Kelsea Ballerini recently made her debut on the Grand Ole Opry, and Taste of Country readers can get an exclusive look behind the scenes of that special night.

The 21-year-old singer-songwriter is gearing up to release her debut album, The First Time, via Black River Entertainment. Her first single, "Love Me Like You Mean It," is currently at country radio, and she was clearly very excited for her first appearance on the hallowed Opry stage, which is a rite of passage for any country singer.

Ballerini recalls her first visit to the Opry, after her mom surprised her with tickets for Christmas when she was 12. "She loves Josh Turner. Our dog is named after Josh Turner," she explains with a laugh. "And so we came, and got to see Josh in a big lineup. And I remember walking in and just feeling that it's a special place."

In the video above, Ballerini meets with radio people, gathers the musicians together for an informal backstage rehearsal and just takes in the ambiance of the legendary venue. She also got to announce that her debut album will be released on May 19 from the stage of the Opry.

"It's so cool, because there's so many firsts happening all the time now," she says. "So to be able to pair that with an album, and just kinda have that marker and that milestone, is really cool. I'm so excited to announce that here."

Ballerini performed "Love Me Like You Mean It" during her spot, after being introduced by Ricky Skaggs.

"The more it's been out, the more that people know the words, and so you can just see a couple of people singing along," she observes. "That's like the coolest feeling, as a songwriter and as an artist, to see something that you wrote in a writer's room go from that to, people know it, people are singing it to you."

The First Time is currently available for pre-order at iTunes.

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