For Kelsea Ballerini, life is subject to change, and that includes her relationships.
The country star, 29, released his new album Subject to change on Friday, and appeared to reference his friendship with Halsey and its apparent end in the lyrics of the song “Doin’ My Best.”
“I was friends with a pop star/I put them on track four but/I wish I could take it back, I never would have asked/If I knew we wouldn’t talk anymore,” Ballerini sings on the track.
The line appears to be a thinly veiled reference to Halsey, 27, who collaborated with Ballerini on “The Other Girl,” the fourth song from the country star’s third album. Kelsea.
When asked about the line, Ballerini told Consequence that there are some songs on Subject to change that she is “a little nervous for people to listen to her”.
“I’m a human being, and life is messy, and there are some things I wanted to take ownership of,” he said. “It’s a little embarrassing and a little embarrassing, but that’s my human experience.”
The “Heartfirst” singer previously opened up about her friendship with Halsey with PEOPLE in 2018, saying they first met in Nashville after Halsey came to town on the Hopeless Fountain Kingdom tour.
“I had met her before, but we had never really hung out,” Ballerini said at the time. “Obviously I’m a big fan of her music, so I went to the show with my friends and then I said hi to her, and she didn’t have a show the next day, so she was like, ‘Let’s hang out!’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!'”
One thing led to another, and the singers hit the town for a night of beers and karaoke, all of which they documented on social media.
“We just hung out at a few places in Nashville,” Ballerini said of her night out. “We are both very similar in age and we had a lot to talk about, it was great to be around someone who is so creative, so driven and so down to earth. She really is so lovely. I feel like I made a new friend.”
Ballerini told Taste of Country in 2020 that she wrote “The Other Girl” about a month after their meeting and knew she wanted to feature Halsey on the runway.
“I’ve never had collaborations on my records before, and it wasn’t for a lack of trying,” he said. “In [Kelsea] I was like, ‘I only want collabs if they’re my friends. I don’t want to go with a pop star I don’t know… I just want to do it if it makes sense to me.”
Halsey also opened up about the collaboration in a 2020 Instagram Live with Ballerini, saying that in order to channel the pain of the lyrics, she and the country star had to look back.
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“It was really cool, because [Ballerini] and I were in very good places in our lives and rebounding from some old pain,” Halsey said, according to The Boot. “To be clear, this [song] it is a fictitious event. But just us representing those two sides of women in the equation, saying, “No, we’re not going to let misogyny turn us against each other, we’re empowered.”
Subject to change it’s a deeply personal record for Ballerini, and the rest of the lyrics to “Doin’ My Best” find the star reflecting in detail on the past two years. She starts the song by saying that 2020 “was a weird year” and her album, Kelsea“dropped at a strange time”, as it came out in March.
She also sings about how she went to therapy and was eventually joined by her then-husband, Morgan Evans, because, as she points out, “when you get married this young, you have a lot of things, you have to get by.”
Ballerini was 24 when she and Evans married in December 2017. Although she spoke frequently about the couple seeking marriage counseling, she filed for divorce from the musician last month.
“This deeply difficult decision is the result of a journey of love, growth and effort that has finally come to an end,” he said in a statement at the time. “Words are hard to find here…but I am extremely grateful for my years of marriage to Morgan and hopeful for the seasons to come.”
Before the launch of Subject to changeBallerini opened up to PEOPLE about “beauty” and “mess” in his search for the soul that inspired the record.
“It’s really my post-pandemic project. Like everyone else in the world, I was forced to sit quietly and I’m not good at it,” the 29-year-old singer tells PEOPLE. “I like to be in the middle of my career all the time, working and playing shows and making records. And that wasn’t an option. At which point I woke up and was like, ‘Oh, I’m not 19 anymore.’ . That’s weird.’ And I have a lot of life to process and a lot of time to do it.”
He continues: “I think the revelation of all these beautiful and amazing experiences that I had had over the years in my career and in my personal life…really unlocked this honesty and more than honesty, the guts to go there again.” somehow. And I think that is heard throughout the whole project.”