Kelsea Ballerini released her fourth full-length studio album, Subject to Change, Friday (Sept. 23), and in addition to previous releases including “Heartfirst,” the new project features a key collaboration with Kelly Clarkson and Carly Pearce on “You’re Drunk, Go Home,” a hilarious kiss-off anthem to a buzzed suitor.
Ballerini tells Billboard she didn’t initially plan to include a collaboration on the album, but the song creatively demanded it.
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“I was kind of dead set on not collaborating on this album, just because I feel like I’ve done a lot of collaborating recently,” Ballerini shares. “I love collaborations, but I just wanted to make sure that I could stand on my own two feet.”
But after writing the song with Shane McAnally and Julian Bunetta, Ballerini couldn’t shake the idea of an all-female trio singing the track. The song is filled with pointed lines such as “the way you’re slurring and the way you stumble/ Ain’t no way you’re gonna get my number.”
“I felt that there’s some sass and comedy to this song,” Ballerini says. “So I thought, ‘Who are the women in my life that are artists that have both of those things?’ Carly and I have been friends for, like, 10 years, before either of us had anything going on and we’ve just seen each other personally and professionally through so many seasons of life. We’ve always wanted to do a song together and this made sense.”
Pearce signed on for the collaboration, and Ballerini began thinking of who the right third vocalist would be, or as Ballerini described, “someone who can add a different texture, vocally.”
“I thought the biggest ask I could make is Kelly Clarkson, and I texted her that morning,” Ballerini shares. “She did her vocals that night.”
Ballerini was in the studio when Pearce laid down her harmony and melody vocals, and they turned the recording session into a girls’ night. At the end of that session, they added a little something extra.
“After she did her lead parts, we did like a … we called it s–t-talk track,” Ballerini said, laughing. “Julian hit record and for literally three and a half minutes, through the whole song, we just talked s–t and the whole track’s in there, it’s just really pushed down [in the mix]. There’s some chatter moments you hear at the end and he put some of them a bit hotter in the track, because Kelly also sent in some funny stuff, like the part of the song where she goes, ‘Um, Byeee!’ We just wanted to match that energy, because we had Kelly’s track already and wanted to match that energy and personality. Carly and I are such good friends that it was funny to just be like, ‘All right, let’s go off.'”
Of course, the Clarkson/Pearce collab isn’t the only female collaboration on the album. Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild also contributed writing to the album on “Heartfirst” and the album’s title track, while Ballerini worked with songwriter-producer Alysa Vanderheym and songwriters including Sasha Alex Sloan and Parker Welling on the project.
“I think of all the conversation of, ‘We need more women in country music,’ yes, and what does that actually look like?” Ballerini says. “We need more female artists, but we also need more female opportunities throughout the whole chain of events.
“I definitely intentionally like wanted to write with more women this time,” Ballerini added. “Just naturally, like when you’re making a record about emotions, when you connect with a woman creatively, you’re gonna be able to tap into that in a whole different way. I certainly found that.”