If there are concerns that the future of the Grand Ole Opry is left in conscious, competent, and respectful hands, following Kelsea Ballerini’s induction into the great institution, country music fans should be able to rest easy.
The youngest current member of the Opry received her official welcome on April 16 from Carrie Underwood, and prior to that, she spoke to the press.
“Carrie is inducting me tonight,” she said, beaming. “I wouldn’t know what it looks like to be a female in country music without Carrie Underwood. She’s the one for me that I’ve always looked up to, not only her music, but I think she has the kindest heart. I think that she’s so poised. I think that she does everything with grace and I’ve always wanted to follow in those footsteps.”
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Kelsea then reflected on her debut at the Opry.
“You walk in and you see everyone and you’re shaking hands and you’re meeting people and there was a camera crew. And I was just talking to people, and they were like, ‘Hey, do you want to go out and see the stage before we start the show, before you go sing.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, of course. And the curtain was down and I was in the buzz of everyone in the hallway, and I walked in, I think I was with my label head, Gordon Kerr, and we walked in and I looked ” before she burst into tears.
Composing herself the best that she could, Kelsea then said. “I just walked in and did this. I’m so new, I’m such a baby artist and to be able to play this stage once is a dream, but to be able to know that I can play this stage in 30 years when radio quits me and touring quits me, it’s really comforting and really beautiful.”
The tears didn’t stop there, though. Both Kelsea and Carrie were visibly emotional during the actual ceremony. Carrie first thanked the Opry for allowing her to be there for the induction, but she then said, “I want to thank them for asking this talented, incredible, smart, sweet, beautiful woman to be a member.”
She went on to say, “You have accomplished so much in your career and you will undoubtedly accomplish infinite amounts more in your career and in your life. Awards, and number ones, and sales, and tours, and fans, and just all of it. This is better than all of that. This is the heart and soul of country music. The Opry has been and will always be here the heart and soul of country music, the family, you are in it. Congratulations. Welcome to the family.”
With tears rolling down her cheeks as she accepted her standing ovation, Kelsea said, “This is probably where I should say something very eloquent. All I’ll say is I feel like we can all agree that life moves really fast, right? And I think that, especially since I moved to Nashville, I had this big dream to do all these kinds of things, I’ve rarely looked up. There’s rarely been a moment that has made me stop and take a minute and be grateful and look up. And one that I remember is February 14, 2015, and that is when I made my Opry debut. And one is right now.”
Kelsea closed by saying, “Grand Ole Opry, thanks for seeing something in me and for believing that I’ll always love you like I do because I do and I will.”
After a break for the ladies to blot their tears, Kelsea and Carrie delivered a stirring duet of Trisha Yearwood’s “Walkaway Joe.”
Congratulations, Kelsea – the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry.