Fellow Knoxville, Tennessee natives Kelsea Ballerini and Kenny Chesney teamed up to record "Half of My Hometown," which is featured on Ballerini's 2020 studio album kelsea and was released to radio in April 2021. In the poignant duet, Ballerini, aided by backup vocals from Chesney, sings about growing up in a small town and details the various paths people take once high school is over. As she sings in the song, some people stick around town and others leave to chase other dreams -- like she did when she moved to Nashville to pursue a country music career.
"Half of my hometown's still hangin' around / Still talkin' about that one touchdown / They're still wearin' red and black, go Bobcats, while the other half of my hometown, they all got out / Some went north, some went south / Still lookin' for a feelin' half of us ain't found," sings Ballerini in the chorus.
This juxtaposition of different journeys continues throughout the song, but at the end of the chorus, Ballerini concludes that no matter where she goes, part of her will always live in the place she grew up.
"So stay or leave, part of me will always be half of my hometown," she sings.
An especially touching moment comes in the very last chorus when Ballerini and Chesney name their hometown -- "Knoxville, Tennessee." "Half of My Hometown" was written by Ballerini and songwriters Ross Copperman, Nicolle Galyon, Shane McAnally and Jimmy Robbins, and the country singer confirmed the track was inspired by her own experience.
"Besides being a dream collaboration with Kenny, which I still can't believe happened, this is really a love letter to home," Ballerini said, according to Sounds Like Nashville. "It can be about wherever you're from and the people who love you, support you, drove you crazy, made you cry, and made you who you are."
Chesney also commented on the track, saying that he related to the tune and was excited to partner with Ballerini on it.
"There's a real tug of who you are and who you were in the place where you grow up, and that never leaves you," adds Chesney. "When Kelsea sent me 'half of my hometown,' it was everything that leaving is: the tug of what you're leaving, the need to chase your dreams, the truth of all the good things and the hunger to see the rest of the world. I couldn't say 'yes' fast enough once I heard it."
Ballerini illustrated the story of "Half of My Hometown" in the song's official music video, which shows what her life could have looked like had she followed a different path. She also performed the song alongside Chesney at the 56th ACM Awards in April. After its release, "Half of My Hometown" peaked at No. 30 on Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and No. 24 on the Country Airplay chart.
The song is also nominated at the 2021 CMA Awards in the categories of Musical Event of the Year and Music Video of the Year. In the Musical Event category, Ballerini and Chesney are nominated alongside Jordan Davis and Luke Bryan's "Buy Dirt," Ryan Hurd and Maren Morris' "Chasin' After You," Elle King and Miranda Lambert's "Drunk (And I Don't Wanna Go Home)," and Chris Young and Kane Brown's "Famous Friends." In the video category, it is up against the "Chasin' After You" and "Famous Friends" videos, as well as the music videos for Dierks Bentley's "Gone" and Brothers Osborne's "Younger Me."
Other artists nominated at the 2021 CMA Awards include Chris Stapleton, Luke Combs and Carrie Underwood. The show will air Nov. 10 on ABC.