Kelsea Ballerini says her latest disappointment will push her forward.
Two weeks ago, the 2020 CMA Award nominees were announced, and the 26-year-old country singer — and her latest album, the genre-spanning kelsea — was completely shut out.
"Putting out an album and working as hard as I can, even through a pandemic, I just felt disappointed to not be a part of a community that I work really hard to stand up for and be a face of and make music that I really do hope represents the genre well," Ballerini tells PEOPLE of the snub. "I just felt disappointed, and that's okay. That'll make me make a better record next time."
While overlooked by the Country Music Association, kelsea — an impressive set of tracks showcasing Ballerini's candid, stream-of-consciousness style of songwriting — was critically lauded upon its release in March, the same week as the coronavirus crisis hit the United States. But Ballerini supports the organization.
"I love the CMAs, I respect the CMAs, I'm really involved in the CMAs. I have hosted CMA Fest for three years, and I'm really involved with their music education program," she says. "I love to be intertwined with an organization like that that loves country music the way that they do."
After CMA nominations came out, Ballerini received an outpouring of love from peers (including Kane Brown) and fans alike.
"Not that awards don't matter, because I really do think they do, and I think that's why I'm disappointed," Ballerini says. "Honestly, it helped me refocus on what matters to me, and that truly is making the best music that I love and that I feel good about and making it for people that will show up for me in seats when I'm able to go back on tour."
This won't be the first time Ballerini has spun sadness into success. As she revealed when the CMA nods were announced, her first kelsea single "homecoming queen?" was inspired by a similar experience: when she was snubbed by the ACM awards in 2019.
Now Ballerini has a lot to look forward to. First, the 2020 ACM awards, airing Wednesday. As for what she's most excited about?
"Being nominated!" she cracks before bursting into a fit of giggles.
Ballerini is up for the female artists of the year award and is also slated to perform the reimagined version of her single "Hole in the Bottle." Last week, the Nashville released her new pandemic project ballerini, on which she strips down every track from kelsea.
"This is the first time I'm performing the new version, which will be super fun. I'm doing it with the four musicians that I made the whole ballerini project with, which I thought was really important just to highlight the people that made this thing with me," she says. "And just wait for the outfit. You're not ready — there's some glitter boots involved!"
This year's ACM Awards will air from Nashville, Tennessee, on Sept. 16 from 8-11 p.m. on CBS. The show will also be available to stream live and on-demand across digital platforms on the CBS All Access subscription service.
Join our correspondent Jeremy Parsons from 7-8 p.m. for PeopleTV Red Carpet Live: 55th Academy of Country Music Awards, featuring interviews with nominees and performers backstage from the famous Grand Ole Opry, as well as an interview with host Keith Urban.
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