Kellie Pickler is no stranger to television. After all, it was on the fifth season of American Idol back in 2006 that she first came to America’s attention. The singer has just launched a new weekly reality series, I Love Kellie Pickler, on CMT. She says the idea had been out there for a while, but it just hadn’t been the right time in her life and career before.
“I was approached after American Idol to do a show around me, but it just took me about 10 years to work up the courage to go and do it,” the singer tells Billboard. “There were different things I was involved with and a lot of growing up that needed to take place behind the camera and not in front of it. It felt like the right time, and working with Ryan Seacrest Productions is great because he and I met when I was 19 and green, and it just felt like the perfect fit. Obviously, CMT is a place that I have called home for a long time, so I guess you could say it’s the perfect marriage.”
The new series gives fans a look into Pickler’s real-life marriage to songwriter/producer Kyle Jacobs, who co-stars with his wife in the show. Pickler admitted that she was initially more than a little surprised at his willingness to be involved.
“Actually, he was more onboard before I was — which was surprising, because he’s so used to working behind the curtain with his writing and producing,” she said. “We really kind of looked at it — after talking and praying about it — as an opportunity to try something new and build our brand and make people laugh. We love television and film and wanted to be a part of a positive show. That was the agreement: a comedy that was a fun, light-hearted show that people could watch in 30 minutes and smile. For us, we wanted to make sure the show was something that people could watch and feel good about themselves. There’s so much negativity out there, and we just wanted to be a bright light out into the world. As long as we get to be a part of something that makes people smile, think and reflect on their own lives, that’s what we want to do. When we found the right team of the people, and everyone’s wheels were moving in the same direction, it was perfect.”
Ratings for the series have been very impressive so far and reviews have been positive, but the singer — best known for hits such as “Best Days of Your Life” and “Red High Heels” — says she’s not paying a lot of attention to what critics might be saying. “I’m really careful about not reading reviews of the show. I don’t look at myself as a product. I don’t validate myself based upon what someone else might say. I’m very careful to protect my head and my heart from that.”
However, she has heard first-hand from the most important people in her career: the fans. “One of the most surprising things that I have heard from the fans at the meet-and-greets is people love how much Kyle and I love each other. That was something that we really wanted to make sure was a part of the show. People seem to love our banter back and forth — those real moments where we pick at each other.”
Those who look at Pickler as a celebrity diva might be a little surprised by just how ordinary her life can be. “I think people are so used to seeing me onstage, dressed up in that moment — in my work uniform. I’m not a housewife who is at home in a ball gown and being waited on hand and foot with this lifestyle. People have a perception of entertainers that’s not realistic — for me. I’m sure that it’s real for some people, but we live very normal lives, for the most part. That’s not saying that we or our friends are normal — I can’t give us that much credit — but we live very real lifestyles. I think that people seem to appreciate the fact that we clock out of that celebrity world. We live, laugh and love each other.”
I Love Kellie Pickler isn’t the only small-screen project she has on her plate right now. Just a few weeks ago, it was announced that she would be one of the hosts of a new syndicated talk show, produced by fellow superstar Faith Hill. It’s something she takes very seriously. “First of all, being approached by Faith was awesome,” Pickler says, beaming. “She’s country music royalty and has created this empire. I was so excited that she had me in mind to be the host. I’m looking forward to shining a light on small businesses and people doing great things in communities all across the country. It’s a lifestyle show. It’s going to be really fun…very ‘shoppable.’ Everything you see on the show, you can buy.
Though she is branching out in different areas, her main job is still as a performer and recording artist. She’s currently hard at work on her fifth studio album and has just released a new holiday single, “My Christmas Caroline,” which was another collaborative effort with her husband. “Kyle and I wrote it together, which makes it very exciting. It’s about what Christmas was like growing up with my grandma and all the memories that I cherish and some that I miss around the holidays, because she’s no longer with us. We were able to capture her spirit and love of Christmas. It’s very sentimental, and we were able to tie it in with the Selma Drye by Kellie Pickler line, which is my Grandma Faye’s mother.” The home goods line is available through Grand Ole Opry retail outlets.
With Christmas just a little over three weeks away, Billboard asked Pickler about her favorite present, and she didn’t hesitate for a second. “One year, my Great Aunt Jean gave me this beautiful ring. I remember she was wearing it, and I was so in love with it. I would look at it on her hand and think about how pretty it was. She took it off her hand and put it on mine. I was about 8 years old — and I still have it. It’s still one of my favorite presents ever. It wasn’t something that was wrapped under the tree or had a bow on it or anything, but it’s such a sentimental piece. It might not have cost a lot, but it’s very priceless to me.”
I Love Kellie Pickler airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on CMT.