Kenny Chesney surprised fans during the Nashville stop of his headlining Here And Now Tour at Nissan Stadium on Saturday (May 28) with a duet alongside special guest Kelsea Ballerini.
In the midst of the East Tennessee native’s electrifying set, Chesney shocked the Music City crowd when he welcomed Ballerini to the stage to perform their chart-topping collaboration, “Half Of My Hometown.”
After welcoming Ballerini to the stage, Chesney took a moment to recognize what being a part of the award-winning song meant to him.
“When I moved to this town, first of all, I grew up in East Tennessee and she grew up in East Tennessee,” Chesney said. “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!” Chesney continued before going into “Half Of My Hometown.”
Donning matching outfits (red shirts and blue jeans), Chesney and Ballerini then emotionally performed the RIAA Gold-certified tune. As their duet came to a close, Ballerini was overcome with emotion as she realized in that moment that her lifelong dreams have become reality alongside one of her musical heroes.
“Half of my hometown’s still hangin’ around / Still talkin’ about that one touchdown / They’re still wearin’ red and black / Go Bobcats, while the other half / Of my hometown they all got out / Some went north Some went south / Still lookin’ for a feelin’ half of us ain’t found / So stay or leave / Part of me will always be / Half of my hometown,” the pair sang on the chorus.
“Y’all, dreams really do come true,” Ballerini tearfully said as they concluded their performance and shared a hug.
Chesney then gushed, “the wonderful Kelsea Ballerini everybody,” as she exited the stage.
Co-written by Ballerini alongside Jimmy Robbins, Nicolle Galyon, Shane McAnally and Ross Copperman, “Half Of My Hometown” appears as a duet with Chesney on her third studio album, kelsea.
The song marks Ballerini’s seventh No. 1 hit, following “Hole In The Bottle,” and Chesney’s 35th, following his recent chart-topper, “Knowing You.” “Half Of My Hometown” has also won two CMA Awards, including Musical Event of the Year and Video of the Year as well as was nominated for an ACM Award.
“Half Of My Hometown” speaks to life after high school and shares how you still feel connected to the place you grew up, no matter if you stay or leave.
Ballerini previously opened up about how the duet was a “very cool and very full circle” moment for her in an interview with Audacy‘s Kelly Ford.
“Ever since [Kenny] decided to sign onto this song and do this with me, we’ve just become like brother-sister,” Ballerini told Ford of the bond she has created with Chesney. “We have such a fun relationship. Yesterday I was making eggs and he Facetimed me. He was like, ‘Hey! What do you want to wear for our performance?’”
“If I could go back and tell little me driving around Knoxville, listening to songs like, ‘I Go Back,’ and thinking how crazy it was he was from the same place, if I could go tell her that we were going to sing this song about our hometown together on a stage like the ACMs, I’d just, I’d pass out,” she added.
After writing the heartfelt song during a songwriting retreat at the beach, Ballerini’s co-writers insisted that she text it to Chesney. Even though it was 2 am, Ballerini sent the text.
Chesney later recalled Ballerini’s message during an interview on Today’s Country Radio with Kelleigh Bannen.
“She just called me one day and she goes, ‘I’m calling you to poke the bear,’ and I went, ‘What are you talking about?’ She says, ‘I’m getting ready to send you a song. I want you to listen to it and think about singing on it.’ And so I said, ‘yeah, of course, send me the song,’” Chesney explains. “And I listened to it and it was hard to listen to because it was so beautiful and it was so much about not only her life, but it was about my life and the same roads we drove down and I knew I wanted to sing on it.”
Chesney went on to admit that deciding to be part of this song was the right choice because of the meaning it holds for him as a fellow East Tennessee native. It’s not every day that Chesney says yes to collaborating with an artist on an album, but this was an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up.
“I’m really proud of it,” Chesney continued. “And I told her when we were done with it, that I was glad she asked me, but I’m very proud that I’m on that song with her. If the song was terrible, I wouldn’t sing on it, because trust me, I get asked a lot to sing on a lot of records and I turn them down because the song just isn’t perfect for me to sing on. But when I heard ‘Half Of My Hometown’ I just I went, ‘Yep, I’m going to sing on this song.’
Ballerini later brought the song to life with a cinematic music video that served as a tribute to her hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee.
The personal clip gives fans a look at what may have happened if Ballerini stayed in her hometown instead of moving to Nashville to pursue her musical dreams. The cinematic clip opens with a young Ballerini saying “goodbye” to her friends as she makes her way to Nashville, however, the truck ends up getting unloaded and she moves back into her childhood home.
Personal home videos of Ballerini are also featured as the “what if” story unfolds before viewers’ eyes.
Kenny Chesney’s Here And Now Tour 2022 kicked off on Saturday, April 23 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The tour will continue through August 27, where the trek will wrap up with back-to-back nights at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Tickets are available HERE.