by Mike Vulpo | Fri., Jun. 15, 2018 3:00 AM
As the country music community knows all too well, the woman behind huge hits including "Legends," "Yeah Boy" and "Peter Pan" has earned her spot in the industry thanks to her impressive voice and huge hits.
But long before she became a Grammy nominee and had 1.2 million followers on Instagram, the 24-year-old was just a girl with a musical dream.
In fact, she once was just a kid hanging out behind barricades outside the CMT Music Awards hoping to catch a glimpse of Keith.
Fast-forward to today and Kelsea has not only met one of her biggest musical idols. She's also serving as his opening act as the Graffiti U World Tour kicks off tonight.
"I wish I could go back and tell my 14 year old self that 10 years later I would spend my summer touring with the person who's songs led me to Nashville," Kelsea shared on Instagram with a throwback photo. "YALL. See you on the @keithurban tour!!! #graffitiu."
It's a pairing of two country music stars who have voiced their love and respect for one another in recent years. At the same time, it's extra special for Kelsea who has looked up to the country music legend in more ways than one.
"I remember being in middle school and my friend had 'Stupid Boy' as her Myspace page song. I had already been writing songs and infatuated with music, but that song at that time just struck me in an unexplainable way," Kelsea shared with E! News before tonight's big show. "It set the bar for me as a songwriter and my goal became to write songs that made me feel like that one did."
And it's not just Keith's talents and songs that impress Kelsea. The former American Idol's judge's marriage to Nicole Kidman has inspired Kelsea and husband Morgan Evans to balance work and romance.
Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMT
"I love that they are both separately powerhouses and wildly successful, but are so open about their marriage and family being before any of that," she shared with us. "I feel like when you have that kind of support system in a marriage, which I am lucky enough to have, it gives you wings to become more successful. They have done it beautifully."
Kelsea has also shared her support for the couple's two-week rule where they can't spend an extended time apart. "It holds each other accountable to make time for each other and prioritize each other and you get to go on cool dates in random places," she told PeopleTV.
Ultimately, the love and admiration isn't a one-way streak. Keith has also expressed how impressed he is with the 24-year-old over the years.
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Kelsea! I love this version of #Female. Thank you!! - KU #Repost @kelseaballerini: the reason i Love country music is because we have songwriters like @nicatnitemusic @shanemcanally and @rosscopperman who write lyrical and brilliant truth and artists like @keithurban who are bold enough to put it out into the world. bowing down to this one. #female
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When asked why he chose Kelsea as his opening act on his massive tour this summer, the man behind hits including "Female" and "Coming Home" didn't know where to begin.
"There were a mix of people that were interested, available, but musical compatibility was one thing," he explained to People. "I knew the kind of record I was making wasn't pure country down the line and Kelsea's records [aren't] either. They're a fusion of things and I felt that she would be compatible."
And while few details about this tour have been released, fans are eagerly hoping for a collaboration or for one artist to cover the other's songs.
Earlier this year, the pair covered Camila Cabello's "Never Be the Same" at a surprise pop-up show in Nashville. And in November 2017, Kelsea delivered her own unique version of "Female" that quickly caught the attention of Keith.
"The reason i Love country music is because we have songwriters like @nicatnitemusic @shanemcanally and @rosscopperman who write lyrical and brilliant truth and artists like @keithurban who are bold enough to put it out into the world. Bowing down to this one. #female," she shared.
Keith would later repost and add, "Kelsea! I love this version of #Female. Thank you!"
When the sun sets tonight at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in St. Louis, Kelsea plans to please old and new fans alike with her songs and talents.
"The beauty of being an opening act is cramming as much music, and personality, and storytelling possible into a short amount of time, and have people leave with a better idea of who you are as an artist. It's such a fun challenge," Kelsea teased to E! News. "This is the first summer where I've had enough songs on the radio to hopefully have Keith's fans that don't know me yet at least say, ‘Oh, this is the girl that sings THAT song!"
And as she embarks on the massive tour, Kelsea has a message for her tour partner. "Thank you Keith Urban for championing new artists, blazing trails and making great country music."
Find out when Kelsea and Keith are coming to your neighborhood by checking out their tour stops online.