As Underwood handed the youngest current member the coveted Opry member award, Ballerini tearfully stepped into the historic circle to share her gratitude.
“It is so nice and comforting to know that no matter where life takes me, and if radio stops playing me tomorrow, that I can always come here and I can always play country music,” she tearfully told the sold-out Nashville audience as fellow Opry members Keith Urban and Vince Gill watched side stage. “Grand Ole Opry, thanks for seeing something in me and for believing that I’ll always love you like I do because I do, and I will.”
During her acceptance speech, Ballerini also praised Underwood for her talent and music, telling the singer that while she looks up to her as an artist she also admires her grace, poise and heart. “If I can be half the artist that you are, I feel like I’m doing something right,” she added.
The two Opry members then traded verses on fellow member Trisha Yearwood’s 1992 hit “Walkaway Joe.” Ahead of her official induction, Ballerini performed “Peter Pan,” “In Between” and her latest single, “Miss Me More.”
Ballerini’s recognition marks the first woman in over two years to be inducted into the Opry. Crystal Gayle was inducted in 2017 and Underwood previously in 2008. This honor was not lost on Grand Ole Opry senior vp, programming & artist relations/general manager Sally Williams.
“The Grand Ole Opry has a long history of really talented, amazing women, but it's been a little while since a contemporary woman has joined the family,” Williams said at a reception following Ballerini’s induction ceremony. “This is your forever home and you are entering into a family that will go on forever, and one where you will be inspiring artists for generations.”
After sharing a toast with friends, family and industry colleagues, Ballerini once again expressed her appreciation for being named the newest member of the Opry. “I know I'm a new artist and just the fact that you have taken me under your wings so early on, it means the world to me and honestly makes me want to be a better artist and write better songs and be the best artist I can be to represent not only myself and the amazing people in this room that are my team and my family, but also the Grand Ole Opry,” she concluded. "Having Kim and Terry [Pegula of Black River Entertainment] make the trip to Nashville for my Opry induction was the cherry on top. They have been so supportive to Black River and my career and I'm so grateful that I was able to share one of my mountaintop moments with them."
Ballerini is in the midst of her first arena tour where she returns to Knoxville, Tenn., for a hometown show on Thursday (April 18). She also hinted that new music is on the way during a press conference ahead of her induction.
“It's really fulfilling to know that you can write these songs about how you feel and put a lot of work into it and people resonate with it enough to spend money on a ticket,” she told Billboard and other media. “I'm on tour right now and that's my whole focus. Then I need to make a dang good album and that's my next focus. I've been writing for it. I have a couple months this summer to really hook in and figure out what it’s going to be, what the heart of it is, and what it's going to say. We have the first couple of singles ready to go and I'm really excited.”