EXCLUSIVE: Kelsea Ballerini on Voicing Her First Animated Character and Her 2017 GRAMMYs Red Carpet Vision
By Sophie Schillaci
Photo: Bonnie Osbourne
Kelsea Ballerini is getting animated.
The "Peter Pan" singer is lending her voice to an upcoming episode of Nickelodeon's preschool series, Blaze and the Monster Machines, playing a plucky toucan named Tooks. She'll appear as part of a six-episode arc in 2017 that also features fellow country stars Billy Ray Cyrus and Darius Rucker.
The news comes just after Ballerini scored her very first GRAMMY nomination as one of the 2017 Best New Artist contenders. ET caught up with the 23-year-old singer-songwriter on Thursday to dish on pre-nomination jitters, congratulatory texts from pal Taylor Swift and her red carpet vision for the big day.
ET: You just recorded vocals for Blaze and the Monster Machines. Tell me about that experience in the studio.
Kelsea Ballerini: It's so fun! I mean, I'm in this place in my life where I'm trying to kinda try a lot of new things, because why not? I've always loved animated movies and shows so I was kinda interested for a while in being a part of something like it, and then Nickelodeon reached out about being a part of Blaze and the Monster Machines. I was like, 'How cute is that? Yes, obviously!' And I got there and I was super nervous because I'd never done it before, but I got to be a little toucan! I feel like if I was an actual animal, I would probably be a toucan, so it worked out well.
You're obviously no stranger to being in the studio, but how was this experience different? Were there any unexpected challenges in voicing a character?
What I found was, they just want a very amplified version of yourself. I'm naturally pretty bubbly and all that, so they just wanted that on steroids.
Who is your favorite animated character of all time?
I'm a huge Spongebob fan! The guy who voices Patrick was actually in the studio yesterday and I had a mini panic attack about it. But I'm also a huge, huge, huge Olaf fan. [laughs] I think Olaf is the absolute cutest character that's ever existed.
Let's talk GRAMMYs! Congratulations! Are you still riding high?
Holy cow, thank you! I don't even think I've really processed it yet. They're the GRAMMYs! It's the pinnacle of music and for them to just think that I'm one of the top five best new artists of this year when there's so many incredible new artists is just so flattering.
Did you get any sleep the night before? Were you nervous?
I was sooooo nervous. I'm not gonna lie to you, it was not one of those things where I was like, "Oh, I forgot this was happening" or "Oh, whatever happens, it's fine." I was like, "OH MY GOD! GRAMMY nominations come tomorrow!" I was very anxious about it.
So how did you celebrate?
I was home for a day but really busy and I've been on the road, but I will say, my tour goes to Vegas for two days starting [Friday], so I feel like the next two days will be our celebration.
I'm sure your phone must have been blowing up. As last year's big winner, I'm curious what Taylor said to you.
She was one of the first people to text me and she was like, "Oh my gosh, dude! That's insane! Congratulations!" But it was cool. So many people reached out and to see that support in every genre of music, wanting to support each other, it's so, so cool.
You were joking about going to pick out a dress on Twitter. I'm assuming you did not actually have time to do that, but do you have a vision for your red carpet look?
Nooo, I did not! I feel like the GRAMMYs are super regal, obviously, but you can have a little bit of fun. I'm young, I'm super young, and I get to be one of the few country music artists there, so I want to make sure that I kind of show off both of those things.
Who are your style icons?
I always love people that push the boundaries. People that I'm like, "Oh, I wonder what they're gonna wear" 'cause it's always so crazy. So, [Lady] Gaga, Rihanna, Shania [Twain], women who are always bold with their fashion.
I read that you are dying to collaborate with The Chainsmokers. Have they caught wind of that yet?
I don't know. I hope so! 'Cause I'm for sure gonna bring it up when I see them at the GRAMMYs. [laughs] I love the Halsey song and their new one with Phoebe Ryan. It'd be cool to bring a little country into their world.
I hear you're getting back in the studio in January. What can we expect on the new album?
I'm in the studio every time I'm home. We'll have the first six songs for the new record done by January. I'm still kind of trying to figure out what the heartbeat of the album is, but everything we've cut so far is a lot bolder than my first album, but it's still the same kind of sentiment. It's about heartbreak, falling in love, growing up, normal 23-year-old stuff. But it's just a lot more in-depth and a lot more bold because the first album was embraced so much bigger than I ever imagined, so it made me want to dig deeper into myself and see what else I could dig up.
Do you have a timeline on when you'll release the first single?
Whenever my song, "Yeah Boy," does whatever "Yeah Boy" is gonna do, we will probably come after the next day with a new song. So I'm like, "'Yeah Boy,' go, go, go!" We're so ready.
I know you're headed to Australia in a few weeks, but what are you doing for Christmas day?
I will be in pajamas at my mother's house eating all of the food and opening presents. Me and my mom have this tradition on Christmas Eve that we cook all day. We'll start with a big breakfast of eggs and french toast and sausage wrapped in pastry, it's just way too much. And we don't stop! There's always something in the oven, there's always something on the stove, we're cooking and eating all day. And then, two days later I'll be in Australia and it's summertime and I have to get in a bathing suit, so pray for me. It's a cruel, cruel joke!
Will your boyfriend [Morgan Evans] be joining you for Christmas?
He's doing Christmas in America for the first time. I'm excited! We just went and got a Christmas tree and little stockings to put above the fireplace, they have our initials on it. We're super obnoxious, it's really cute.
And will you two be working at all in Australia or is it just for play?/
Just for play. I've been touring all year and so busy, and it's been amazing, but it's the first time I can kinda get out of here and chill for a bit.
What's been your favorite part of the First Time tour?
It's almost over, which I'm really sad about. This tour is the first time that people know the songs that were just on the album, and knowing that those songs had a significance and had a life -- as the person that wrote all of them -- it means a lot to me. Oh my gosh, this song called "Roses" that I Snapchatted about two months ago when I was writing it, people seemed to like. So we put it in the live set, just 'cause I know that some people are ready for new music, and people know every word now! It's crazy.