MOUNT VERNON — Kellie Pickler’s life has played out like a classic country song. From her hardscrabble, small town roots to center stage on “American Idol” to the top of the country charts, Pickler has proven that talent, beauty, hard work and determination are a potent combination. Like her heroes, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn, Pickler has captured the loyalty of the country audience with her gift for being genuine and heartfelt in her life and art.
Pickler will be headlining the Knox County Fair on Friday, July 26, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale starting today at the fair board office by calling 397-0484.
Pickler’s current release, “100 Proof,” is a collection of songs that reverberate with an emotional intensity hinted at on her first two albums, but fully blossoming in this current season of the young artist’s life. “When I auditioned for ‘American Idol’ I was not an artist,” the Season 5 alum admits. “So from Idol to the first record to this record, I really tried to find myself because there’s a difference between a singer and an artist.”
On “100 Proof,” Pickler revels in that difference. Always engaging, her voice has become more compelling as she’s found a way to tap into her life experience and produce art that resonates profoundly. “For me, country music is about telling stories and behind every country song there is a story about somebody’s life,” Pickler says. “It’s about real things. Our fans gravitate toward things that are relatable so when they get into a car and turn on the radio and hear a song like ‘I Wonder’ or ‘Mother’s Day,’ they might identify with that story and feel they are not alone.”
“American Idol” opened a door for Pickler to start making her dreams come true. She finished sixth on the fifth season of the popular competition and signed with 19 Recordings/BNA Records. Her debut set, “Small Town Girl,” launched with the sassy hit “Red High Heels.” Pickler continued to earn fans with “I Wonder” and “Things That Never Cross a Man’s Mind.” Her self-titled sophomore album further built on her reputation for delivering songs that were both substantive and entertaining, including the hits “Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful,” “Best Days of Your Life” and “Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You.”
It is no secret Pickler possesses the feisty attitude to turn any up-tempo number into a bonafide event, but it’s on the ballads where she especially shines. Pickler co-wrote the bulk of her current album “100 Proof.” Despite her tender age, Pickler has lived a lot of life and she’s a master when it comes to crafting songs that strike a universal chord. “I Wonder” is the emotional hit that elevated Pickler from vivacious new country bombshell to a heartfelt songwriter and serious conveyor of songs.
Pickler is all about establishing that connection with her audience, and the songs she writes and records are another example of life imitating art. If fans relate to Pickler, it’s because she’s always been an open book. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is never hesitant to discuss her past and its impact on her present. Her story is now familiar. Pickler admits to having reservations about sharing so much of her life with her audience, but feels honesty trumps privacy when it comes to songwriting. “There’s not a wall there,” she says of the distance between herself and her fans. And she’s thankful to those who paved the way for that kind of bond. “I would be devastated if Dolly would not have released songs that she’d written because they were too personal. Gosh, we would not have songs like ‘I Will Always Love You.’ We wouldn’t have ‘Jolene.’ If Dolly, Loretta and Tammy did not record the songs that were so personal, then we wouldn’t have that connection with them that we do.”
Pickler will be the first to tell you that these days she’s on the other side of a lot of hard times, and she’s a stronger woman because of it. “My life did a 180 the day I got in line for ‘American Idol.’ My whole world completely turned,” she says. “I really do think that music heals. It has healed me in so many ways.”
In hopes of passing on the healing power of music to those who need it most, Pickler has participated in numerous counts of charity work, and in January 2013, will have completed six USO Tours overseas to perform for U.S. military troops in combat. “The USO tours I’ve been part of have definitely been the highlight of my career and of my life ... they have been the most impactful, life-changing thing I’ve ever been able to do.”
Recalling all of her life experiences and how they relate to her music, she says, “I don’t know how to write about something that’s not real. My life is a country song.”
Now, a new verse begins in her life-song as she celebrates joining Black River Entertainment where she feels the team possesses her same values and respects her creative vision. In 2013, fans can expect new music from Pickler, which she’ll record amid touring the country in support of her current critically acclaimed title, “100 Proof.”
For more information on Kellie Pickler, visit www.KelliePickler.com.