The foothills of East Tennessee hold a special place in the hearts of both ACM female Vocalist of the Year nominee Kelsea Ballerini and eight-time Entertainer of the Year nominee Kenny Chesney. First featured on Ballerini’s 2020 album kelsea, “half of my hometown” will be performed for the first time on Sunday, April 18 at the 56th Academy of Country Music Awards.
The song, which Ballerini later stripped back for a solo rendition on kelsea‘s acoustic sister album, ballerina, will impact radio on April 19. As an industry veteran, Chesney told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe that he gets asked a lot to sing on others’ albums, and turns a lot of them down. When the 27-year-old artist reached out to Chesney for his support, he knew he was going to sing on this one. Whereas other songs aren’t a “perfect” fit, he says the original work tape was “hard to listen to because it was so beautiful and it was so much about not only her life, but it was about my life and the same roads we drove down and I knew I wanted to sing on it.” He adds, “And I’m really proud of it.”
Ballerini shares, “Besides being a dream collaboration with Kenny, which I still can’t believe happened, this is really a love letter to home. It can be about wherever you’re from and the people who love you, support you, drove you crazy, made you cry, and made you who you are.”
Intertwining vocals add levity to plainspoken lyrics to paint a portrait of the shared streets of Knoxville that dually shaped the two country stars. The nostalgia is not rose-colored, rather a realistic vision of the good and bad, the push-and-pull of escaping for the sake of dream chasing, and the magnetic pull to the people and place that raised you.
“There’s a real tug of who you are and who you were in the place where you grow up, and that never leaves you,” Chesney says. “When Kelsea sent me ‘half of my hometown,’ it was everything that leaving is: the tug of what you’re leaving, the need to chase your dreams, the truth of all the good things and the hunger to see the rest of the world. I couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough once I heard it.”
Listen to Kelsea Ballerini and Kenny Chesney’s “half of my hometown,” below. Tune in for the 56th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards live on CBS at 8 p.m. ET (delayed PT) on Sunday, April 18, as well as live and on demand on Paramount+, from three iconic Nashville venues: the Grand Ole Opry House, the historic Ryman Auditorium and The Bluebird Cafe.