Kelsea Ballerini, Photo Courtesy of CBS Screenshot
Kelsea Ballerini, Photo Courtesy of CBS Screenshot

Kelsea Ballerini Tearfully Recalls Tragic Moment In Her Life That Inspired ‘His Name Was Ryan’

Kelsea Ballerini tearfully recalled a tragic moment in her life that inspired a poem in her debut poetry collection. 

During an interview with CBS Mornings’ Anthony Mason, Ballerini opened up about ‘His Name Was Ryan,’ a poem that finds Ballerini telling a heartbreaking story of how she witnessed a 15-year-old classmate get shot in her high school cafeteria by another classmate. The poem, which shares vivid details of the tragic experience and the impact it’s made on her, is included in her just-released debut poetry collection, Feel Your Way Through: A Book Of Poetry

In 2008, Ballerini, who was a sophomore at Central High School at the time, witnessed her then 15-year-old classmate, Ryan McDonald, get shot to death by a another classmate named Jamar Siler, who was later sentence to 30 years in prison. 

Upon being asked about the poem, the “Hole In The Bottle” singer broke down in tears, “I will cry, I was worried about that,” she said, before revealing that she’s never talked about the situation before.

“With this particular situation, I’ve never talked about it before, but as the book was forming I was realizing that, you know, if I’m going to talk about the things that had made me, me. I certainly can’t avoid this,” Ballerini, who was overcome with emotion, shared.

“His name was Ryan, and he died on the cafeteria floor / from a gun shot wound to the chest / I can’t be too sure, but I think I saw him / breathe his last breath,” Ballerini said in the poem.

Photo Courtesy of CBS Screenshot
Photo Courtesy of CBS Screenshot

The poem continued, “I’m scared of loud noises / I’m triggered by the news / I’m terrified of guns / I’m sensitive in crowds / but I’m alive.”

Photo Courtesy of CBS Screenshot
Photo Courtesy of CBS Screenshot

The poem concluded with the chill-inducing line, “And because of a boy named Ryan, I know what a gift that is.”

The East Tennessee native admitted that the situation made more than an impact on her and made her realize that life is a gift.

“I think I became very aware of life is short,” Ballerini admitted.

Watch the full interview below CBS Mornings below.

In addition to opening up for the first time about her poem, ‘His Name Was Ryan,’ Ballerini also shared how her poem titled, ‘The Right Side Of History,’ was inspired by a tweet she regrets making about Morgan Wallen.

Published by Ballantine, an imprint of Random House, Ballerini’s debut poetry collection will be available as a Ballantine Hardcover beginning tomorrow, November 16, 2021.

The personal and poignant debut poetry collection from the award-winning singer, songwriter, and producer revolves around the emotions, struggles, and experiences of finding your voice and confidence as a woman.

“I’ve realized that some feelings can’t be turned into a song, so I’ve started writing poems. Just like my songs, they talk about what it’s like to be twenty-something trying to navigate a wildly beautiful and broken world,” Ballerini previously shared.

According to the publisher, “Feel Your Way Through explores the challenges and celebrates the experiences faced by Kelsea Ballerini as she navigates the twists and turns of growing into a woman today. In this book of original poetry, Ballerini addresses themes of family, relationships, body image, self-love, sexuality, and the lessons of youth. Her poems speak to the often harsh, and sometimes beautiful, onset of womanhood. Honest, humble, and ultimately hopeful, this collection reveals a new dimension of Ballerini’s artistry and talent.”

Feel Your Way Through is available for purchase HERE.

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