First Country: New Music From Kelsea Ballerini, Chase Rice, Hailey Whitters & More

Kelsea Ballerini
Piper Ferguson

Kelsea Ballerini

First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos and albums that dropped this week.

New country projects abound this week. Hot Country Knights, Dierks Bentley’s ’90s-era side project, dropped its first single “Pick Her Up” featuring Travis Tritt along with a video starring actress Tiffani Thiessen (read all about the Knights' evolution here and watch the comical video here), while Kelsea Ballerini announced her third studio album, Kelsea, for March 20 with the unveiling of deeply personal new song “la.”

Additionally, Chase Rice dropped a surprise release Friday (Jan. 24) with The Album Part 1. Meanwhile, Hailey Whitters released the vivid story song “Janice at the Hotel Bar” while Tyler Farr releases his first single on Jason Aldean’s Night Train Records with “Only Truck In Town.”

Below, listen to some of the best country projects that dropped this week.

Chase Rice, The Album Part 1

Rice dropped the seven-song collection The Album Part 1 today. The project includes current single “Lonely If You Are” as well as six brand new tracks that showcase Rice’s talent as a both a songwriter and an artist. The rapid paced “American Nights” kicks off the project while the sultry “Everywhere” picks up steam as Rice reminisces of a past relationship. Standout “Forever to Go” strikes a chord as the stripped down and heartfelt ballad details a lifetime kind of love.    

“I chose to call this The Album because it’s the first thing I would encourage someone to listen to if they want to know who I am as an artist,” Rice said in a statement. “My career has been such a rollercoaster journey, but it’s all led to this moment and these songs. So much of what I’ve learned, so much of what I’ve fought through – it’s all reflected in this music.”

Hailey Whitters, “Janice at the Hotel Bar”

Penned with Lori McKenna (“Girl Crush,” “Humble and Kind”), “Janice at the Hotel Bar” has Whitters sharing sage advice from an older woman. The soaring piano ballad, to be featured on her upcoming album The Dream out Feb. 28, is a personal one for Whitters, who says some of the advice heard within the song comes from her own grandmother. “My grandma always used to say she would drink a glass of red a day,” Whitters previously told Billboard following the passing of her grandmother last year.

“[Janice at the Hotel Bar’] resonates with me the most off the album. She’s my spirit animal and that’s what I needed to hear and what I want. It’s like my mantra: ‘Make yourself a good living, but don’t forget to make a good life.’ Regardless of what our job is, it’s so important to make sure that we’re living outside of that.”

Kelsea Ballerini, “la”

Ballerini shares her conflicted emotions with visiting Los Angeles on her deeply vulnerable new song “la.” Featured on her upcoming third studio album, it’s one of the most personal songs Ballerini has released as she shares her insecurities with the listener.

“I wrote this song alone on a bathroom floor in Los Angeles last year feeling equal parts like somebody and like nobody, surrounded and completely alone, inspired and terrified, on top of the world and filled to the brim with anxiety,” she shares on Instagram. “I was in between tour dates and left my guitar on the bus that particular week, so it came out as a stream of consciousness that fell into the form of a poem.  As soon as I got to the bus a few days later it became this. It’s the most vulnerable thing I’ve publicly shared.”

Mitchell Tenpenny, “Can’t Go to Church”

Tenpenny’s sultry falsetto shines on the emotional “Can’t Go to Church,” where he sings of the very real situation of him skipping church to avoid an ex alongside soaring production and foot stomping rhythms. “I don’t want to see her face sitting in the front pew,” he belts before adding, “Lord, forgive me I can’t go to church anymore.”

“I grew up in Nashville and went to a Christian school, David Lipscomb High School. All my friends and I attended both school and church together,” Tenpenny says. “The girlfriend I had at the time broke up with me and the first thing you do at that age is try to avoid them. And I knew if I went to church, I would see her. So, I wrote this song not because I didn’t believe in God and didn’t want to fellowship, I just didn’t want to see her. I said a prayer to God that ‘I will praise you, I just can’t walk in there anymore.’”

Tyler Farr, “Only Truck in Town”

Farr returns with his new single, the yearning mid-tempo love song “Only Truck In Town.” Set to impact country radio on Feb. 18, it marks the singer’s first collaboration as part of Jason Aldean’s Night Train Records. “Everyone knows Tyler’s voice but they haven’t heard him like this before,” Aldean said in a statement. “We all had such a blast working on this and I’m excited for fans to crank this one up.”

Adds Farr, “Words can’t express how pumped I am for this new song. 'Only Truck In Town' is exactly what I wanted as a single coming back to radio. Jason and I both knew this was the one when we first heard it and thought it would connect with country music fans the way it did with us."