Kellie Pickler gets personal on her new album, "The Woman I Am," out Nov. 11. If you need proof of this, take one listen to "Selma Drye," a song about a person that Pickler knew very well -- her great grandmother. The singer wrote the song with Billy Montana and Phillip Lammonds, and she tells Billboard that she feels she captured the essence of who she was.
"I was just describing her," she said. "She lived in front of us, and she was a pistol – your stereotypical hillbilly granny. I was so intrigued by her. She had a pistol and an apron, and kept a can of snuff in her apron. She never had a drivers license or had a car – it was the devil. She never put her money in the bank – it was the devil. She was very old fashioned and stuck in her ways. In some ways, it was beautiful. She never conformed to the ways of the world. She kept all of her money in canning jars, washed her clothes in the sink and hung them up on the line. She was very much old school, and I think that song represents the women of her generation."
That feisty spirit definitely comes across in Ms. Drye's great-granddaughter, who definitely qualifies as one of the most charming and personable acts in the business. "The Woman I Am" represents a down-home sound for the singer -- much like her previous set, the critically acclaimed "100 Proof" -- The 615's pick for Best Country Album in 2012. Though the new disc is a little bit more contemporary in places, it's clear that Pickler opted for a similar organic approach.
"I knew I couldn't make the same album that I did with '100 Proof,'" she said, but I still wanted to keep some of that traditional sounds and that element sprinkled throughout this album, but also do something a little bit different. I think we did a good job at finding that happy balance. Frank Liddell and Luke Wooten produced this album as well, and they are so good at bringing out the best in me and capturing my heart on the record."
The "Woman I Am" covers a wide range of emotions, such as the Patty Loveless-spunk of "Ring For Sale," and the light and breezy "Buzzin," which Pickler said was a favorite.
"My husband actually found the song," she said, referring to ace Nashville songwriter Kyle Jacobs. "He's a producer, and someone had actually sent the song to him for an artist that he's working with. He played it for me and said 'You should cut this. It would be really neat for a girl to sing.' I listened to it, and I loved the way it makes you feel. It's just a feel good song."
Pickler, who has touched hearts in the past with ballad performances such as "I Wonder," does so once more with the wistful "I Forgive You," a song she admits to having on her radar for quite a while.
"I had been wanting to cut that song since I moved to Nashville. It finally found a place on this album. It was on hold for a bigger artist than me. I finally said 'I've got to cut this song,' and the writers said 'You can have it. Go ahead and do it." She feels many listeners will be able to identify with the lyrics. "I think that to forgive someone is such a powerful thing. We've all hurt people, and we've all been hurt. We all want to be forgiven, and we all need to forgive. It's a powerful message, and is written in such a universal way where you can put your story in the song."
The new set is Pickler's debut for Black River Entertainment, and she says she couldn't be happier with her new label home. "They have been amazing. They have given me the creative freedom to go in the studio and make the record I wanted to make. They've been very supportive, and have helped to guide me in the direction that I wanted to go."
The singer is on tour throughout the rest of November, and laughed when asked if, in light of her "Dancing With The Stars" win, she had any volunteers for dance partners at her shows. "That's funny," she says. "People come to the shows, and want me to tango. I can't tango in red high heels, and I can't tango by myself. But I would be lost dancing if Derek Hough wasn't there, so I'm not going to attempt to dance without him. He's a professional!"