Interviews

An exclusive interview with Kellie Pickler


By Ryan Gueningsman

She’s cute, honest, and maybe a little ditzy at times, and she has quickly worked her way into the hearts of people across the world.

Having success with three singles – “Red High Heels,” “I Wonder,” and most recently, “Things That Never Crossed A Man’s Mind,” from her debut album "Small Town Girl," Kellie Pickler is looking forward to her next album due out at the end of this summer.

“It’ll be country,” she said. “A lot’s happened since the first record came out, so I’ve been able to write a lot about my life, and just different life experiences and things I’ve been going through, and it’s all in there.”

She said there is a little more depth to it, and said it’ll be a little more “mature” than her debut release, which further introduced her to the world following her appearance on season five of the hit television series American Idol.

“It has its fun songs, and girl anthems, and heartbreak songs,” Pickler said about her sophomore release. “I’m excited about it.”

Pickler said fans can expect a single from the new album to hit radio in May. For the first part of 2008, Pickler was busy writing, touring, and also received three awards at the Country Music Television (CMT) Awards, the most of any performer that night. She took home the Performance of the Year award, Tearjerker Video of the Year, and the USA Weekend Breakthrough Video of the Year, all for her hit “I Wonder.”

“I’m not shaking anymore,” she said about her wins. “I was just so excited. It was a bummer I couldn’t be there in person to accept the awards and be a part of the excitement, but it was an honor. Totally shocked.”

Pickler had private shows in Arizona that entire week that prevented her from being a part of the CMT awards.

She said she will be able to be a part of the Academy of Country Music Awards Sunday, May 18 in Las Vegas, where she’s up for the best new female vocalist honor with friend Taylor Swift and Winstock ‘07 alum Sarah Buxton.

Along with award shows, Pickler has been trying to work some of her new material into her shows.

She said, hopefully, by the time Winstock rolls around, fans will be able to get a sneak peek at some of the new material.

Touring with Brad Paisley on his Bonfires and Amplifiers Tour in 2007, and also opening for Rascal Flatts in early 2008, Pickler has had no problem keeping herself busy.

“I’ve been on the road a lot,” she said. “I toured with Rascal Flatts for the first couple months of this year. I’ve been in the studio a lot, and will hit the road again for fairs and festivals and the whole shebang,” Pickler said.

She explained she sometimes prefers an arena setting versus the outdoor festivals and fairs, but said both have their advantages.

“I like the arenas because they’re a more-controlled environment,” Pickler said. “But, the festivals sometimes are the most fun.”

Perhaps someday, Pickler will be able to headline her own tour – but she said that’s not something she’s interested in doing anytime soon.

“I’m enjoying being able to ride on their coattails and not have to take the responsibility of a huge tour,” she said with a laugh. “It’s harder for females, I think.”

Dealing with hard times is something, though, the North Carolina native has grown accustomed to.

Growing up primarily with her grandparents due to her mother leaving her at a young age, and her father being in and out of jail for various things, Pickler has learned to make the best of things.

While in school, Pickler dove into any activity that would put her into the spotlight – anything from gymnastics to dance, and cheerleading.

She said she’s never really known where she’s gotten that level of comfort from for being onstage in front of an audience – but said it’s something that’s always been there.

“I don’t know, it’s just my personality – I’m weird,” she said with a laugh. “I really am crazy. I think you have to be crazy to do this.”

The same thing can be said about Pickler and singing – it’s always been something that has played a big role in her life.

“It’s just always been a part of me,” she said. “I’ve always loved music, and country music, and I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t want to sing.”

Her successful singing career has brought opportunities for her to expand into other avenues of entertainment, including some television work, and a stint with Jay Leno as his Super Bowl correspondent. Working with Leno again is something Pickler said she would enjoy.

“As of right now, there’s nothing planned, but I’m sure we’ll be working together again,” she said.

In the next few years, Pickler hopes to perhaps cross over and explore more television or film projects. She has had several offers and opportunities tossed her direction, but said she’s focusing on her music right now.

