Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini Cheer Each Other On – for the Same Grammy: 'There's a Camaraderie'

"I'm a fan of hers and she's told me she's a fan of mine, and it's really cool to root each other on even though we're the 'new girls.' There can be more than one"

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Photo: WireImage

Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini are the first two country artists to be nominated together for the best new artist Grammy, but don’t call them rivals.

“That’s not how we roll — not in this town,” Morris, 26, said Thursday at a Nashville party to honor the city’s Grammy nominees. “I think we run all the jerks out pretty quick. … Even though we’re going to be going against each other for this award, there’s just a camaraderie there. If there is competition, it’s a healthy one.”

Ballerini, 23, seconded her emotion. “When the Grammy nominations came out, Maren was the first text I got,” the “Peter Pan” singer said.

The text said: “We’re bringing Nashville to the Grammys!” And Ballerini’s response? “Yes, let’s bring all the sparkles!”

“I think it’s really easy to get competitive,” Ballerini said, “but I’m a fan of hers and she’s told me she’s a fan of mine, and it’s really cool to root each other on even though we’re the ‘new girls.’ There can be more than one.”

This isn’t the first time Morris and Ballerini have competed against each other. Both were nominated for CMA female vocalist last year (Carrie Underwood took home the prize, of course), and they were also nominees in the CMA new artist category. Morris won in that category, delivering a memorable acceptance speech that recalled how she had watched the previous year’s awards show on a TV at a bar across the street.

Last year, she also had a similar experience for the Grammys show – watching on a friend’s couch – when she was a virtual unknown just launching her radio tour to promote “My Church.” It’s the song that’s now up for a Grammy in two categories: best country song and best country solo performance. But it’s a fourth Grammy nomination – best country album (for Hero) – that is especially gratifying to Morris.

“It was really cool to see a song like ‘My Church’ catapult my career and then garner a best song nomination,” she said. “But I think if I had to choose which one I’d walk away with, I think album is such a big deal to me because it’s a body of work and for not just one song.”

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Morris and Ballerini were joined at the party by other first-time nominees, including Thomas Rhett and Cassadee Pope.

Rhett, who is up for best country song for “Die a Happy Man,” said he was “blown away” by the nomination. “When you start out as an artist, and you think about, ‘What is the biggest moment you can ever achieve?’ and a Grammy is it,” he said. “So to be in the category, to be nominated for a Grammy, I’m still kind of gleaming from the nomination.”

Pope shares a best country duo/group performance nomination with Chris Young for “Think of You.” She said she first heard the news from her duet partner himself.

“He called me,” she said. “He heard before it got announced – just moments before. I screamed, jumped up and down, called my mom, called my boyfriend. I live in an apartment complex, so I’m sure the people below me did not like that, but it was a good moment.”

Pope said Young offered to fly her to the Grammys on his private jet – but she turned him down. “He’s going the day of [the awards show],” she said, and I was thinking, ‘I’m a girl. I need four solid hours to get ready. I can’t be flying the day of.’”

Besides looking forward to meeting some of her idols, Pope said she also will be cheering on Morris and Ballerini.

“I’m so happy for them,” Pope said. “They’re both such sweet people, and they’re so different. And I love that there are two females in country music representing the new artist category who are different. Some people look at country music and say, oh, it’s all songs about trucks and beer and whatever, but it’s not. There’s this new wave of country music that’s talking about other things and just touching on a much deeper level with people, so I’m really proud that they’re doing so well. It’s paving the way for artists like myself.”

The 2017 Grammy Awards will air live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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