It's not easy being a woman in country music. Just ask Kelsea Ballerini. The Tennessee native, who is one of the few females who has had several No. 1 songs at radio, has been an outspoken advocate for creating more parity between male and female artists, even as the struggle continues.
“It’s an uphill battle. I think that everyone is very aware of it and I think when people are very aware of it, that’s when things have to start changing,” Ballerini told Women's Wear Daily. “And I think for a while people were kind of like, ‘Yeah, but Carrie just had a number one.’ Just kind of writing it off instead of saying, “No, this 80 percent male, 20 percent female is unequal and not OK.” So, I think now that everyone’s very aware of it, we will start having changes.”
Ballerini, who was inspired to move to Nashville after seeing the success of then-teenage star Taylor Swift, was happily unaware of the challenges that were facing female artists, until she became an artist herself.
"I didn’t know it at the time, because I was blissfully naive and young, that when I put out my first single, there was a lack of females and it was a climate of the Carries and the Mirandas still having wild success on radio, but there was a gap between them and who was next,” Ballerini said. “I think when you’re naive you just go in and you’re like, ‘This is what I want to do. I’m going to go do it.’ And you don’t know what you can’t do, so you just think you can and I think it’s a great thing; I think it’s a gift.”
Ballerini previously spoke out after Michigan radio station WKQC said, in a since-deleted tweet, that they were not only not able to play two female artists back to back, but could not play two groups with female vocalists back to back either.
"I say this having been one of the few women who have been really embraced by country radio and having watched some of the bigger networks (and some of my friends that are [program directors] and high up) make real changes in their programming to make it look more balanced," Ballerini said on Instagram. "I am grateful. BUT. there is still inequality in airplay for women. And tweets like this prove it. And it’s my job to say it out loud and post about it, because of the girls moving to Nashville ( or wherever) that are ready to outrun and outwork and outplay everyone.
"They deserve to know that they have the same shot as the guys moving here to do the same," she continued. "Country music- We have to fix this. For us and for them. How do we do it? Let’s talk. (Also- don’t lash out at this station, they are playing by rules set for them from their higher ups)."
Photo Credit: Getty / John Shearer