Kellie Pickler is having the best days of her life. Since her run on American Idol (ultimately finishing in sixth), she has gone on to become one of the most heralded vocalists in recent years. On her diverse, roots-driven 100 Proof, the singer offered up a blistering collection of songs that cut through the noise, ultimately landing on many best-of year-end tallies (2012). A year later, she returned with an equally provocative set, albeit more mainstream-leaning, with The Woman I Am, lead with a searing ballad "Someone Somewhere Tonight" (originally recorded by Walt Wilkins and later by Kenny Rogers). From there, Pickler has remained true to her artistic tendencies and continued to forge her own path, much outside the assistance of mainstream country radio.
For many aspiring females or even those who have already gotten a shot at superstardom, turning to other avenues for exposure is often necessary. Most recently, Emily West (who previously charted a Top 40 hit with "Blue Sky" in 2010, via Capitol Records) and Sarah Darling (a Top 50 radio and Top 35 sales hit with "Home To Me") have appeared on such summer competitions as America's Got Talent and Rising Star, respectively. For Pickler, she agrees that it "doesn't hurt" the chances for success. "It’s a wonderful way to have your voice heard," she shares in an exclusive NashvilleGab interview.
"My husband and I just watched Emily on 'America’s Got Talent.' She’s an amazing singer. My husband knows her. She’s phenomenal," she continues. "It’s a great way to get her out there. It’s just great for country music, in general. Competitions and talent shows have been around for years. I remember watching Star Search. Justin Timberlake was on there. Mickey Mouse club had Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Some of the biggest names in music have come from those shows–not just 'American Idol,' but those shows I grew up watching as a kid."
But when you look at current radio playlists and the percentage of females being heard on a large scale, the numbers can be rather disheartening. On any average day, you'll probably hear hits by Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift; those are a given. Here and there, you might hear Sara Evans, Cassadee Pope and Kacey Musgraves but few others. "I keep doing what I do and of course, everyone wants to be on the radio. If its your time, its your time," Pickler says of the possibilitie of the tides turning to favor females. "We are outnumbered, but I don’t want to be that girl that’s ‘poor pitiful me.’ I’m blessed. Regardless, it kind of is what it is. I don’t want to be one of those people who becomes jaded over it."
And jaded, she is not. In fact, the singer has already set her sights on her fifth studio set. "We are in the very early process of this fifth album," she teases. "Right now, I’m just writing a lot, listening to songs. For me, a great song is a great song, regardless if I write it or not. Tammy Wynette didn’t write ‘Stand By Your Man,’ but she sure as hell sang it better than anybody else does. If it’s right for me for this particular project, then I’ll take it."
With both of Pickler's most recent full-length albums, she earned rave reviews from critics, something she could never have expected. "I’m so blessed to get to do what I love, to put my life in the form of a song. I know a lot of people relate the the story of my life. It’s really amazing how a song can connect you with a person," she says. "I really enjoyed being out on the road performing all of the songs and looking out into the crowd and see people singing along with me. It’s special to them; it might be their story as well."
"Of course, if the music is critically acclaimed, that’s a bonus. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really affect record sales," she admits. Everyone wants those blockbuster sales, but for Pickler, she doesn't dwell on negativity. "You just have to do what you do. Hope for the best. What will be will be. You can’t sit and dwell on what you don’t have. You have to focus on what you do have. You have to learn to be happy with what you have and pursue everything else that you want."
Speaking of which, Pickler pursued a cool animated opportunity, lending her voice to this fall's upcoming Veggie Tales feature, Beauty & The Beet. In the film, to drop Oct. 14, she plays Mirabelle, a quirky, fun-loving sweet potato. "I’ve always loved animation and always wanted to be part of an animated movie," she says. "When they reached out about playing the role of Mirabelle in the new movie, it worked out perfectly. It was so fun."
On hitting the studio for the animated film: "It’s so much harder than what people think it is. You have to really make this character come to life with your voice. It’s not like a regular film where you see the actors and see their face and body language. It’s cartoon characters, and you have to really play up your voice and make it as animated as possible. If you feel like you sound silly, you’re probably doing it right."
For the accompanying soundtrack, Pickler recorded several original songs, as well as a Christmas classic ("Deck The Halls") to run during the final credits. "[The songs] are so cute. They are play off vegetables. There are so many quirky songs in there," she says, adding, "Many of them sound like ‘50s and ‘60s throwback. It’s definitely different than anything I’ve done before."
She shares of her favorite childhood cartoons: "I love ‘Little Mermaid’ & ‘Cinderella.’ You know, like ‘Finding Nemo’ and all of that hadn’t come out yet," she laughs.
Recently, Pickler took to New York City for a great cause: Meow Mix. "We had a great crowd. We have a mobile recording studio set up in New York City. It’s been fun. We’ve encouraged as many people as possible to jump into the studio and record the iconic Meow Mix jingle. For every recording, Meow Mix will donate 100 meals to the New York City Food Bank. We had a really great turnout. We had so many people jump in the booth and sing," she says.
She adds, "I’m a big animal lover. I love all animals. It was a great partnering."
Find out more about the Meow Mix campaign here.
Photos courtesy of Black River Entertainment
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