Like many artists, Kelsea Ballerini took stock of her life during the pandemic, both personally and professionally. Having released her third album, kelsea, in mid-March 2020 and unable to tour in support of the LP, it felt like a natural time to reflect on her career thus far and dream of the next chapter. During this quiet period, her fourth album, SUBJECT TO CHANGE, began taking shape, its title a nod to Ballerini’s newfound acceptance of the impermanence and unpredictability inherent to life. “The theme was change and evolution and growing up, and a lot of contrast within that and juxtaposition within that,” Ballerini tells Apple Music. “And I loved the idea that we’ve all been really challenged by change the last several years, and by change that’s really out of our control, that’s kept us at home and all of that stuff. And so, I loved the idea of that being such a relatable, universal topic.” SUBJECT TO CHANGE opens with its title track, an uptempo anthem that celebrates being open to growth and possibility. “IF YOU GO DOWN (I’M GOIN’ DOWN TOO)” takes cues from The Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” and Taylor Swift’s HAIM collaboration “no body, no crime,” with Ballerini promising a friend that she has her back if shit hits the fan: “If it all blows up and we end up on the news/If you go down, I’m goin’ down too.” Another standout is “YOU’RE DRUNK, GO HOME,” a collaboration with Kelly Clarkson and Carly Pearce that makes good use of the trio’s combined talents, with a healthy dose of soul from Clarkson and Pearce putting her alto to good use in telling off a stubborn suitor. Here, Ballerini talks through a few of the album’s key tracks. “SUBJECT TO CHANGE” “I’ve always been really scared of change because it’s been something that has influenced my life in ways that I don’t always love or that I’m not always ready for. And I liked the idea of making a record, and especially starting a record, with a song that says, ‘But what if we take the power away from change?’ And whether it’s bad change or good change, it’s meant to happen for me in my life and where I’m supposed to get to. And when you take the power away from it and the fear of change away from it, and you just open your arms up to it, you start living.” “IF YOU GO DOWN (I’M GOIN’ DOWN TOO)” “One of the things that I’ve really realized in the last few years is how important female friendship is. ‘IF YOU GO DOWN’ is the last song we wrote for the record. And I was sitting around with Shane [McAnally] and Julian [Bunetta], and we had already cut most of the songs, so we called it the Hail Mary day. We’re like, ‘Just in case there’s anything else in the tank.’ I also wanted there to be what ‘hole in the bottle’ brought to my last record. It was this performance element where I got to be silly, and I got to just play a little bit more. So, with ‘IF YOU GO DOWN,’ I was like, ‘I want there to be this witty Thelma & Louise anthem where, when people come to my show with their girl gang, they can scream it with each other, and I can honor my friends, and I can also have a tinge of, ‘Oh, she listens to the Crime Junkie [podcast].’” “YOU’RE DRUNK, GO HOME” (feat. Kelly Clarkson & Carly Pearce) “I loved the idea of having not one but two different voices that have power and wit and sass. And I was looking at my friendships because I love collaborating with friends, and my first call was Carly. Without even hearing it, she said yes because we just go so far back, and we just have so much respect for each other. We’re ‘sweatpants friends’—that’s how I categorize it now. And then, I texted Kelly Clarkson the song, and she did vocals that night. We were just talking about women friendship in the industry. I’m offline friends with these two women, and they both inspire me so much in different ways and also in similar ways. And now I get to have this moment with them, and I just feel so proud to be able to be a part of that.” “DOIN’ MY BEST” “‘DOIN’ MY BEST’ is a celebration of taking ownership of cringe, because I think when you’re just like, ‘These are the things in my life that you’ve seen that are chaotic, and I understand they’re chaotic. Trust me, I’m experiencing it. It’s more chaotic than you’ll ever know, but here it is, and I’m truly just doing my best.’ I think just taking ownership of that and just going, ‘I’m a human, here it is’—there’s something that was so freeing writing that song.” “MARILYN” “‘MARILYN’ is the first song I wrote for this album. I wrote it in the summer of 2020, during the unraveling of all of our lives, of just taking the inventory, stepping back, being in the stillness. And to me, [Marilyn Monroe] is such a metaphor for—I can only speak for myself, but I feel like a very universal thought for us of just going like, ‘Man, we are conditioned, and we get met with a more celebratory response when we present beautifully.’ And there is always so much more going on. To me, she is just that metaphor, and it’s kind of the bigger sister to ‘homecoming queen?’. I wrote the song by myself.”

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