A videotaped interview with country superstar Reba McEntire circulated on social media the weekend of the Grammy Awards to promote the televised presentation of music's biggest awards.
Among questions McEntire answered: Who did she think was the future of country music? Who had the talent and stamina to go the distance? The females she named: Lauren Alaina, Kelsea Ballerini and Maren Morris.
Ballerini skyrocketed to country history when she became the only female artist in country music history to have three consecutive singles from a debut album reach No 1 and be platinum-certified ("Love Me Like You Mean It," "Peter Pan" and "Dibs.")
Within two years, she had won the ASCAP Vanguard Award, CMT Impact Award, iHeart Radio Music Award for Best New Country Artist and Academy of Country Music Award for New Female Vocalist — just to name a few.
Now she's touring in support of her sophomore album, "Unapologetically." Her tour stops in the Tivoli Theatre tonight for an 8 p.m. show that has been sold out for two months.
Her album of the same name is an autobiographical journey of loss, life and love. Its current single, "Legends," is No. 14 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles this week.
Ballerini talked about her show, songwriting and her new marriage in a recent phone interview. She married country singer Morgan Evans ("Kiss Somebody") on Dec. 2 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Q: How are you and your husband handling the demands of two successful careers?
A: "We have a 'two-week rule' — we don't go more than two weeks without seeing each other, and we stick to it. Since we started dating, it's been like that. We are really supportive of each other separately and together.
Q: Did you see the video in which Reba named you as the future of country music?
A: I did. I got to sing with Reba at the CMA Awards, and we went out and got a glass of wine together and spent some time together. She's amazing. So smart, so kind and so witty — everything you would hope that she is.
My favorite part of that quick time we spent together was that we didn't talk about music at all. It was like talking to a friend. She makes you feel so comfortable, so seen and so heard, and a lot of artists aren't like that.
Q: Did you have a goal for "Unapologetically" when you started on the album?
A: I wanted it to be an album that people would listen to top to bottom. I believe the way you really get to know an artist is listening to the whole album. "Unapologetically" is cohesive from top to bottom. It's a chronological story; it starts with breakup, then meeting Morgan and falling in love.
Q: How did you get started songwriting, and when did you decide country music was going to be your career?
A: Growing up, I always loved stories by Dr. Seuss and really quirky cool writers, but I loved country music and tried to pair the two. I wrote a song for my mom at age 12.
When I heard "Stupid Boy" by Keith Urban, I said, "Whatever that is, I want to write it." I bought Keith's album and Sugarland's and that was my indoctrination to country music. That was what I was already writing.
My mom uprooted [from Knoxville] and went with me to Nashville at age 15.
Q: What have you learned from opening for other artists' tours and your first headlining tour that you are applying to the Unapologetically tour?
A: I've always loved and studied arena shows. I think there is something so magical that happens in the arena, and it's all controlled by the lights and mood the artist gets to create. So I've always wanted to create that mood and that world people step into.
With this tour, we've done a lot with production and outfits and elements to tell the story.
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.