But on the flip side, the award-winning singer-songwriter has been dealing with some major life changes, including filing for divorce from songwriter husband Morgan Evans after nearly five years of marriage. This, along with other life-altering modifications she has had to make on the personal side of things is something Ballerini details and processes on her current project. And, while she uses music as a kind of therapy and release to help her get through the challenges of exiting her 20s and entering her 30s, Ballerini is also leaning into her closest confidants.
And one of them is Shania Twain.
In a brand-new interview with Variety, Ballerini, 29, opened up about her friendship with Twain and shared a bit of advice she received from the country music icon.
That advice? “You owe people music, and that’s it,” Ballerini, who has recently had to curtail a few friendships, shared.
But, with Twain, it seems the connection is the genuine kind – one that will stand the test of time.
“I’ve known [Shania] for a couple of years now, and we’ve had a really beautiful mentor-mentee relationship,” Ballerini gushed. “This conversation was before the news came out about what I’m going through [with the divorce], but I was experiencing it, and I needed advice.”
“We had a big celebration dinner with both of our teams and gave cheers for her award (The Poet’s Award at the 15th annual ACM Honors),” she continued. “Then I sat on her hotel room balcony for a couple of hours, and she just was really honest and open and warm and lovely. Right now, I have fewer artist friendships than I’ve ever had, but the ones I do have are actual genuine friendships. I put her in that category.”
Aside from being impressed with Twain on a personal level, Ballerini has been enamored by the Canadian singer’s professional side too. So much so that her track, “I Can’t Help Myself,” was partially inspired by the ‘90s country sound that Twain and ex-husband and former record producer Mutt Lange have been known for.
“I’ve never done a modulation before. I’ve never done a song in two keys. That’s a very ‘90s country thing,” Ballerini said of the tune. “But then, obviously the whole record is inspired by ‘90s music, specific women in country. And so we wrote in the modulation, and we were trying to figure out a way for the pre-chorus to lift into it.”
“We were like, ‘Guys, how do we not obviously step on Shania and Mutt and what they did, but pay homage to what they did?’” she added. “So we took every page out of their book. Shania’s my queen. Everyone knows it. My God, what an incredible artist. And the more I get to know her, the more I’m like, ‘Of course, you’re Shania Twain. You couldn’t be cooler.’”
Ballerini has paid homage to her hero Twain in the past. At the 2022 ACM Honors in Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium, she honored the Queen of Country with a rendition of “Man! I Feel Like A Woman,” wearing a tight black mini dress paired with a train, knee-high boots, and a top hat. Furthermore, she brought back Twain’s famous dress from the 1999 GRAMMY Awards and wore it ahead of her performance.
“When they asked me to honor her, I was like, ‘How do we do this bigger?’” Ballerini, who also opens her shows blaring Twain’s music over the loudspeakers, recalled. “And so the dress happened, but then also I was like, “If I’m gonna do ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman,’ I want her Vegas dancers shirtless on the stage of the Ryman. That’s what she did for country — she pushed every boundary, and that needs to be recognized. Because people still are like [about Ballerini’s performance] ‘Oh my God, they didn’t have shirts on.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, and they didn’t in the ‘90s either. Calm down!’”
Even though Ballerini has had to learn a few life lessons and say goodbye to some friends, there’s a sense of comradery and a theme of women supporting women throughout Subject to Change. Folks can find that on the track, “You’re Drunk, Go Home,” featuring her pals, Carly Pearce and Kelly Clarkson.
“I just don’t know what I would do without my friends,” Ballerini admits. “I’m an only child, and I’ve always wanted a sister my whole life. And especially in the season of my life, which — it’s not a secret — is a bit chaotic and light and dark at the same time, the way that they’ve shown up has been like sisters, like blood.”
“So I wanted to have a song that honored them, but also had wit and had sass. I remember when we wrote ‘Hole in the Bottle,’ I was like, ‘This is too silly. There’s no way this is gonna make the record. It’s too silly.’ And I’m so glad it did because it unlocked my personality on stage. I don’t always just want to be singing mid-tempos; I like being funny and quirky. So I enjoyed what that became on stage. And on this record, I wanted to have the sentiment of the depth of what my friends mean to me, but wrap it up in a giddy tone.”
Additionally, Ballerini will soon serve as direct support on Shania Twain’s upcoming Nashville concert on June 7, 2023.