Rising country star Kelsea Ballerini has signed with the powerhouse Nashville management firm Sandbox Entertainment, Variety has confirmed.
The news, first reported by Hits, comes on the heels of the previous day’s confirmation that Ballerini had parted ways with longtime manager Fletcher Foster. His Icon Management had represented the singer since the release of the star-making single “Love Me Like You Mean It,” the first of her four No. 1 country airplay singles to date.
Owen adds Ballerini to a stable that already includes a number of top female artists, including Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town and Faith Hill, as well as the chart-topping upstarts Midland and Dan + Shay. For years Owen was known for representing Shania Twain, a flagship client whose touring comeback was overseen by Owen, before she decamped for Maverick two years ago.
Owen is also a label executive. In January, he and songwriter/producer Shane McAnally joined forces to launch Monument Records, a rebranding of a classic Nashville imprint, as a joint venture with Sony Music.
The news came as a shock to many in Nashville, as Ballerini was known to be working with Foster on the launch of her current single, “I Hate Love Songs,” which she performed on Sunday night’s ACM Awards telecast. The single had gotten off to a modest start at country radio but was expected to get a boost from Sunday’s prime time showcase. There have been few missteps in Ballerini’s relationship with country radio, as “Legends” became her fourth single to reach No. 1 on the country airplay charts just two months ago. Earlier, Ballerini became the first female solo artist to have her first three singles reach the top at country radio since Wynonna Judd a quarter-century earlier.
Foster was known to be an advocate for Ballerini crossing over to pop radio, and her sophomore album, “Unapologetically,” released in November, seemed designed for that kind of cross-genre appeal, although her label, Black River Entertainment, has maintained a focus on promoting her singles strictly to country. Ballerini has been seen or heard by a broader audience in other contexts, though, ranging from her success at Radio Disney to a gig co-hosting ABC’s “Greatest Hits” summer series with Arsenio Hall two summers ago. Past plaudits include a Grammy nomination last year for best new artist.