By John Benson
When talking about her brand of music, Kellie Pickler isn’t shy.
She calls it “Kellie Country,” which she’ll be bringing to Youngstown for a May 29 show at Stambaugh Auditorium. However, right now the country is thinking about Kellie dancing, as the North Carolina native is a finalist on “Dancing with the Stars” airing at 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow on WYTV Channel 33.
“It’s crazy that I made it this far,” said Pickler calling from Los Angeles. “I’m so blessed. It’s a lot of work but I’m going to tough it out and hopefully win that mirror ball trophy.”
For the last two months, Pickler has been teamed up with three-time champion Derek Hough. She describes him as her “dancing drill sergeant,” who has whipped her into shape. In fact, the 26-year-old admits she should have called her friend and country music singer Sarah Evans, who appeared on the reality show in 2006, about what to expect from the ballroom dancing grind.
“I didn’t realize how many hours we’d be rehearsing,” Pickler said. “It’s unbelievable. I’ve never worked my body this much ever, but honestly I don’t have any regrets. I think if anything I’ve discovered a new passion.”
When asked if this means we’ll see more dancing in her country music shows, Pickler laughed and said she’s a country-music singer first and ballroom dancer second.
Still, the decision for Pickler to appear on the reality show “Dancing with the Stars” is interesting considering she did become a household name after appearing as a contestant on the fifth season of reality show “American Idol.” She ended up being named in the top 6 that year behind winner Taylor Hicks.
“They are just two totally different shows, and I think the only thing they have in common is that they’re fan-voted,” Pickler said. “For me, ‘American Idol’ was life changing. When I got in line for ‘American Idol,’ I was going to pursue a career in the music entertainment world. For ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ it’s a different approach because this isn’t my career and nothing is on the line. It’s just something for fun, like a hobby that lasts for three months.”
While Pickler may be having fun, she’s also helping out her music career, which in the past includes radio songs such as “Red High Heels,” “I Wonder,” “Things That Never Cross a Man’s Mind” and “Best Days of Your Life.” The publicity from being on “Dancing with the Stars” is keeping her name in the spotlight and garnering press for her latest single “Someone Somewhere Tonight.”
The emotional song revolves around someone overcoming great obstacles, finding freedom and discovering love. When it came time for Pickler to cut the track, she said she was thinking about her singer husband, Kyle Jacobs.
“I was literally watching video from our wedding and I was crying,” Pickler said. “When I got the recording back and was listening to it, there were moments in the song where my voice cracks and breaks. I asked my producer if I should fix this. He said, ‘No, absolutely not. It’s real. Do you think Tammy Wynette would go in there and change it? No, she wouldn’t, and you’re not going to either.’ I’m very happy with how the song turned out.”
Such honesty is what Pickler said she’s looking for on her next studio effort, which is due out later this year. More so, she’s confident she can build upon the positive foundation she experienced with her previous effort, 2012’s “100 Proof.”
“I want to make a great country album,” Pickler said. “I grew up on traditional country music and really want to stick with my roots. I did that with the last album. Who would have thought Kellie Pickler would get Rolling Stone’s No. 1 country album of 2012?
“It’s like when I was allowed to go to the studio and I said what I wanted to say, that’s when people connect with it. They see that it’s real. So, I just want to go in and make a great country album. That’s it. I want that crying pedal steel guitar, and I just want make Kellie Country.”