Kelsea Ballerini Reacts to Her Best Country Album Grammy Nom: 'I Earned My Freedom as a Songwriter' (Exclusive)

The country music star's 'Rolling Up the Welcome Mat' EP will compete for best country album at the 2024 Grammy Awards on Feb. 4

<p>Taylor Hill/WireImage</p> Kelsea Ballerini in Nashville in November 2023

Taylor Hill/WireImage

Kelsea Ballerini in Nashville in November 2023

Kelsea Ballerini has felt like she’s on top of a “Mountain with a View” ever since she released Rolling Up the Welcome Mat.

While speaking with PEOPLE for Pantene, the Pantene Healthy Hair Ambassador and country music star opened up about how honored she is that her 2023 EP Rolling Up the Welcome is nominated for best country album at the 2024 Grammy Awards, and what she’s learned from how positively the project’s been received.

“I think just this last year of my life has just changed everything about the way that I think about my career and my personal life,” Ballerini, 30, says.

<p>Jason Kempin/Getty</p> Kelsea Ballerini performs in Nashville in December 2023

Jason Kempin/Getty

Kelsea Ballerini performs in Nashville in December 2023

Related: Kelsea Ballerini Talks Healthy Hair, Her 'Healing Era' and Her Beauty Icon Blake Lively (Exclusive)

She explains that the success of the EP — which finds her candidly exploring her divorce from country singer Morgan Evans — has inspired her to never stray from being vulnerable in her songwriting going forward.

“I think I earned my freedom as a songwriter,” the hitmaker declares as a result of the experience.

“The thing that I learned that I just really hold closely now is there's no amount of truth telling or detail that will make it not relatable,” the CMA Award winner shares. “I think for a long time, even though I was writing about my life and my emotions, I would try to round the edges, because I'm like, ‘I want everyone to feel themselves in this,’ or see themselves in the story.”

From Rolling Up the Welcome Mat’s inception, though, she says that the project “wasn’t for anyone else.”

“I made it very selfishly … quite literally emotionally because I had to,” the singer-songwriter explains of the project featuring songs like "Penthouse," "Blindsided" and others. “I put my dog's name and addresses and receipts, and all these things, and it connected more than anything else I've ever put out.”

<p>Emma McIntyre/Getty </p> Kelsea Ballerini in Los Angeles in August 2023

Emma McIntyre/Getty

Kelsea Ballerini in Los Angeles in August 2023

Related: Kelsea Ballerini and Chase Stokes' Relationship Timeline

Because of that, Ballerini is continuing to trust her heart and instincts as she’s “actively working on a new record.” She adds, “Making a new record now and a different place in my life with that freedom feels so yummy.”

Ballerini’s nomination at the forthcoming 66th annual Grammy Awards, set to air on Feb. 4 live from Los Angeles’ Arena, marks her fourth-ever nomination.

The country-pop artist was first recognized by the Recording Academy in 2017 when she was up for best new artist. The “If You Go Down” singer then returned to the award show in 2019 when her album Unapologetically received a nod for best country album, and last year she was up for best country solo performance for her track “Heartfirst.”

Ballerini previously shared her immediate reaction to Rolling Up the Welcome Mat receiving a Grammy nod the day that nominations came out in November. On Instagram, she posted an adorable video of herself finding out about the news in real time, along with her boyfriend Chase Stokes, mom Carla and friends. She threw her hands into the air and burst into tears in the heartwarming clip.

<p>Jon Kopaloff/Getty</p> Kelsea Ballerini at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles in February 2019

Jon Kopaloff/Getty

Kelsea Ballerini at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles in February 2019

Related: Kelsea Ballerini Defends Performing with Drag Queens at 2023 CMT Music Awards: 'Important Time to Show Up'

When the “Half of My Hometown” artist first dropped the EP and its accompanying visual album in February 2023, she shared a statement about how important it was to her to work on it and the growth she’s felt since releasing 2022’s SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

"When I listen to SUBJECT TO CHANGE, I hear a lot of self-reflection and turmoil. This is the deep dive into that turmoil," the country star said. "I was writing by myself for most of the project, and it was nice to trust myself again."

Her statement continued, “The only way I've been able to handle my life since I was 12 was to write about it. Ironically, I started writing music because my parents got divorced; that was my therapy.”

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"These are six songs I wish I had last year. It's about the complexities of the feelings you go through during a massive shift at a young age," she said of the project. "Rolling Up the Welcome Mat was how I processed everything. It's the way I got my feelings out of my body and heart and put them to music — which is the purest way I could've handled it.”

In August of last year, the musician released an extended version of the acclaimed EP, dropping the new track “How Do I Do This,” a live version of “Penthouse,” an extended rendition of “Interlude” and an updated take on “Blindsided” titled “Blindsided (Yeah, Sure, Okay).”

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