On Saturday night, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development teamed up with two-time Academy of Country Music Award winner Kelsea Ballerini for a one-of-a-kind album celebration in her hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. Fans from 28 states came together to celebrate the release of Ballerini’s upcoming sophomore album, “Unapologetically,” out Nov. 3.
The special concert experience was part of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development’s Snapchat Concert Series and their ongoing ‘The Soundtrack of America. Made in Tennessee.’ brand campaign. The event took place at Ballerini’s alma mater, Central High School, the same place where she performed an original song for the first time as a student. Tickets to the album celebration show were offered free through Tennessee Tourism’s Snapchat and sold out in one minute.
Ballerini took the stage with high energy performances of “I Hate Love Songs,” “Legends,” “Miss Me More,” “Roses” and “Unapologetically” from her upcoming album, as well as “Dibs,” “Love Me Like You Mean It,” “Peter Pan,” “Square Pegs,” “Stilettos,” “XO” and “Yeah Boy” from her RIAA GOLD-certified debut “The First Time.” Ballerini also surprised the crowd by doing an acoustic style cover of Justin Bieber’s “Sorry.”
Prior to her performance of “Unapologetically,” Ballerini brought up her fiancé, Morgan Evans, to show how unapologetically in love she is. In-between songs, Ballerini took a moment to sit on the edge of the stage and have an intimate conversation with fans, explaining the meaning behind the songs on her new album and what it meant to be back in her hometown performing at her old high school. She also thanked the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, who gifted all attendees with “Unapologetically” download cards prior to the album’s release date on Nov 3.
After finishing her set, Ballerini returned to the stage with the school’s principal and made a surprise donation of $20,000 to Central High School. The principal then surprised her with the school’s highest honor, the Bobcat Award. Ballerini ended the night with a fitting performance of “High School.” Prior to the show, Ballerini received a one-of-a-kind “platinum record” from the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development to commemorate this special celebration show. She also participated in a meet and greet with lucky winners and gave them a sneak listen into her not-yet-released album.
To open the show, Ryan Griffin, who co-wrote Ballerini’s hit single “Dibs,” took the stage and performed a few of his original songs. Griffin recently released his first EP, “Sake Of The Summer,” led by the single “Back Seats and Burnt CDs.” As a songwriter, Griffin’s words mirror his life and translate to his music, which is authentic, and you can feel the truth, vulnerability and compassion in each song.
“The two years I spent at Central were some of the most character and career defining for me. It’s one of the most special places in the world to me,” said Kelsea Ballerini. “It’s so cool to bring it full circle to the first time I ever sang a song I’d written on stage at Central. Being able to come back and celebrate my second album release where it all started seemed like the purest way to kick everything off. It was super emotional, but really special.”
Fans who followed “Tennessee” on Snapchat also gained access to brand new content pieces with Ballerini, including highlights of her journey as an aspiring singer-songwriter from Knoxville, to one of country music’s top female artist, as well as a trip down memory lane to her favorite Knoxville area spots.
Kelsea’s favorite Knoxville spots include Rita’s Bakery and their thumbprint cookies, Litton’s Market & Restaurant with the best burger in town, The Tennessee Theatre, Civic Coliseum, Market Square, WIVK-FM, and of course, Central High School.
“To host Kelsea Ballerini’s homecoming at Central High School where her music career literally began is a great fit for us and makes perfect sense,” Commissioner Kevin Triplett, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development said. “Arguably Tennessee’s greatest export to our country and the world is our music. Our mission is to inspire travel to Tennessee, which often motivates artists to live here or start their careers here. To bring together the great music and wonderful family experiences of Knoxville by presenting one of Tennessee’s brightest new artists in her own hometown is a way of doing that. Kelsea Ballerini showed the world tonight why we say ‘The Soundtrack of America is Made in Tennessee’.”
Tennessee has long been known as a global music destination, where the genres of blues, bluegrass, country, gospel, soul, rockabilly, and rock ‘n’ roll originated and has more musicians per capita than any other place in the world. It is the state where artists come to create and perform their music. Tennessee is home to world-renowned music attractions including Graceland, Beale Street, Tennessee Theatre, Sun Studio, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Bluebird Cafe, Birthplace of Country Music Museum, Grand Ole Opry and the famous Ryman Auditorium.
For more information, visit tnvacation.com and follow “Tennessee” on Snapchat, and join the conversation using hashtag #MadeinTN.