Kellie Pickler: Dancing Through Life

Kellie Pickler is living proof that dreams do come true. Despite a turbulent childhood, the North Carolina native’s talent and tenacity has propelled her into the spotlight as a successful country music artist – and Dancing with the Stars champion.

“You count your blessings and thank God for what you do have,” Pickler tells, “and you thank God for the people you have in your life. I think life is really what you make of it.”

Raised by her beloved grandparents, Pickler’s mother left when she was a toddler and her father was in and out of jail during her childhood. “We’re all dealt a different hand and not everybody has it as well off as you might think,” she shares. “I found music to be a great way for me to heal. I just went after my passion.”

Like many hopeful young entertainers, Pickler auditioned for American Idol, and the popular show proved to be her ticket to success. Pickler finished sixth on season five of Idol. Her bubbly personality and distinct voice earned her a contract with 19 Recordings/BNA Records where she proceeded to score such hits as “Red High Heels,” “Things That Never Cross a Man’s Mind,” “Best Days of Your Life” (which she wrote with pal Taylor Swift) and “I Wonder,” a poignant ballad she wrote about her fractured relationship with her mother.

Earlier this year, Pickler returned to reality television as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. She proved to be a natural, wowing audiences week after week as she performed complicated routines with her professional partner Derek Hough. But beyond her prowess on the dance floor, Pickler brought even more to DWTS. “Something about Kellie that I noticed – having been on many different seasons with different casts – is she really set the tone for the backstage, behind the scenes among the cast members,” Hough says. “She was always the first one to congratulate them. She set the tone of really just being supportive and not being competitive. I feel like there was a great camaraderie between the cast members because Kellie really made a big difference.”

Pickler says Hough will be a friend for life and she credits him with cultivating her appreciation for dance. “I’ve discovered a passion I didn’t know I had,” she says. “Derek helped me discover that I love dancing. I was telling him since the show has been over I’ve really had a hard time being still and accepting the fact that I’m never going to be out there on that dance floor again. It’s sad. It’s bittersweet, but hopefully I’ll find another dance floor. Derek helped me discover this new passion and I really don’t want to stop dancing. I’m never going to stop singing. Country music is always going to be my number one priority, but I’m all about embracing it all and trying to do everything that I can do.”

When asked what else she took away from her DWTS experience, Pickler laughs and says, “Spray tans! Now I’m addicted. Actually I loved all the spray tans and costumes. It was really neat just to embrace the whole show, just to lose myself in it. I think because I was open minded about everything and just went in with a positive attitude, I fell in love with it and I learned so much. I made friends for life. The people that work behind the curtain that you don’t see, they are the best at what they do from the crew guys to the lighting guys, the camera guys, wardrobe, hair, makeup, all the stage hands. There’s an army of people that it takes to put on a show like that and they are all so amazing to work with.”

These days Pickler is busy working on a new studio album. After three albums with BNA, Pickler has signed with Black River Entertainment. “We are almost completely finished,” she says. “We’re shooting for a November release. I worked with Frank Liddell and Luke Wooten, the same producers that did my last album, 100 Proof. They are just amazing people. They are so great at what they do and I really think they captured my soul on my last album.”

Pickler admits participating on DWTS kept her from writing as much as she wanted for the new album. “I did co-write a few of them. I didn’t write as much for this album as I did the last one because with Dancing With The Stars, it was really hard to do anything while I was training for that,” she says. “My husband [Kyle Jacobs] and I wrote a song together for the album, and he actually is a writer on my new single, ‘Little Bit Gypsy.’ It’s a fun song. It feels good. It’s not heavy and it doesn’t weigh you down. It’s light and airy and fun. It’s a song about life and love, and it’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve ever cut.”

Pickler admits 2013 has been a busy, fulfilling year. She’s excited about her new album and still stoked with confidence from her DWTS win. She’s also grateful for the most important blessings in life – family and friends. Her grandfather was with her the night she celebrated her DWTS win with a party backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, and she’s happy to report her friend, Summer Holt Miller, is winning her battle against breast cancer. “She is still doing chemo, but we’re very excited about her coming up to the finish line on that because we all know that chemo is not fun,” says Pickler, who shaved her head in support of her friend. “We’re happy that Summer is alive and healthy and that she’s doing good. I love her very dearly and would do anything in the world for her. She’s always been a woman of God and has been an amazing big sister to me. During all of this, I’ve just watched her and she’s handled it with such grace. I just have so much more respect for her than I ever have. She’s making the best of everything. It’s been remarkable just watching all of her go through this and come out with a smile on her face.”

Pickler says she’s learned a lot this year about life and about herself. “I need to never doubt my ability to do anything,” she says, crediting her DWTS experience for teaching her that lesson. “As long as you get out there and try and give it your all, then you can leave a winner regardless if you cross the finish line or not. It’s really awesome to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. You might discover a new passion that you didn’t know you had.”

To learn more about Kellie, visit her website.

Copyright 2013, For permission to repost or reprint, click here.

About the Writer

Deborah Evans Price has covered Christian/Gospel music for Billboard magazine since 1994. She also contributes regularly to CountryWeekly, CMA Close Up, Devo’Zine, Christian Single, HomeLife, BMI Music World, and other publications. A Nashville resident since 1983, Deborah has held editorial posts at Radio & Records, Country News, American Songwriter and Billboard. Amy Grant, Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, Charlie Daniels, 3 Doors Down, Third Day, Don Henley, Bon Jovi, Chris Rice, Sandra Bullock, Mercy Me, Alan Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood and Steven Curtis Chapman are among her many interviews. Additionally, she’s a sought-after music industry analyst who has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, TNN, The Today Show, and ABC PrimeTime Live, among other outlets.Deborah is a member of the Gospel Music Association’s board of directors and a graduate of Leadership Music. She resides south of Nashville with her husband, Gary, and son Trey.