“Right now, it just doesn’t work with the timing,” Pickler said. “My next record’s getting ready to come out after the summer, and I’m just getting ready to hit the road again with that and promote it.”

In the next few years, she hopes to land a few cameo roles and do some television.

“We’ll see,” she said. “I still have the rest of my life.”

That, she does. The 21-year-old will turn 22 two weeks after her appearance at Winstock. With a successful debut album, a strong fan base, and a bright future ahead of her, she said there is nothing that would make her give up music.

So, what if this whole American Idol/record deal/superstar thing hadn’t happened the way it has – what would Pickler be doing?

“Um . . . probably stripping,” she said with a laugh in true Pickler-fashion. “I’m kidding. I’d probably still try to move to Nashville and pursue country music. I don’t think I’d ever give up on music.”

That was something that had never crossed this man’s mind, but certainly something this man wouldn’t mind. Joking that she would probably be stripping if she wasn’t in the country music industry is something that Pickler fans probably won’t be surprised to hear.

Since bouncing into the spotlight on American Idol, she’s been a woman not afraid to sometimes say the first thing that comes into her head.

Saying whatever is on her mind has also given others ammunition to come up with some pretty crazy things about Pickler.

“Um . . . probably that I was pregnant,” she said was the wackiest thing she’s seen written about her. “I’ve been accused of having a baby. Someone wrote that on the Internet, and I was like, ‘that is so funny.’

“Apparently, I’ve got some kids somewhere, I don’t know. I didn’t even feel anything,” she said with a laugh. “That’s probably the most bizarre.”

She said from time to time she’ll read things about herself on the Internet, but not that often. Most of the time, she hears about things from friends or family.

“Every once in a while, my crazy sister will call me – she’s 18, and she’ll call and go, ‘Kellie, is this true?”

“I’m like, ‘Did you read it on the Internet?’ And she’ll go, ‘Yeah.’ So, I’m like, ‘OK it’s true,’” she said.

If it’s on the Internet, it must be true.

“I have a kid now, and I’m really a man – maybe we should start that one,” she said with a laugh.

So, with people saying whatever they want to say about her – who is someone Pickler would love to have an hour to chat with?

“Probably Dolly Parton,” she said. “I just think she’s so interesting. I’ve always been a huge fan of her work. I’d just like to sit and talk to her about her life, and sit and make fun of each other.”

Pickler said she had the chance to meet Parton last year, and called her “amazing.”

As for other influences in the industry, Pickler said she has always enjoyed Shania Twain, and said she admires how she can reinvent herself.

“Dolly’s probably my favorite female,” Pickler added. “As far as male country singers, Vince Gill would be my favorite.”

She said she and Gill have the same management company, so they can’t seem to escape each other.

“He’s a great person; so talented,” she said.

Pickler wouldn’t be where she is today, winning industry awards, sharing the same management company as Vince Gill, and having success with her music had it not been for auditioning and landing a spot on American Idol.

After getting her start on American Idol during season five, she said she’s been able to catch a few shows from season seven this year, and said David Archuleta is standing out to her as a favorite this year.

With the success she’s had to date, some may not have been able to handle it as well as Pickler has. She said she has been able to stay true to herself and who she is because of choices she makes.

“I don’t really look at it like the industry makes you that way,” Pickler said. “You are who you are because you chose to be that way.

“There’s just as many people outside the limelight that are in it as people that are into the drugs or alcohol. I don’t think the industry makes you this way – you are who you are because you chose to be that way. Everybody makes mistakes – you know, you learn from them and you move forward.”

Make no mistake, Pickler is here to stay. Looks like we won’t be seeing her pursuing that second career option anytime soon.

“It’s wonderful,” she said about where she presently is at in her life and career. “I can’t complain.”

Kellie Pickler will perform at Winstock 2008 in Winsted Saturday, June 14 at 7 p.m. She called April 25 following a photo shoot in Nashville for a phone interview in support of her appearance at Winstock.

For more information on Winstock, visit www.winstockfestival.com, or call 888-946-7865.

For more information on Kellie Pickler, visit www.kelliepickler.com.

Ryan Gueningsman is at ryan@heraldjournal.com.