When Kelsea Ballerini held a fan event on Aug. 8 at the Country Music Hall of Fame, she shared details about her directorial debut with a short film built around her Rolling Up the Welcome Mat EP.

But most revealing, perhaps, was the audience reaction. The female-leaning fan base — which took up roughly 160 of the Ford Theater’s 200 seats (the rest were filled by industry invitees) — yelled the lyrics at the screen as the 20-minute film played six individual chapters addressing different stages of a breakup. The EP and Rolling Up the Welcome Mat (A Short Film) documented Ballerini’s emotional experience surrounding her divorce from fellow country singer Morgan Evans.

Much like Taylor Swift’s rabid fan base or the core fans who made Jason Aldean’s divisive vigilante song “Try That in a Small Town” vault to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Ballerini’s superfans took this EP to heart — and incorporated it in their life.

During the question-and-answer period, one woman told Ballerini that the EP had helped her navigate her own divorce. A newlywed said her husband does not want to cause the kind of pain for his bride that Ballerini conveyed in Welcome Mat. Those reactions seemingly affirmed her intent with the project.

“There are so many songs in country music that are like, ‘I’m going to key your car, it’s all your fault, you’re trash’ — and I love them,” Ballerini told the film’s executive director, P Tracy, who moderated. “That was not [my] story, and so I decided to put it out because I wish that I would have had those five, six songs when I was [in that stage of life]. So that was kind of my goal with it.”

Country artists’ broken relationships often inspire their music. Swift has earned a reputation for hiding Easter eggs about her exes, Carly Pearce built an album around her divorce from Michael Ray, Hank Williams drew creatively from marital turmoil with Audrey Williams, George Jones & Tammy Wynette recorded material that reminded fans of their divorce for years after their split, and even Evans mined his emotions over the divorce from Ballerini in his recent single, “Over for You.”

Ballerini shot most of the six chapters in her short film in one day in Los Angeles, and the work earned three Telly Awards. The public events were a lead-in to the Aug. 11 release of Rolling Up the Welcome Mat (For Good), with new or altered versions of three tracks, plus a new finale, “How Do I Do This,” with a next-chapter message.

Celebrity breakups are difficult for people in the business who know both members of the couple, and they can become a point of contention for fans, many of whom pick a side. In some of Ballerini’s songs, particularly “Leave Me Again,” she seems to wish Evans well, which is a sign of healing and maturity that the fans who look to her for inspiration can use. Ballerini has learned her own lessons, in business and in life, through the process.

“No one is meant for everyone,” she said, addressing personal and business relationships, plus fan bases. “You are meant for who you are meant for … I’m at peace with that.” 

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