Pickler: 'My heart, my love' go out to vets

CNN
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - 10:07am

Country singer Kellie Pickler -- whose fourth album, "The Woman I Am," came out Monday -- opens up to HLN about her passion for country music and how she uses her talent to work with military members and their families.

HLN: When was the first time you realized you belong on a country music stage?

Kellie Pickler: I cannot remember a time where I didn't want to grow up and do what Dolly Parton does! I remember watching her and listening to her records, and Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. I've just always wanted to write songs and live on a bus and tour and be a part of country radio. That's just always been my passion. I can't remember a time where this has not been the No. 1 focus and goal.

HLN: The name of your new album, "The Woman I Am," suggests that you've found your footing, your voice. Do you feel like that's the case?

Pickler: Every day you get to know yourself a little bit more and you change. When people hear the phrase "You've changed," I don't like for someone to look at that in a negative sense because I think it's important that you change. Life affects you and you grow. But "The Woman I Am" came about because I was doing an interview, and the interviewer asked me, "If I were to pick one of your songs to play for a friend who's not familiar with your music, which song would you want me to play that best describes Kellie Pickler?" And I said, "I don't think I've written it yet." So my husband came home from work later that day -- he's a songwriter and producer -- and I'm telling him about this interview, and he picks up his guitar and we start writing "The Woman I Am!"

HLN: So you feel that song describes you very well?

Pickler: Oh, definitely! It points out maybe some of my strengths, but definitely my weaknesses. I'm stubborn and I'm proud and I get loud with a beer in my hand. It's the little things that make me me that I've learned to embrace and recognize. I'm human -- we all are!

HLN: You've done so many different things: "American Idol," "Dancing with the Stars," four albums. What's your favorite part of your job?

Pickler: I get to meet so many amazing people. I don't like using the word "fans." The people who buy my records and tickets to my shows, who support me and have supported me from the get-go, I like to refer to them as friends. Because that's what your friends do: Your friends are there, they're in the front row, they support you, they pray for you, they want to see you do well, they've got your back, they're ready to catch you before you hit the ground, and that's what the people who have followed me since "Idol" and the fan-friends that I've made along the way have done. I get to bring joy to people, and in return, they bring me so much joy. So the conversations and the relationships and just how comfortable people are with coming up and telling me their stories.

HLN: Do you actually get the chance to talk to people and really connect with them?

Pickler: There's definitely moments where it's just go, go, go, which is a good problem to have sometimes, but I meet people every day, whether it's at the airport, at the grocery store, at the gas station where I'm pumping gas in my car. I will meet someone and they will start telling me their life story: Where they come from and how one of my songs helped them get through a breakup, or maybe this song is their wedding song, or maybe this song helped them find closure with their father or their mother. I do enjoy those intimate moments where people can talk to me and just have a conversation. There's a healing process that takes place.

HLN: You do a lot of charity work that revolves around military families. Tell us more about that.

Pickler: I work with the USO, the Wounded Warrior Project and several different military-themed charities and organizations. I come from a military family; I have so many friends and family members who are serving. My heart, my love and my prayers go out to anyone who's in service and also to their families and their loved ones because they make a great sacrifice as well. It takes a very special person to be able to make that type of commitment and sacrifice. My job enables me to travel overseas and entertain the troops, to meet people and hear their stories of why they joined service and what got them here.

HLN: Will some of those connections translate into potential future songs?

Pickler: Maybe so. My husband and I and a guitar player of mine, we had started writing some military songs coming back from Iraq from one of our trips. So in the back of my head, I've thought maybe I should do this military-themed record, where I can give a shout-out to the men and women and what they do and what they stand for. That would be really neat. Maybe we'll see that down the road.

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