But Pickler wasn’t quite ready until now, as “I Love Kellie Pickler” airs Thursday nights on CMT. She finally feels like it’s time for people to get to know her, beyond what they might remember from her days on the “Idol” stage when she was unfamiliar with calamari. (Yes, people still bring up that incident.) She wasn’t acting — she was truly out of her element.
“I think sometimes people forget how green I was [on “Idol"],” Pickler, 29, said by phone from Nashville. “This show was something Ryan had approached me about a long time ago, but it wasn’t the right timing. But I’m married now. I’m older. I think there’s a lot of growing up and things you have to learn.”
“I Love Kellie Pickler” features a Kellie Pickler that viewers may already feel like they know: the cheerful, goofy, animal-lover who doesn’t take things too seriously, yet has lots of depth when it comes to her music. But she’s officially a grown-up now. Much of the series focuses on Pickler and her husband of five years, songwriter Kyle Jacobs, and their lives as a married couple. Some of their activities are unusual — such as Pickler performing at events — but other times, Pickler is training her dog and Jacobs is trying to prove the merits of Midwestern food, just like your average, everyday pair.
That’s what Pickler was aiming for with the show — a “lighthearted” comedic series, not necessarily one documenting life in the music industry. After “Idol” ended, Pickler moved to Nashville where her debut record “Small Town Girl” was gold-certified and she had a couple hits off her self-titled sophomore album. But as the country genre leaned more toward a pop sound, Pickler’s music stayed traditional. When her third album, “100 Proof,” failed to find an audience, she was dropped from her Sony label in 2012. In the years since, she’s continued making music on independent label Black River Entertainment, and has found a second act in reality TV; she won the 16th season of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”
Pickler wasn’t too concerned about revealing personal details on her reality show as she’s always been open about her life. One of her most powerful songs, “I Wonder,” is about her difficult relationship with her estranged mother. But she and producers agreed that the show would have a light focus, and she decided on what aspects she wanted to keep private. Jacobs, who has co-written songs for artists from Garth Brooks to the Eli Young Band, agreed with the show’s premise. “He thought it would be a really fun experience — it’s three months out of our lives,” Pickler said. “It also really gave us more time to spend together.”
The show wraps up in January, and in the meantime, Pickler is focused on creating more music. Though her name was frequently mentioned in this year’s #Saladgate debate (in which a country-radio programmer declared stations would have more success if they played fewer songs by women), she is loath to complain about her lack of presence on the radio.
“As the artist, we don’t have any control over what’s played and what doesn’t get played,” Pickler said. “There are so many songs out there, thousands of people trying to get their songs out in the world. I get it, it’s hard for people to pick what songs they’re going to play. It’s hard for everyone. Everyone wants to be on the radio. The bottom line is we all can’t be. It’s not going to happen.”
She added that if her biggest struggle is not getting songs on country radio, that’s a pretty good problem to have. “There are people that are dodging bullets right now; I cannot complain about my career and my life,” she said. “I don’t pitch a tantrum over first-world problems.”