As CMA Music Festival kicks off this week and thousands of country disciples descend upon Music City, Kellie Pickler gives visiting fans a glimpse into her Nashville: her favorite under-the-radar artist, her wildest honky-tonk hang-out and what she does at home with her songwriter husband that could get them arrested. Here's the Tammy Wynette throwback's travelogue, in her own words.
My Favorite New Country Artist
"One of my favorite underground artists is a guy named Ruston Kelly. He's so raw and real. After my granny died, I got her old record player and all her old vinyl, and there is this sound that comes out of those speakers when I put a Tammy Wynette album on. I can actually hear the tear in her voice. And Ruston has that tear. He has a story to tell. He is so amazing that he doesn't need to have a circus going on onstage to put on a great show. All he needs is himself and a little guitar, and he's captivating."
My Favorite Honky-Tonk
"Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. We go nestle up in that corner booth by the window. I love watching aspiring new talent. We were just there because a girlfriend of mine is getting married this summer and we were hosting her bridal party shower. We had a great party for her. We went from a Breakfast at Tiffany's theme down to Broadway, and went from drinking champagne to whiskey."
My Favorite Current Song
"'Automatic,' by Miranda Lambert. It's about something different than what everything else is. I love its message and I love her voice, and that melody. It just sounds great. I think it's very cleverly written and a sweet song. "
My Favorite Live Performer
"I haven't seen him in concert in a long time, but one of my favorites is Jamey Johnson. I don't care about bells and whistles; I just want to hear a good country song. I love him up there just singing. And I love Eric Church's music too. He has some great songs and I love his voice. I believe what he's singing. He sings with conviction."
My Favorite Underrated Artists
"Ashley Monroe. She is, to me, our modern-day Dolly Parton. She sounds like she is from that generation. She is an incredible songwriter. And Randy Houser is a total powerhouse. I took him and Jamey Johnson with me to Iraq on a USO tour one time and it was the first time I had heard Randy sing live. I went, 'Really? I'm supposed to sing now? After that?'"
My Favorite Nashville Restaurant
"There's a little restaurant in the Green Hills neighborhood called Firefly, and it's so good. We just had dinner there with some friends. They have really good scallops. It's amazing, fresh, home-cooked food that is healthy and good. And there is another restaurant called Kayne Prime [in the Gulch area] that has the best kale salad in the world. And the best scallops. I'm the scallop queen!"
My Favorite Way to Unwind
"Entertaining at our house. My husband [Kyle Jacobs] is a songwriter and producer and we invite our artist and songwriter friends over for what we call the 'Redneck Supper Club Party.' We grill out, and we have a screened-in porch by the pool where we will sit and jam. It's funny because we're right in Nashville and we're the ones with bonfires, the ones breaking the law. We're those people."