Kelsea Ballerini is ready to move into a new era, ending her whirlwind year with Rolling Up the Welcome Mat (For Good), a new version of her viral breakup EP. She tells Us Weekly that the rerelease is dedicated to the fans who embraced the “really delicate” songs — inspired by her divorce from Morgan Evans — and made them their own.
“Everything about this rerelease is very much so for the people that have connected to this music since it came out in February. Because when I put out this project, I did it relatively quietly,” the 29-year-old singer says, noting that she was still focused on her 2022 album, Subject to Change, when she originally dropped the six-song EP titled Rolling Up the Welcome Mat. “Everything about the way that the music has connected [with people] has been really unexpected.”
Ballerini, who spoke to Us while promoting her partnership with Sonic, adds that the only way she’s gotten to “honor the music is by playing it live,” kicking off with “Blindsided” on Saturday Night Live in March — during which she tweaked the lyrics as another apparent nod to Evans’ split track “Over for You,” in which he sings about “searching the whole world” over for her. While the songs have been heavily analyzed by fans, Ballerini has made it clear that she’s not interested in more examinations of the music.
“It’s not mine anymore, it’s just not. Like, it’s very much so an ‘ours’ thing. And so [the fans have] been very vocal from the very beginning — as soon as I played ‘Blindsided’ on SNL, they were like, ‘We need the ‘Yeah, Sure, Okay’ version,’” she explains. “And then when I started singing ‘Penthouse’ live, it kind of just changed and evolved every night. And then one day, on a whim, I just changed one word and it took on a whole new life and they were like, ‘We need that version.’ It’s called ‘The Healed Version.’ I never made that up! That was them.”
In “Penthouse (The Healed Version),” Ballerini sings, “I kissed someone new last night / And now I don’t care where you’re sleeping, baby.” The original lyrics stated, “I kissed someone new last night / But now I don’t know where you’re sleeping, baby.”
“I just got to a place where the songs and what they were about — obviously, that will always be a chapter of my life that I will bookmark with that album — but I don’t have those feelings toward it anymore,” she tells Us. “Now, it’s just this thing that has connected me to people and I wanna be able to say thank you by giving them what they’ve asked for through this music. So that’s why I’m so excited about it. My only feeling toward it is gratitude.”
Another tweak on Rolling Up the Welcome Mat (For Good) is the extended version of “Interlude,” which is only 45 seconds on the OG version.
“We were putting together the songs in … order and I was like, ’It’s too quick to go from ‘Penthouse’ to ‘Blindsided.’ … There has to be a bridge here to get you emotionally from A to B,” she tells Us, adding that she was “word vomiting” over the track. “And that’s exactly how ‘Interlude’ full-length is as well.”
Ballerini notes that it was “difficult” to make a track that didn’t follow the traditional format into a full-length song. “It went through several different versions. … But it’s very much so still a stream of consciousness,” she says.
The new EP, out August 11, includes a new song titled “How Do I Do This,” which she tells Us is “about the first date after” a breakup.
“It’s about the nerves of going into a very unknown world,” Ballerini says. “And, to me, I felt like since I hadn’t really gotten to share my story in my perspective on what had happened in my life yet, that needed to come second. That is part two. I felt like I really wanted to talk about, you know, the breakup, and let that kind of live in one piece. And then if I ever decided to do what we’re doing now — Rolling Up the Welcome Mat (For Good) — then that would be kind of the extension of the story.”
Ballerini goes on to reference boyfriend Chase Stokes.
“And especially now, I’ve been in a new relationship for a while now, and people have seen that,” she says. “So I feel like it’s a really appropriate time to catch everyone up and to be able to move the narrative from the past to the present.”
Before she can officially move on to the present, however, Ballerini is channeling her inner teenager by reinventing Sonic’s Ocean Water.
“I’m really obsessed with how certain tastes and smells and songs bring you back to certain memories in your life. And Ocean Water for me reminds me of my first two years of high school,” she explains. “When I still lived in Knoxville, [Tennessee], I had friends that could drive and there was a Sonic, like, 0.3 miles from my high school. And so that was our treat after school [or] if we got to leave during lunchtime, before a game, before study sessions, all that stuff — it was always Sonic and it was for me, always Ocean Water.”
Ballerini “remixed” the drink, adding Lime and Blue Raspberry flavors. “It just tastes like a tropical summery treat and it’s delicious,” she says. “I’m very excited about it.”
Ballerini adds that Sonic is still “a pillar in my life,” but instead of her high school friends, she goes to the chain with her band on long bus rides or before they arrive at a venue. As for what else she orders, Ballerini says it “depends on what mood I’m in.”
“I love the tots, I love the popcorn chicken. And I love a chili dog,” she tells Us. “I gotta be honest. Every now and again, when I’m in a mood, I will get a chili dog.”
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Wrapping up her chat with Us, Ballerini hinted that she is going to take a step back after Rolling Up the Welcome Mat (For Good) drops later this month. She concludes, “I’m gonna disappear and go turn 30. And, like, go live a life to write about.”