At today’s splashy upfront media presentation, CMT announced it will premiere a new fall television series starring Kellie Pickler. Never mind that it doesn’t have an official title yet, and not a single frame of video has been shot.
“We’re in the creative process right now,” the 28-year-old singer/songwriter explains to Rolling Stone Country as she headed to New York City for the event. “We did a little sizzle reel, and when we went to pitch the sizzle reel, we were just so lucky to go forward. We didn’t think we would go straight to series [without a pilot].”
CMT is gambling on the small town Southern charm and quirky humor of the former American Idol contestant, who became a successful country crooner with radio hits like “Red High Heels” and the underrated album 100 Proof. She also transformed into a bona fide pop-culture sensation after winning the 16th season of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars.
Now on CMT, the cable network has green-lit 10 episodes of Pickler’s 30-minute reality show (working title: I Love Kellie Pickler). Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the program is produced by the Idol alum’s old buddy, Ryan Seacrest, whose track record includes Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
“I’ve been offered reality shows since Idol,” Pickler admits. “With Ryan it just felt right. We’ve been talking about it for years, and just have never made it a priority.”
Pickler’s last album, 2013’s The Woman I Am, was released on Nashville’s indie Black River Entertainment, following her split with BNA Records — her musical home since 2006. The North Carolina-born beauty penned the title track with her husband, songwriter Kyle Jacobs, whom she married in 2011.
Jacobs will be an integral component of the new series, as it follows the couple from their home to the recording studio and everywhere in between, documenting their adventures and misadventures with equal gusto. Pickler and Jacobs also serve as two of the show’s executive producers.
Although currently in the studio working on new songs, Pickler says her new show won’t be music-heavy. “People have seen that done a million times,” she says. Instead, the series will focus on time spent with the couple’s friends. “We laugh so much. We have Redneck Supper Club dinner parties at our house and grill out. I was a huge fan of Lucille Ball, and her funny shenanigans with Ethel that poor Ricky would have to get her out of. We want to play off that type of comedy — lighthearted but natural situations that I get into — and marry that with a Friends-type feel.”
Because the series starts shooting in late April or early May, Pickler has had to cut back on her spring and summer concert schedule. But the versatile entertainer is quick to roll with the punches. She also isn’t shy about voicing her opinion — especially when the conversation turns to Tidal, Jay Z’s new artist-owned streaming service, and its controversial price tag of $19.99 per month for premium audio.
“Music is not free to make. I wish it was. It costs a lot of money to make, unfortunately,” Pickler says passionately. “Songwriters and people behind the song have to make a living too. I think if young people were educated on the business — they just don’t know. Their priority is school, so they’re not really thinking about the side effects of illegally streaming or downloading music. I wouldn’t take my car to the auto shop, and get them to service my car, and then just drive off and not pay for it. That’s how they keep food on the table, that’s what they do for a job. You don’t just go to a grocery store and throw shit in your cart and walk out. You gotta pay for it. It’s the same with music! But I think that people just don’t think about it because music is so accessible.”
Unlike some country artists who are careful not to rock the boat, Pickler is refreshingly candid — a trait that viewers will see in spades on her new reality show.
“I think people know that pretty much what you see is what you get with me,” she says with a laugh. “I’m sure I’ll say things I’ll regret, but that’s part of life. That’s part of growin’ up.”