- Kelsea Ballerini is a country singer who hosted the 2023 CMT Awards on April 2.
- She confirmed that she’s in a relationship with actor Chase Stokes in Feb. 2023 and they made their red carpet debut at the show.
- Before dating Chase, she was married to Morgan Evans for four and a half years before filing for divorce in Aug. 2022.
- She released a six-song EP, ‘Rolling Up The Welcome Mat,’ about the breakup.
For the third year in a row, Kelsea Ballerini returned to host the CMT Music Awards on April 2. In addition to hosting the show, Kelsea also went red carpet official with her boyfriend Chase Stokes. The two have been hot and heavy for several weeks now, but the CMT Awards were the first red carpet they walked as a couple.
It’s been quite a year for Kelsea, who released an EP about her divorce from Morgan Evans in Feb. 2023, right around the same time that she confirmed her new romance with Chase. Since going public with their relationship, Kelsea and Chase have been staples on each other’s social media pages, and have not been afraid to flaunt their budding relationship.
While Kelsea usually lets her music do the talking when it comes to her personal life, she’s been very open during this chapter about how difficult divorcing Morgan was. The two were married for nearly five years when Kelsea filed to divorce during the summer of 2022. Learn more about Kelsea’s public relationships below.
Fans began speculating that something was going on between Kelsea and Chase when they appeared in a group photo together at the National Championship football game in Jan. 2023. Days later, Chase took to Instagram to share a photo of Kelsea snuggling up to him in their seats at the game, adding further buzz to the romance rumors. Over the next few weeks, the two continued to fuel the speculation. First, they were spotted looking quite cozy at a bar in Nashville, and then, they were photographed packing on the PDA while at the airport.
Kelsea finally confirmed that she was in a new romance with Chase on the Feb. 22 episode of the Call Her Daddy podcast. When asked if she was single, she answered, “Nope! I’m just vibing,” before getting into more details about her connection to Chase. “It’s all really new to me,” she said about the romance. “I’m tiptoeing, but I’m happy. It’s been a really beautiful reawakening.”
During the interview, Kelsea also delved further into the timeline of the relationship. She said it all started in Dec. 2022. “I slid into his DMs,” the country singer proudly added. “I was just like…I’m not going to get on the apps. And he shoots [Outer Banks] in Charleston and my manager lives there. He put the bug in my ear. He’s like, ‘You know who’s really cute when you’re ready…’ and I’m like, ‘You’re so right!’ I’ve never seen the show but I knew of him. I followed him, he followed me and I swan dove right in.”
Her opening line has become a favorite amongst her fans. “His handle is @HiChaseStokes, so I said, ‘Hi, Chase Stokes,’” she laughed. At the time, she said they were “just having fun,” but it wasn’t long before things started to get more serious. At the beginning of March, Kelsea was in New York City ahead of her appearance on Saturday Night Live, while Chase was in town to promote Outer Banks. The two had their first public date night at a New York Rangers game on March 2. They were also photographed holding hands while strolling around New York City, and Chase was backstage to support Kelsea amidst her Saturday Night Live debut.
As things started publicly heating up, some fans began wondering whether or not the relationship was the real deal, or just a publicity stunt. On March 7, Kelsea poked fun at the buzz on her Instagram Story. She shared a photo of herself sitting on Chase’s lap, which she sarcastically captioned, “IDK, seems staged. Probably PR.” When Kelsea went on tour in March 2023, Chase was spotted attending several shows, where he proudly watched from the side stage as she performed. Then, he was by Kelsea’s side at the CMT Awards on April 2, marking their official red carpet debut as a couple.
Chase is best known as an actor and has appeared in various features, including the Netflix series, Outer Banks, since 2020. After he was born in Annapolis, MD, he moved to Georgia and Florida, where he grew up as a teen. He went on to attend Valencia College, University of Central Florida, and Seminole State College, and originally wanted to be an ice hockey player before he dived into acting in 2014.
Before Kelsea got romantically involved with Chase, she was married to singer Morgan for almost five years from 2017 until 2022. They met while co-hosting Australia’s Country Music Channel Awards in Morgan’s homeland in March of 2016. He proposed that Christmas, and they were married a year later in Mexico on Dec. 2, 2017. They often shared memorable moments of their life together on social media and seemed to be blissfully in love.
In 2017, Morgan dished to HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY about he and Kelsea were able to make their relationship work, despite being apart so often due to their careers. “You just gotta plan ahead, make sure there’s something to look forward to — just a little pocket of time,” he shared. “And when you have that time, turn your phone off. Thankfully we both work with people who totally understand that if it doesn’t work for us, nothing else matters. Yeah, it just takes a little more organizing!”
By Aug. 2022, they had announced their split. “This is now public record so I wanted you to hear from me directly that I am going through a divorce,” Kelsea wrote on Instagram at the time. “This deeply difficult decision is the result of a journey of love, growth and effort that has ultimately come to an end.” Their divorce was finalized three months later, in Nov.
