Just speaking to Kelsea Ballerini left me exhausted. Not only because I was shaking (think excited chihuahua) for the hours leading up to the call—that’s how excited my inner country fan girl self was to talk to her—but because her schedule left me feeling drained.
When I caught her on the phone between two radio interviews, she told me, “I’m in Nashville now, but I leave tomorrow to fly to New York to have a rehearsal with Billboard then fly straight from rehearsal to Cincinnati!”
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, she’s packed her schedule—but has made room for a little time off around her favorite holiday. “I’m one of those people,” she told me, “who starts listening to Christmas music starting in October!” (I may have laughed a little too heartily and agreed too vehemently with her here—as it turns out, I am not cool as a cucumber when speaking with someone Taylor Swift calls her “sister.”)
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But her favorite holiday tradition comes on Christmas Eve, which she spends in the kitchen with her mom. “We invite all of our family over and start cooking first thing in the morning—starting with something we call a Sausage Roll. It’s like a croissant stuffed with sausage and cream cheese in the middle. I swear,” she told me, “It’s the most delicious thing I’ve ever had.”
What follows is a feast of meatballs with chili sauce, a cheese dip made from the “nastiest, stinkiest cheese” and countless snacks. “We’re gluttons,” she said laughing before admitting that she leaves most of the cooking to her mom. “I’m a terrible cook,” she said, “I hang out in the kitchen and just wait for her to be like, Kelsea, try this.” But what she is good at is DJing.
She told me, “I listen to everything—literally everything. Normally I’ll put on Spotify’s New Artist playlist whenever I try to cook, and then during Christmas I’ll listen to Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett, which is what my dad listened to when I was growing up.”
Kelsea's favorite songs from 2015:
“My favorite Christmas songs,” she said, “are Baby It’s Cold Outside—the Jessica Simpson version—Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, which I sang this year [for the CMA Country Christmas special] and Oh Holy Night. I mean actually I love them all. I just love, love Christmas music.”
Here's our take on Kelsea's Sausage Roll—you might want to make a batch while listening to her playlist this year.