Kelsea Ballerini started off her career in a freezing Jeep, now she's racking up the milestones

Kelsea discusses her 'bittersweet, crazy moment of 'oh my god, it's happening... and this is not how I pictured it!'

RADIO.COM's Katie Neal welcomed singer Kelsea Ballerini to our airwaves as this week’s co-host for the Superstar Power Hour on all your favorite RADIO.COM Country stations nationwide as we shine the spotlight on the Leading Ladies Of Country all month long.

On March 25, Kelsea will be a part of our special Leading Ladies LIVE virtual concert, also featuring performances by Carly Pearce and Trisha Yearwood, and hosted by Hillary Scott of Lady A.

Listen to your favorite Country music now on RADIO.COM.

In keeping with our theme of empowering women and shining a big, bright light on those female voices and personalities who have impacted our Leading Ladies throughout their careers and personal lives, Katie wondered which three women Kelsea would invite over to one of her famous dinner parties.

"I've done this with Shania but I'm still gonna add her in," says Kelsea, wearing a Shania Twain shirt. "Because I feel like she's just an endless well of stories and wisdom. I think I'm the head of her fan club at this point."

"Carole King... her and Shania I feel like they'd be very different but also would probably just sit there and tell stories and I could just sit there and listen. And then a third one, I'd get Britney [Spears] out of her house. Yup, that's what I'd do!" And aside from doing "all of the hair whips, all of the spins," during their inevitable dance party, Kelsea figures she'd cook "everything." She says, "I'd be like, 'here's some Mexican food, here's some Italian food, here's some bread. Just, what do you want? Take it all... and here's all the wine!'"

When it comes to her favorite female performers, Kelsea admits being a fan of the theatrics of a Pop show because of the elaborate productions involved. "Taylor [Swift] I think is the queen of that," says Kelsea. "Especially when she was still in Country, I thought she really kind of set the bar to do that as a woman in Country. And Carrie [Underwood] obviously does a lot of that, too. So, I would say those two for me. Growing up I was like, 'yeah, I want to do a show like theirs.'"

"The people that listen to this, their eyes are gonna roll so far into the back of their head," Kelsea admits, before explaining her dream stage entrance. "I really wanna come up on a hydraulic lift... it's just this slow, dramatic thing. I think I saw so many of those entrances as a kid going to concerts, that I was like, 'that's it!' I've gotten to do cool intros, but not that one. That's the pinnacle to me."

Kelsea was on hand last month to help announce the impressive list of nominees for the 2021 Academy of Country Music Awards, where she's been tapped to possibly receive the coveted Female Artist of the Year trophy. She's also enjoying the success of her sixth number-one single with "hole in the bottle," and she's the youngest member of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry -- quite the list of accolades.

"You don't move to Nashville as a 15-year-old to be Country singer thinking it's not gonna happen," Kelsea says. "But you also don't move to Nashville as a 15-year-old thinking it's gonna happen. You're somewhere in the middle, right? I believed in myself, but I also never thought it would become what it is. It's this real interesting mindset that I think I moved here with." After the milestones began to collect, Kelsea says she felt more and more comfortable chasing bigger and brighter dreams. "All of them, in the moment, were the biggest thing in my life when it happened," she says.

For a starving artist, getting their first hit on the radio is very much figuratively and literally like getting their first paycheck. This can lead to some interesting purchases. After Kelsea’s very first number-one single, 2015's "Love Me Like You Mean It," began to pick up steam, Kelsea remembers the weather being cold outside, and she owned a Jeep with no heat. Wrapping herself in a duvet to travel to her mother's house, Kelsea vividly recalls hearing her song on the radio that day. "No one tells you anything before you get in the music industry," she says. "They don't tell you that you're gonna work really hard and really be the most exhausted version of yourself that you've probably ever been for two years before you start to see a penny. No one tells you that."

Kelsea continued, "so I just remember being in my car, freezing, wrapped up in a blanket, and hearing my song on the radio and having this bittersweet, crazy moment of like, 'oh my god, it's happening... and this is not how I pictured it!' So, the first thing I did when I got that check was fix the heat in my car. It was very practical... it was like a full-circle moment because it was not this big, extravagant thing, but it was something that to me meant a lot."

Mark your calendars: Thursday, March 25th @ 6PM ET, RADIO.COM is bringing you a true virtual celebration, allowing fans to see their female heroes like never before. It’s Leading Ladies LIVE – – starring Kelsea BalleriniCarly Pearce, and Trisha Yearwood -- hosted by Hillary Scott of Lady A!

Watch the full interview with Kelsea and Katie above, and tune in to the Superstar Power Hour with Katie & Company on your favorite RADIO.COM Country stations every weekday. Plus be sure to get your votes in for the RADIO.COM Country Top 20 right now!

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