her No. 1 hit "Peter Pan" and her current single "Miss Me More."
“We are incredibly pleased to welcome Kelsea Ballerini into the Opry family,” says Grand Ole Opry General Manager Sally Williams. “As evidenced by the enthusiasm of the Opry members here tonight and the fans in the crowd, Kelsea and her music are much loved. She and her fellow members who made tonight so special show that the future of both country music and the Opry are in good hands.”
Before heading onstage to officially join the Opry family, Ballerini took a moment to reflect on her first-ever memory of the hallowed venue, when she was a young teenager.
"I'll never forget, my mom got me tickets, and me and her drove in," she told The Boot and other outlets backstage. "We both love Josh Turner, and Josh Turner was playing. It's the kind of thing where, even as a fan, you walk in and you're like, 'I get it.' You just feel it. And I knew that, even as a fan, I wanted to be a part of the Opry."
Ballerini still considers herself a fan, first and foremost: "I just got a bedazzled Opry T-shirt, and you're gonna see a lot it," she warns.
Little Big Town invited Ballerini to become an Opry member in early March.
The Grand Ole Opry Through the Years