Kelsea Ballerini: Pain Into Art

Abby Thomas '23, Sports Editor

This past February, country-pop singer Kelsea Ballerini released Rolling Up The Welcome Mat, her new Extended Play (EP). In her most genuine, tear-jerking collection of songs, Ballerini brings listeners along on her healing journey through her divorce from fellow country star Morgan Evans.

Accompanied by a short film, directed and written by Ballerini, Rolling Up The Welcome Mat is an emotional dive into the gradual end of Ballerini’s five-year marriage. In a rare display of vulnerability, the six song EP reveals her deepest feelings of love, loneliness, and eventually, self re-discovery.

Around the time she released the EP, Ballerini went on Alex Cooper’s Call Her Daddy podcast, where the two women spoke with no filter about Ballerini’s marriage and divorce.

In an unexpected turn of events, Ballerini’s willingness to share her emotions has become a sensation. Her new EP originated as a way for her to process what she was going through, but she never imagined the impact it would have on women and girls around the country.

It is rare for artists with big platforms to create and produce such raw music for the world. But Ballerini’s courage to share her truth has drawn even more fans to her who relate with her lyrics.

The beginning of the EP explores the realization that her marriage is over, with the songs “Mountain With A View,” “Just Married,” and “Penthouse.” 

In the chorus of “Mountain With A View,” Ballerini sings:

     I’m wearin’ the ring still, but I think I’m lyin’ 

     Sometimes you forget yours, I think we’re done tryin’

     I realize you loved me much more at twenty-three 

     I think that this is when it’s over for me

She grapples with the feeling that her marriage is no longer what it used to be and uses her wedding ring as a symbol of her changing feelings.

“Just Married” follows Ballerini’s newfound awareness about the reality of her relationship: 

     But I wasn’t made for fixing a plate

     Or keeping our problems buried

     I wasn’t strong enough to keep on

     With all of the weight that I carried

     Yeah, it was love

     Then it was just married 

She uses the common phrase “just married,” but spins it to relate to her grief. 

Continuing on, in “Penthouse,” Ballerini explores her feelings once the divorce is finalized:

     It hurts putting shit in a box

     And now we don’t talk

     And it stings rolling up the welcome mat

     Knowing you got half

    I kissed someone new last night

     But now I don’t know where you’re sleeping, baby

In the song, Ballerini dives into emotions linked with the end of a marriage and the subsequent first relationship afterwards.

The next track, “Interlude,” transitions from feelings of grief to feelings of anger:

     The rumors going ’round, but the truth is kinda nuanced

     I wanna set it straight, but my lawyer says I shouldn’t

     And ain’t it like this town to only criticize a woman

She shares her discontent with how the press handled the news of her divorce as well as the way Evans spun the story with a song of his own.

Up next is “Blindsided,” where Ballerini sings back to Evans and questions him:

     And now you’re saying that you’re lost and that’s lost on me

     Years of sitting across from me in therapy

     I know the truth is hard to hear, but it wasn’t hard to find

     Baby, were you blindsided or were you just blind?

During a SNL performance on March 4, Ballerini even added an ad-libbed dig at Evans to the end of “Blindsided:” 

     Now you’re singing it loud on the radio

     You couldn’t say it to my face

     You would have searched the whole world over?

     Yeah, sure, okay

Ballerini closes the EP with a beautiful, reassuring ballad, “Leave Me Again.” She sings of hopes for the future and emphasizes her desire to take care of herself and protect her inner peace. One of the choruses closes with, “I hope I learn to love myself like I loved you then / And I hope I never leave me again.”

What began as an outlet for Ballerini has turned into not only a chart-topper but also an inspiration for women and young girls. Ballerini’s sensitivity and unbridled honesty in her EP make this piece of music powerful. While rediscovering herself, she created a way for other women who are going through or have been through a divorce to deal with their feelings and know they are not alone.