Some of Kelsea’s songs on her Sept. 2022 album Subject To Change hinted at troubles in the relationship. Specifically, on the song “Doin’ My Best,” she sang, “Therapy for one, turned to therapy for two, when you get married that young, you got a lot of s*** you gotta get through.” Kelsea was just 23 years old when she married Morgan, and he was 31. At the end of September, Morgan debuted his own song about the divorce called “Over For You.” In the lyrics, he hinted at being blindsided by the breakup, singing, “How long have you been breaking, why am I just finding out?”
Kelsea directly responded to this song when she released her surprise EP Rolling Up The Welcome Mat in Feb. 2023. In the album’s opening song, “Mountain With A View,” she sang, “I think that this is when it’s over for me,” directly referencing the title track. The EP also featured a song called “Blindsided,” in which Kelsea sings, “Were you blindsided or were you just blind?” When Kelsea performed “Blindsided” on SNL, she added extra lyrics that further called out Morgan and referenced another lyric (“I would’ve searched the whole world over for you”) from his song. “Now you’re singing your song on the radio, you wouldn’t say it to my face, you would’ve searched the whole world over? Yeah, sure, okay,” she belted.
In another song from the EP called “Penthouse,” Kelsea sang about the house she and Morgan bought together during their marriage. In the lyrics, she insinuated that she was the one who paid for the house, but due to her prenup, he walked away with some of the profits. “It stings, rolling up the welcome mat, knowing you got half,” Kelsea says on the song. However, the final song on the album, “Leave Me Again,” is her way of letting go of the feelings of hurt, and letting Morgan know that she hopes he finds his happiness.
During her Feb. 2023 interview with the Call Her Daddy podcast, Kelsea spoke out about her divorce from Morgan and delved further into why they split. Despite the two initially putting a lot of effort into seeing each other whenever possible, Kelsea said that they spent so much time apart, which was one of the main reasons for the breakup. She also accused Morgan of not making an effort to come and see her when their schedules allowed. However, the breaking point was when Kelsea realized that she wasn’t ready to have kids yet, which was something the two were not on the same page about.
“I took him to dinner and I was like, ‘For my 30th birthday, I want to freeze my eggs,'” Kelsea shared. “That was not a good day. I think that was when I was like..there’s a fundamental difference here that has happened and that has shifted. It was no longer, ‘I don’t see this person, I miss this person, I’m alone and lonely.’ It was …he wants something out of life and I’m not there.” At that point, though, Kelsea said that she and Morgan were already having issues, and had been in couples’ therapy since “a year or two” after their wedding. “I think he loved me more at 23, and I love me more at 29,” she admitted.
Kelsea also discussed how she felt when Morgan released “Over For You” and why that upset her so much. “As he’s putting out a song about being blindsided, he’s taking half of the house he didn’t pay for,” she said. “How was I married to this person for so long and had no idea that that bit of character was tucked within that human being?” She also said she didn’t like the timing of the song’s release, as the divorce filing was still fresh and not finalized yet.
It didn’t take long for Morgan to respond to her thoughts with his own Instagram post. He called her comments “sad” and not “reality”, and asked people to not be “mean” to either of them. “It’s really sad for me to see this person, who I spent so much of my life with, and loved with all my heart, saying things that aren’t reality and that leave out what really happened,” Morgan wrote in his post. “She knows I’m not the type of guy to speak on those things publicly.” “If this is what she needs to heal, I hope it helps,” he added. “All I ask is if that you’re on my pages, please don’t be mean. Don’t be mean to Kelsea, don’t be mean to each other. Life’s too short.”
Who Else Has Kelsea Ballerini Dated?
Before becoming a staple in country music, Kelsea had another serious ex-boyfriend, who she sings about on many of her songs from her first two albums, The First Time and Unapologetically. During the Call Her Daddy interview, Kelsea admitted that she had only had sex with one other person before Morgan, and it was a “negative” experience for her. “It was in a relationship, but it was not healthy at all,” Kelsea admitted. “And so the way that I defined sex was very one-sided, very for the man, not a sense of connection at all.”
Kelsea’s 2017 album Unapologetically tells the story of going from a breakup to new love during the time when she ended her past relationship and got together with Morgan. “It’s a lot of self discovery and awareness that you got through,” Kelsea told HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY in 2017. “I feel like this whole record is having a big breakup and getting past that, learning a lot about myself, growing up a bit and then meeting my now-fiancee [Morgan] and that whole transition into falling on my face for someone. It really does sum up what I’ve been through.
The first half of the album is about the heartbreak she faced. Perhaps the most heartbreaking track of all is the first one, “Graveyard,” in which Kelsea sings, “I don’t want to be another heart in your graveyard, in the cold hart dirt that you throw down, I don’t wanna watch you drive away in a black car, to a new bar, so you can find another hopeless, broken girl in a little black dress, and you can take her, break her, lay her heart to rest in peace, right here next to me.”
While Kelsea has never publicly named the ex in question, she has admitted to being thankful for that bad breakup, as well as others before that. “I think breakups are good, I really do,” Kelsea admitted to StyleCaster in 2017. “They’re hard and I think that makes you find yourself again. When you get past one and rediscover yourself, that’s probably the whole purpose of the relationship.”Click to Subscribe to Get Our Free HollywoodLife Daily Newsletter to get the hottest celeb news.