Grand Ole Opry LLC. Chris Hollo, photographer
Tuesday night (March 5) was one Kelsea Ballerini will never forget. The 25-year-old’s lifelong dream came true when she was invited to become the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry. Ballerini’s invitation makes her only the third female solo artist in 11 years to receive the invitation. Crystal Gayle joined the Opry in 2017 and Carrie Underwood became a member in 2008.
Ballerini was sharing the Opry stage with Little Big Town when the group’s performance of their mega hit “Girl Crush” turned into an unexpected Opry invite. As the song concluded, Karen Fairchild changed the words of the song as she sang, “Kelsea Ballerini, do you wanna join the Opry?” Stunned by the unexpected invite, Ballerini turned her back on the audience while she tried to compose herself. She then replied, “Yes! I’m gonna pass out, I think.”
“Just to be able to be on the stage and sing my songs and sing people’s songs that paved the way for me and people I look up to and admire so much, it’s the greatest gift in the whole world,” Ballerini told the audience through tears. “This is the home of country music and I get to be a part of it, which is crazy.”
Kelsea Ballerini signed her first record deal at 19 released her debut album in 2015. She became the first female artist since Carrie Underwood in 2006 to take her debut single all the way No. 1 on the Billboard Country Airplay Chart with “Love Me Like You Mean It.” Two more chart-topping singles followed, “Dibs” and “Peter Pan,” making her the only female country artist to send her first three singles to No. 1 since Wynonna Judd did so in 1992.