In “Half of My Hometown,” Kelsea Ballerini describes the dichotomy of her classmates’ past and future in Knoxville, Tennessee, saying in the lyrics: “Half of my high school got too drunk / Half of my high school fell in love / With the girl next door / In their daddy’s Ford.”
She wrote the song with Jimmy Robbins, Nicolle Galyon, Shane McAnally and Ross Copperman, which appears as a duet with Kenny Chesney on her third studio album, kelsea.
Ballerini moved to Nashville to pursue her country music dreams in the middle of high school, but recently returned to Central High School for her class’ 11 year reunion. In an Instagram post, she shared photos from the event, with the caption:
“Technically, I didn’t graduate from this high school. I only spent my freshman and sophomore year there before moving to Nashville. But so much life happened here. crushes. music. friendship. heartbreak. insecurity. drive. The first time I played a song I wrote for anyone was in this auditorium,” the caption read.
The caption continued, “There was tragedy and there was magic…and it made leaving this community to go chase down this naive knowingness the truest meaning of bittersweet. So after 13 years of being in Nashville, i decided to go to my reunion to be nostalgic with the people that made me love my hometown like I do. Go bobcats for effing ever. 🐾🥺🤍”
She had previously returned to the school to film part of the music video of “Half of My Hometown,” showing fans what life might have been like if she’d stayed in Knoxville instead of moving away to pursue her musical ambitions.
“Half of My Hometown” became Ballerini’s seventh number one hit, won two CMA Awards, including Musical Event of the Year and Video of the Year and was nominated for an ACM Award.
Ballerini surprised fans at Kenny Chesney’s tour stop at Nissan Stadium on May 28 in Nashville with a performance of their hit collaboration. Before introducing her, Chesney said, “When I moved to this town, first of all, I grew up in East Tennessee and she grew up in East Tennessee. We drove down some of the same roads together. We went to a lot of the same places to eat with our families. We listen to the same radio station and listened a lot of people tell us we couldn’t do certain things that we have dreamed in our life, but I came to this town with a head full of dreams and a heart full of music. And when I heard this next song, this person and this song truly validated my dream and I’m very proud to stand up here. We shared a No. 1 record this year and we have yet to celebrate it, so we get to celebrate it in Nashville here at Nissan tonight!”
As they concluded their performance, Ballerini said tearfully, “Y’all, dreams really do come true,” sharing a hug with Chesney.