With artists like Cody Johnson, Aaron Watson, and Cody Jinks becoming more widely known by mainstream country fans, Texas country music has become more closely intertwined with the mainstream than ever before.
Princeton, Texas native Shelby Ballenger has found the unfilled niche of true, Texas country women, and is ready to do her part to usher in a new era of women to the Texas country scene.
With one EP under her belt, Ballenger is preparing her debut full-length album, and is set to be included on the Texas Country Music Association’s compilation album “Best of TCMA, Volume 2.”
Hear from Ballenger about her wide array of influences, some of the songs on her EP, what fans can expect from her new single, and more!
Pro Country: Who were your biggest musical influences growing up?
Shelby Ballenger: Growing up, I was blessed to be submerged in several styles of music. My dad was more of a country-loving person, and my mom knew every word to every classic rock song on the radio. I took away a lot listening to Garth Brooks, Allison Krauss, and Lee Ann Womack from my dad. Foreigner and Heart were my two favorites to jam with my mom. I’ve also always been intrigued by soulful R&B music. Personally, I’ve grown to love the lyrics of Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton, and Kacey Musgraves as I’ve grown and stepped foot into the realm of writing songs.
PC: Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to make music for a living?
SB: I’ve always sang growing up. I think I knew that this was what I wanted to pursue professionally once I started singing for people and everyone was awed at my voice. For me, music is a medicine, and I’m thankful that I can mend myself while paying the bills.
PC: You began pursuing music at 8 years-old. What was it about music that drew you in at that early age, and what about it has kept you going through the years?
SB: I’ve been drawn to music my entire life. The lyrics are really what hit me. It’s like these artists know exactly what I’m going through, but wrote it so beautifully to capture every emotion. So initially, singing was a way to get my feelings out. Now it’s instilled, and I don’t think I could do away with it if I tried.
PC: Were you feeling any type of pressure, internally or externally, as you were preparing to release music for the first time with your self-titled EP?
SB: No, I never felt pressured. I was just excited to finally have music that I wrote out in the universe! It was such a proud moment when I searched my name on iTunes and my songs popped up.
PC: “Messin’ With a Cowboy” has become the signature song on your EP. What do you think it is about that song that has struck a chord with people the way it has?
SB: This song is still one of my favorites to play. Every line is so thought out to relive that specific moment, and other moments I’ve endured trying to find love. I think it’s struck a chord with people because they feel what I feel in that song, and to me, it’s very relatable.
PC: “I’m Buying” is one of the standouts on the EP, and is a bit of a different take on the common theme of love on the release. Can you talk about the inspiration and writing process behind that song?
SB: I wanted an upbeat, “sassy” song on the EP. This song was written from a very sarcastic view point. I wanted to say, “Yeah, I see you over there with that smirk and those grabby hands. She may find it cute, but I think it’s pretty narcissistic of you to think I’m over here at the end of the bar crying over you. Let me buy you two love birds a drink.”
PC: Five of the six songs on the EP deal with love lost and hardships that come with being in love. Was this intentional, or was this collection a snapshot of what you were going through at the time?
SB: I don’t think it was intentional, but I like that it gave my first EP a theme. Like I’ve said, music is medicine to me, so when I’m feeling low, I resort to pen and paper to get what’s bottled up inside my head and chest out of me.
PC: You feature a few different sounds on your EP, ranging from southern rock, a modern country sound, to a more traditional sound. Was it important for you to showcase artistic versatility on your first release?
SB: I wanted variety so that I could really listen to which genre fits me most for my full-length album. I’ve teetered with these for a long time, but my heart has always been in Texas Country. There aren’t many true Texas Country women in the industry, and I’d love to be one of the girls who changes that!
PC: What do you hope people take away from listening to your EP?
SB: I want people to wrap themselves up in these songs, and find the comfort that I’ve found in so many artists that I look up to. This EP was a dream of mine, and just the fact that people have taken the time to download it is such a rewarding token in my musical journey. I want the people who are fans to crave and anticipate the music I’m currently working on.
PC: You opened for Jason Boland in 2018. What can you take away from opening for a major artist like Jason that can help you in your own career?
SB: It was an incredible feeling to have my name on the same marquee as someone I’ve looked up to for years. I hope that with that performance under my belt, more opportunities will arise. Each year that I travel and play gigs, I gain more confidence in my songs, composure when the stakes are high, and gratitude toward fans for making it out to support me.
PC: What information can you give about the single you will be releasing soon?
SB: I am excited to announce that I have paired with the Texas Country Music Association and will be featured on their upcoming release of “Best of TCMA Volume 2.” My single, “Heartbreaks & Hangovers” will be featured, along with 13 other artists who have been chosen to add their songs to the CD. This will also be available for streaming! It has a very old-school honky tonk theme, and I think people are going to find it quite catchy.
PC: What are your plans for 2019?
SB: I am already working on studio times for my upcoming full-length album. I plan on bringing a few songs from my EP over to this one, but with a very distinct sound. I’ve been writing songs for 3 years now, and finally have 13 tunes that I’m absolutely in love with. These aren’t all about love either. I’ve got songs about my hometown, a song dedicated to my nephew with special needs, and some songs that are actually about being IN love instead of falling out of it. Of course, there will be heartbreakers as well, because if you’ve listened to the EP you know that’s my go-to subject.
PC: Additional comments:
SB: You can find all my upcoming shows and just fun shots at gigs on Facebook & Instagram! I have a feeling this year is going to be the best one yet for Shelby Ballenger!
*All images courtesy of Shelby Ballenger and Shelby Ballenger Facebook Page*
*Feature image shot by Kimberlin McKenna*