Nearly three months after finalizing her divorce with fellow country star Morgan Evans, Kelsea Ballerini has unveiled a vulnerable masterpiece titled “Rolling Up The Welcome Mat.” She has collected her thoughts to mourn this chapter of her life, readying her for the chance to show fans her side of the story through a six-song EP and short film.
She took to social media to tease the new project just a few days before its release on Valentine’s Day. On a day that generally celebrates the best parts of love, Ballerini is stepping back into her honest emotions and uncovering all the sadness that love has caused her over the years.
“Here’s my healing journey. here’s my heart. here’s my truth. i’ve never been this open, i’ve never been this bold, and i’ve never been this proud of my art. so with love and respect, i’m rolling up the welcome mat. six song story and short film out now. happy valentine’s day. ❤️🩹,” she wrote in her recent post.
Chapter 1 – “Mountain With A View”
Starting off with “Mountain With A View,” the film opens with Ballerini on a phone call with her former husband who appears to be delayed in his return home. She steps past the “welcome” mat into their empty house and sits down at the table in front of the stunning view. Then, the loneliness kicks in as Ballerini finds herself reaching her breaking point and uncovering her emotions that eventually led to the end of her relationship with Evans.
Towards the end of the bridge in the painfully honest song, Ballerini gives a nod to Evan’s heartbreaking release titled, “Over For You,” which reveals his initial thoughts on the end of their marriage.
She sings, “One day you’ll ask, ‘When was it over for you?’” and then follows up with her response in the chorus, “I’m wearin’ the ring still, but I think I’m lyin’ / Sometimes you forget yours, I think we’re done tryin’ / I realize you loved me much more at twenty-three / I think that this is when it’s over for me.”
Chapter 2 – “Just Married”
Moving into chapter two, Ballerini steps out in a white silk dress as a man who plays her love interest moves her around her without hardly even acknowledging her presence. At the same time, he continues to add empty plates into her hands to represent the emotional weight she was carrying around on her shoulders. As she sings the second track, “Just Married,” the country star showcases the downfall that stemmed from adding that title to their relationship.
“But I wasn’t made for fixing a plate or keeping our problems buried / I wasn’t strong enough to keep on with all of the weight that I carried / Yeah, it was love / Then it was just married,” Ballerini sings.
Suddenly, she is relieved of that weight as the plates come crashing down, and the story transitions into her next song, “Penthouse.”
Chapter 3 – “Penthouse”
In this track, the female songstress is up front about feeling suffocated by their new residence. She discusses wanting a home to grow, but they found themselves stunted in their relationship that was confined in the apartment walls located off eight avenue in Nashville.
“We played the part five nights, but we were never there on the weekends, baby / We got along real nice, but when I left town, did you hate me?” she asked in the chorus. “One day, the curtain started coming down I changed the second we were moving out / I guess wrong can look alright / When you’re playing home in a penthouse, baby.”
Chapter 4 – “Interlude”
Ballerini continues with her stories in the 45 second “Interlude,” which finds her reaching out for a hand, but is instead greeted with her love interest turning her wedding ring to show off the large stone and walking away.
She dives into the pool with a view of the busy city as she reflects on the blame put on her by the public who, in reality, doesn’t know the full truth behind her pain or the struggles they encountered as a couple in the spotlight.
“There’s a thin line between love and hate / And it was love, but it wasn’t fate / Now my momma’s asking if I’m okay / And the internet says I’m losing weight / This wasn’t how it was supposed to play out / So which side are you gonna take now? ‘cause people that I loved / Are just people that I knew once.”
Ballerini continues, “Rumors going ‘round, but the truth is kinda nuanced / I wanna set it straight, but my lawyer says I shouldn’t / And ain’t it like this town to only criticize a woman / I’m blowing up my life, but I’m standing by the crater / I walk out on the stage and go cry about later Good thing I’m good alone ‘cause that’s how I’ll sign the papers.”
Chapter 5 – “Blindsided”
The brief “Interlude” is then followed by “Blindsided.” While asking “Baby, were you blindsided or were you just blind?” Ballerini starts to reclaim the truth and reveals the tell-tale signs that spoke to the reasons behind their divorce.
In addition to talking about their time in therapy and being open about what she needed, Ballerini references a specific moment in 2019 when their facade reached a low point.
“Like that one time in 2019, before that big show, we had a big fight / I slept on the couch and then the next night you put on your suit / I put on a smile and sang about how it’s okay to cry, dying inside,” she sings while laying in bed next to her love interest.
Chapter 6 – “Leave Me Again”
As she sits in the empty closet and prepares to move on from this deep sadness, Ballerini dives into the final chapter, “Leave Me Again.” This stage finds her wishing Evans well in his own journey to come.
Now that the fights are over, the papers are signed, and the tears are drying up, Ballerini is working on rediscovering herself with the hope that she will never lose sight of that again.
“I hope when I see you that you smile / I hope that you find somebody new / I hope that you get the house, and the good wife, and the kids / And I hope I never leave me again,” she sings to her former partner.
On Monday (Aug. 29), the “Heartfirst” singer made the official announcement that she was filing for divorce from Evans after nearly five years of marriage on the same day that she earned a GRAMMY nomination and picked up the keys to her new home. According to documents obtained by PEOPLE, the former couple reached a settlement in October, which revealed that they had “vacated” their marital home in Nashville.
Evans later followed with his own statement saying, “I am very sad to confirm that after almost five years of marriage, Kelsea and I are parting ways. I wish it were otherwise, but sadly it is not.”
Chase Stokes Says He’s “So Proud” Of Ballerini
Kelsea Ballerini is now rumored to be dating Outer Banks star Chase Stokes. The speculation began when the pair was pictured together at the National College Football Championship. They have since posted about each other on social media numerous times.
With the release of her new EP and short film, Stokes took to Instagram story to share photo of him and Ballerini with text that reads, “So proud of you, your heart, & your beautiful soul. Congrats Kels.”
The “Heartfirst” Singer Will Soon Hit The Road
Kelsea Ballerini will bring her Heartfirst Tour to the United Kingdom. Kicking off on Feb. 23, the four-date run will visit Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham, and London.
The hitmaker will then embark on the second leg of her HEARTFIRST Tour, which will kick off on March 6 at History in Toronto, ON. The nine-show intimate outing is scheduled to continue through March 18, where the trek will wrap up in Pittsburgh, PA at Stage AE.
Both of Ballerini’s upcoming stints are in support of her fourth studio album, Subject To Change, which arrived on September 23, 2022.
Later this year, Ballerini will hit the road with her longtime friend and musical hero, and “Half Of My Hometown” collaborator, Kenny Chesney, on the I Go Back Tour. The trek will visit 21 cities and will kick off on March 25 in State College, PA.