Colie Ballard isn’t creating music that’s simply a pretty harmony with some catchy lyrics.
It’s about telling her fans an honest story – more specifically her own – and at 21, she sure has a story to tell.
Her upcoming EP – which is shooting for a January release – tells part of it through its three original songs.
“The whole thing kind of captures a lot of pain, but growth from that pain,” she said from Nashville, where she’s attending Belmont University.
She described one song as a power ballad, another more rock, and the last is a tale of heartbreak. While many of what sound like love breakup songs are actually about her relationship with alcohol.
Ballard has been sober since she was 19, after battling alcohol for years and thinks she has a responsibility to break down the stereotype that comes with the word “alcoholic.” It isn’t always what people think it is – sometimes it's the confused teenager with a 4.0 GPA.
“It’s vital for me to share my story with fans,” Ballard said. “I think being open and honest about that can maybe shed some hope. That’s the entire goal, to shed some hope that there is a way out. That it doesn’t have to be that way.”
For Ballard – who grew up in Bloomfield Hills and attended Cranbrook Schools from pre-K through high school graduation, where she gained support from professors that had a lasting impression – getting sober has led to a pretty miraculous journey with her music.
Even though she’d been songwriting since middle school, Ballard said after going through treatment she started writing full songs, from first verse to last chorus. That’s when she knew she had a story to tell and began getting more serious about her music.
“I knew I wanted them to be bigger,” she said regarding her songs. “They weren’t whole yet.”
She took what she had to a few record producers, who tore them apart before putting them back together, adding a bunch of instruments to the tunes she had written on her piano.
After Ballard found herself recording with a full band, a first, and trying to figure out what exactly her sound is, she’s still struggling to put words to the songs.
“If I were to compare to other artists it would be a strange mix between Lorde, Florence + The Machine, The Cranberries, Lana Del Rey, Adele,” said Ballard, who lists her mom as her biggest inspiration.
Ballard – who knew she wanted to sing at a young age – did figure out a few things during the recording process, like she really loves making rock music, and getting energy from a band playing with her. She’s even recently formed her own band.
While being in a city like Nashville is intimidating – Ballard said you can throw a rock and hit a musician – she’s turned that into motivation to make sure she doesn’t compare herself to others and do what she needs to do for her own music.
“It’s also a lot of fun,” she said.
In addition to her own work, Ballard has done vocals for a few hip-hop artists as well, which all started when she lived in Minnesota for a year. Her most recent collaboration is “Who I Am” by Eon Zero and Austin Rudin.
Eventually, Ballard would love to start a label of her own and give people an outlet to share their music.
“I think one of the greatest things an artist has is a story to tell, and a way to tell it,” Ballard said.
Photo: Laurie Tennent