Kellie Pickler has certainly grown up from her American Idol days. She became America’s sweetheart during her tenure on the prolific talent show. Her bubbly personality, powerhouse vocals and vulnerability wowed the judges and launched a successful solo career as a country music artist. Kellie’s popularity soared when her debut single “Red High Heels” hit airwaves followed up by the haunting biographical song “I Wonder.” Kellie has certainly been successful but was often times lumped together with other beautiful blonde singers (Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift) who are best known for the their pop-country crossover sound. Kellie Pickler fans have been waiting for this moment-her time at center stage.
Her latest album, 100 Proof, is a complete departure from her former musical endeavors. The sound is traditional country with a fresh twist-no pop-country to be found. Kellie turned to the influences that made her fall in love with country music in the first place: Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn. Kellie wanted to make an album that was true to the woman she had become. I would say she has accomplished that and more. 100 Proof is a gripping exploration into Pickler’s back-story, including an imprisoned father and abandonment by her mother. Pickler holds nothing back and shines with self confidence, her vocals sparkling over the wail of fiddles and steel guitar. Kellie spoke with Country Music Pride about her new album, writing with her husband and the introduction of “Kellie country.”
CMP-When I read the album title, 100 Proof, I immediately thought this album is going to be “purely Kellie.”
KP- That was my goal! I had the most fun ever making this. I had more fun making this record than I ever have doing anything. The people who played on this record are the best and the songwriters that I got to branch out and write with are so good. I feel honored that I got to be a part of this record with these guys. I feel like this is all of our “babies.” Frank and Luke (producers) did a great job just capturing me, capturing my heart. I mean, I have a lot going on in my head, a lot of crazy things (laughter) and they were very patient and they captured everything I wanted them to do.
CMP-On this album we get some glimpses into the real Kellie, behind the performer.
KP- Yes and that is not to say that what I have done before is not real. Songs like “I Wonder,” that’s my story and that’s my life. But as far as consistency, this album from the first track to the last track is consistently Kellie. It’s “Kellie country.” Country music today is so wide and there’s room for it all. I think everyone’s definition of country music is different and that’s okay. But this is the way country music is to me and I love this record and I am so proud of it.
CMP-I cannot stop playing “Where’s Tammy Wynette.” Which song are you excited for your fans to hear?
KP- Definitely that one! I’m a big fan of Tammy Wynette. She’s one of the main reasons I fell in love with country music. I love “Stop Cheating On Me.” I like playing it at shows, it really goes over well and people aren’t expecting the twist in the chorus when it says “or I’ll start cheating on you!” It always gets a big laugh and a cheer. “Unlock That Honky Tonk” is such a fun, party song. I’m a honky tonk girl, I love it. You can ask about anyone on Broadway in Nashville and they’ll tell you I do like to honky tonk! I’m really excited for fans to hear it as a whole, from front to back.
CMP-You co-wrote 6 of the new album’s tracks including one with your husband. What was it like to work with your husband?
KP- We actually wrote this right before we got engaged. We wrote this on Mother’s Day. He is just my best friend and it’s so easy to write with him. He knows me better than anybody. Even if I don’t say it, he knows what I’m thinking. I love writing with him. When we write, we don’t schedule to write, it just spontaneously happens out of nowhere. One of us will get inspired to write wherever we are.
CMP-It is something so special you can share together.
KP- Yes! Kyle is such an incredible songwriter. I’m not saying that because he’s my husband. I’m saying it because it’s a fact. He is way better than I’ll ever be because he writes every single day, he writes religiously. I love writing with him and I’ve learned a lot from him musically.
CMP-The song you wrote together (“Mother’s Day”) is so honest and personal.
KP- It is wild because when we wrote that song I had no intentions of anyone ever hearing it. It just kind of grew until it found its way on to the record. It was really supposed to be there.
CMP-As someone with family in the military, I want to thank you for your work with the USO, visiting our troops overseas.
KP- Thank you so much. Out of everything I have ever been able to be a part of, that is the most amazing thing I have ever done. I cannot wait to go back. We are in the middle of scheduling another USO tour. I enjoy doing it, it is really really great. It is an experience I cannot describe and am so grateful for.