Kelsea Ballerini's 'RUTWM' Producer Opens Up About Anxiety Around EP Debut

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Alysa Vanderheym, Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer who served as a co-writer and producer on Kelsea Ballerini’s deeply vulnerable Rolling Up The Welcome Mat EP, reflected on her experience working on the powerful project in secret. Vanderheym appeared as a guest on the latest episode of Get Real with Caroline Hobby. She reflected on the process of creating Rolling Up The Welcome Mat, the anxiety she felt when the project made its surprise debut (along with its accompanying short film), ironically experiencing a creative rut around that time and more.

Host Caroline Hobby notes that Vanderheym, a female producer in a male-dominated industry, is “an incredibly accomplished songwriter,” having scored her first No. 1 with Jameson Rodgers and Luke Combs‘ “Cold Beer Calling My Name,” and penned cuts with Blake SheltonJelly RollKygo and One Republic, and Florida Georgia Line, to name a few. The combination of Vanderheym and Ballerini in particular, however, was “magic.”

“She had this brainchild. I think when she knew that it was over for her,” Vanderheym said of Ballerini, and her idea for RUTWM amid her divorce. Vanderheym also noted that Ballerini wrote much of the record herself, and she “put music to it” throughout the process. Vanderheym hailed Ballerini “one of the greatest songwriters in this town. …It was just, like, a treat, honestly to watch her dive to the bottom of her soul. That’s true artistry.”

Vanderheym opened up to Hobby about, ironically, “one of the worst creative years of my life,” despite RUTWM’s release. She said she’d “never experienced that much anxiety before, so that was just weird. I wasn’t excited to write songs that much. It was weird. It was a weird year. Very glad it’s over.”

Hobby asked how Vanderheym navigated her feelings of anxiety, which began when the EP released on Valentine’s Day in 2023. Vanderheym said, “now that you’re talking about it, yeah [she felt anxiety because the album was so vulnerable]. I think maybe — because a lot of people in town weren’t about it. It was just like — it was people were kind of afraid to support it in a way, even people that I’m close to. …The first thing that I have ver produced, I am getting backlash for in a way. Am I doing the right thing?”

Ultimately, the Grammy Award-nominated EP resonated deeply with listeners. Ballerini released an extended edition of RUTWM, Rolling Up The Welcome Mat (For Good), months after the original project’s debut. The extended version updates a few of the previously-released tracks — including fan-favorite lyric swaps and added verses — and revealing a new track, “How Do I Do This,” about dating again after divorce. Ballerini, who recently teased her “new chapter incoming,” told iHeartRadio’s Amy Brown during her exclusive iHeartRadio LIVE show in June 2023 that the project “was necessary for me personally and my journey for making sense of my life at that time. And now, in this season, I’m learning that it was necessary for me to open up more as an artist and as a songwriter and learn that the more zoomed in I can get, the better it is all around. It’s been a huge learning experience and necessary.”

Find Get Real with Caroline Hobby on iHeartRadio here.