Country queen ready to rock CMC Concert at Willowbank
KELSEA Ballerini can't wait to be in the home state of one of her music icons, Keith Urban.
The American singer will play her first Australian shows as part of the 2016 CMC Rocks Music Festival in Ipswich.
"It's crazy, the first country song I remember listening to is Stupid Boy; I'm such a huge fan of his," Ballerini told the QT.
"I saw so many of my friends go over there earlier this year to be a part of CMC Rocks and they gave me the low-down. They said the crowds were insane."
Those friends Ballerini refers to include headliners Lady Antebellum.
The 22-year-old supported the three-piece on the recent North American leg of their Wheels Up world tour.
"My biggest shows have been with Lady A," she said.
"That was my first time playing in an arena or an amphitheatre, which was cool because I grew up going to shows like that. To be on that side of it has definitely been a big change.
"Hillary is also one of my best friends. To tour with her not only did I get to learn from her as an artist, as a girl she's been there as well."
Ballerini was signed by Black River Entertainment at 19 and her debut single Love Me Like You Mean It reached No 1 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart (the first female country artist to score a No 1 hit with her debut single since Carrie Underwood in 2006).
Her debut album The First Time was released in May and peaked at No 4 on the US Country chart.
She describes the past year as a "whirlwind". Taylor Swift even invited her on stage as a special guest in Nashville last month.
But Ballerini doesn't expect to be an instant hit in Australia.
"Since it's my first time I just want to introduce myself, play some songs off my record and just play songs I love and that influence me," she said.
She also plans to play a few unexpected covers at CMC to reflect the variety of music she listened to growing up.
"My parents always listened to Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett so I love music like that," she said.
"I also grew up listening to pop and I still have such a love for it."
The 2016 festival is already shaping up to be the biggest event in CMC Rocks' nine-year history thanks to a record number of ticket sales.
CMC Rocks plays Willowbank Raceway from March 11 to 13. Visit cmcrocks.com.