Dancing With The Stars winner and reality rooted country singer-songwriter Kellie Picker has a pedigree that decrees she won’t back down in a showdown.
The North Carolina born belle has mean genes in the female side of her ancestry.
Although her mother abandoned her as an infant and her dad Bo spent plenty of time behind bars she drew inspiration from her grandparents who raised her, and her pistol packing great grandmother.
Pickler, 27, wrote poignant songs about her mother and father on previous discs but ‘Selma Drye’ is eulogised on fourth album The Woman I Am, released here on the eve of her first Australian tour with Toby Keith and the Eli Young Band.
“She was your true hillbilly grandma,” Pickler told Country Update from Nashville.
“She really had a pistol in her purse, she dipped snuff. She was a spitfire. All us grandkids were all scared of her. She lived in this little trailer in front of my grandparents’ house for over 40 years. She never drove a car, never had a driver’s license – that was the devil. She was just a strong woman and that song is really about her and her generation of women, and how they were raised.”
Ironically, prolific tunesmith husband Kyle Jacobs proposed to Pickler on a Florida beach on June 15, 2010 – anniversary of her late grandmother’s birthday.
Kellie made a rare trip home to Albemarle, North Carolina, in November to launch her album.
Producers Luke Wooten and Frank Liddell (husband of Texan singer Lee Ann Womack) also helmed third album 100 Proof.
First came a song penned by former Alabama death row prison warder Davis Raines and Texan Walt Wilkins.
‘Someone Somewhere Tonight,’ originally recorded by Wilkins, was cut by Kenny Rogers on 2006 album Water & Bridges and Pam Tillis.
Kellie chose it ahead of songs she penned and others by prolific husband Kyle who has written hits for Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins, Jo Dee Messina, Craig Morgan, Clay Walker and many more.
“My husband Kyle pointed me to that song,” Pickler said.
“I fell in love with it the first moment I heard it. I thought it was an amazing, beautifully written song. I think it touches every walk of life. I heard Kenny Rogers’ version and performed it with him at the Ryman Auditorium a couple of weeks ago. He invited me to come and sing it with him – a really special moment. Walt’s version is beautiful too. Derek Hough, my partner in Dancing With The Stars, was in the video in Nashville.”
Pickler’s new single ‘Little Bit Gypsy,’ was penned by husband Kyle, Tammie Kidd Hutton and Fred Wilhlelm.
She jokingly dubbed it ‘A Little Bit Tipsy’ after being presented with three shot glasses on TV by host Ellen De Genres.
DeGeneres poured Jack Daniels and exclaimed, “Ask and you shall receive!”
“It’s a fun light song that has lot of energy and felt good,” Pickler told me.
When Kellie won Dancing With The Stars it blessed her with more than just a multi-media springboard.
“After I won Dancing With The Stars a journalist asked which song of mine best described me and I said ‘You know, honestly I don’t know if I’ve written it yet, but I’m going to.’” Pickler revealed.
“My husband came home that night and we wrote ‘The Woman I Am.’ I guess it’s my song, who I am.”
They also wrote ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ with Liz Rose.
“I love that song, it’s so much fun, we’re going to open up our shows with it on the road,” Pickler confessed.
“It represents that crazy love you might have for the person you’re with.”
Although she includes collaborations with Jacobs it’s a tune Pickler didn’t have a hand in that she says might have a hidden message.
“They were doing a writer’s retreat,” she recalled.
“I think it was during Dancing With the Stars. He was getting ready to write another song. And I said, ‘Well write a song for me, I need a song. So he and three guys wrote ‘No Cure for Crazy.’ I don’t know what they’re trying to say. I thought it was hilarious. It’s so true.”
Pickler admits it’s a luxury being married to a hit writer.
“He writes every day with different people, writes all the time,” Pickler says.
“He’s coming down to Australian with me, it’s both our first time in Australia.”
Pickler has strong links with local peers, dating back to recording Novocastrian Catherine Britt’s original ‘Lucky Girl’ in 2006.
“It’s on my first album, I absolutely adore her,” Kellie said of Britt.
“She’s such an amazing songwriter and singer, she’s very talented. She was respected in Nashville then she moved back to Australia.”
Pickler joined Fawkner singer-songwriter Jasmine Rae for a duet on ‘Bad Boys Get Me Good’ on Rae’s third album If I Want To.
“She’s a powerhouse, an amazing singer and she’s beautiful,” Pickler revealed.
“She heard 100 Proof – my last album – and was a fan of that. She tracked Luke Wooten down who produced it and asked him to produce her record. She came to the States and asked Luke if I would sing on her album.”
Pickler recorded five songs by Texan Leslie Satcher on 100 Proof including the title track.
This time she chose ‘Tough All Over’ penned by Satcher and fellow Texan Gary Nicholson.
“Leslie Satcher is amazing, such an incredible songwriter,” Pickler said.
“She’s a country Texas girl from Paris, Texas. We hit if off from the start.”
Kellie had good reasons for recording Chris Stapleton-Jim Beaver song ‘Ring For Sale’.
“A friend of mine is going through a divorce right now,” Pickler confessed.
“I heard the song on a demo and thought I had to cut that song for my friend. It fits perfectly.”
Pickler included ‘I Forgive You’ – a sibling song to her earlier ‘Mother’s Day’.
She had it in her archives since sessions for debut disc Small Town Girl.
At 20 she co-wrote five tunes and hit #1 with entrée ‘Red High Heels’.
“It just wasn’t meant to be at that time,” Pickler explained about the belated recording because she wasn’t ready to do it justice at the time.
It reflects the pain suffered by the singer, raised by her paternal grandparents after her mother abandoned her at a young age and her father drifted in and out of prison.
“I think it has such a powerful message,” Pickler revealed.
“I think we’ve all been hurt and we’ve all hurt somebody. There’s a lot of grace in that, not just inspired by my mother but inspired by whoever you meet. I love it because there’s so much closure and healing in it. I think there’s so much grace in the words ‘I forgive you.’ I think people are really going to identify with that and hope that song helps lots of people. It’s in my bloodline. I know all the women on my father’s side of the family, and just looking down through the family tree. I have strong women in my family from my great-great grandma Hall to my great-grandma Drye to my grandma Faye that raised me. My aunts, cousins, we got some strong girls, some strong females in our family, and we’ve all had the makings to create something from nothing.”
Pickler wrote ‘The Letter To Daddy’ with Dean Dillon and Dale Dotson on 100 Proof.
“The Letter To Daddy’ is a song about being proud of your father despite everything he put your family through with substance abuse problems and a criminal past,” she explained.
“There are moments in that song where my voice cracks, because when we were cutting it I was really emotional. I’m a Daddy’s girl, and I will always be a part of his life. I lived with my dad whenever he was not incarcerated. And when he was in prison and I lived with my grandparents, we wrote each other letters. Every time the mail came my daddy had written me a letter. I have them all – every single letter he’s ever written me since I was a kid.”
Pickler’s fourth album The Woman I Am is released on Black River-ABC-Universal Music.
Kellie is touring with Toby Keith and Eli Young Band in March – they play the seventh CMC Rocks The Hunter before Rod Laver Arena on March 19.