From her sixth-place finish on American Idol to a winning appearance on Dancing With the Stars, Kellie Picker is no stranger to TV land. But the country singer now has her own show, a 13-episode reality romp titled I Love Kellie Pickler that premieres tonight, November 5th, at 10:00 p.m./ET on CMT.
Produced by American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, the series shines a light not on Pickler's music, but on her relationship with husband, songwriter and producer Kyle Jacobs. In a sizzle reel for the show, CMT captures the pair relaxing at home, speeding through the Nashville suburbs in Pickler's Jeep and attempting to say "boiled peanuts" with heavy Southern accents. Not exactly Emmy material, perhaps. . .but that's fine with Pickler, who views the show as a video scrapbook capturing the highlights — not the lows — of the past summer.
"It's lighthearted and funny and silly," she told Rolling Stone Country last week, hours after the show wrapped up its final day of filming. "These are short, 30-minute episodes, so it's not anything dramatic or serious. We just wanted to capture who we are when we clock out of work. It's about us — not what we do for our profession, but what we do at home with our friends."
You've been on television since American Idol in 2005. Take us back to that time. What was it like being part of the biggest show on TV?
With Idol, you don't know what you're doing. That show shines a light on people who are green in the business, and I was definitely green. I was 19! I'd never been on an airplane. Suddenly, I'm out in Hollywood and don't know anybody. I don't know who's on my side. I just decided to wear my heart on my sleeve and learn as I go. There's no way to prepare for this industry, so you just have to jump in and see what happens. And at the end of the day, this is all first-world problems. We're in the entertainment world! We are supposed to entertain people.
I Love Kellie Pickler focuses on your life offstage. Did your time on Idol teach you any lessons about keeping parts of your personal life private?
One of the things that makes the singers on that show so relatable is that Idol does shine a light on their backstories, so people at home can get to know them. This new show isn't a huge stretch from that. My story has always been an open book. With anything you do in life — professionally or personally — you have to build boundaries and only share what you're comfortable sharing. If you don't feel comfortable sharing a private part of your life, you don't have to. So from the get-go, Kyle and I had to build boundaries. You can let people in without exploiting every part of your life.
So you didn't have cameramen camping out in your living room, waiting to capture you as soon as you woke up?
We had a schedule. They're not just there whenever they wanna be. We woke up and would know when they were coming to the house, so it's wasn't a big surprise when they were there, capturing a moment. But life is unpredictable and things happen, and sometimes we'd in the middle of shooting a scene and something unpredictable would happen, and we'd have to decide whether to keep it in or not.
Watching these episodes now, does it feel weird to see your home life on television?There's always that one person in your group of friends who's always taking pictures or recording what's happening or documenting every moment. This just feels like that. It's like a video scrapbook of what we did with our day. It was just a few months out of our lives, and we're both pretty easygoing about it. If the season doesn't do great, we'll go on to the next thing. If it does well, we'll shoot another. It's not a life or death situation.
You spent part of the summer on the road, too. Fans must be expecting a new album. Was there pressure to use the show as a vehicle to premiere some new songs?
Not really; it was just a whole different project. One project helps benefit another project, maybe, but it just felt like something different than what we've been doing for the past 10 years. If it shines a light on other parts of my career, great! I look at women I've always admired in our format, from Dolly to Reba, and they are country music royalty and have established themselves as strong women. They've ventured out. They've done TV. They've done Broadway. Dolly has a theme park! You don't have to limit yourself to one thing if you don't want to.
Is that why you're working with Faith Hill on that recently announced daytime talk show, too?
Yes. I started in this industry when I was 19. I've been living in a bus since then, seeing the world, singing the same songs over and over. I love it, but I wanted to see what else I could do. I wanted to branch out, and maybe I can marry it all together, and do all of these projects at once.
There is new music on the way, though, right?
I recently recorded a new Christmas song — "My Christmas Caroline" — and it's about Christmas in North Carolina, growing up with my grandma. That comes out on Black Friday [November 27th]. It was hard to get into the studio in the middle of doing this other stuff. We're hoping this winter will let us bury ourselves in the studio and write and really get some music put together, after the promotion of the show. Music will always be very much present.