The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Sunday Profile

July 6, 2014

Running down her dreams

Country music sweetheart Kellie Pickler will take the stage July 19 right here in Beckley at the 11th annual Friends of Coal Auto Fair.

She’s come a long way since her days on “American Idol,” but she certainly hasn’t let her fame and fortune go to her head.

“I’ve been blessed,” Pickler said of her music career, the people in her life and her philanthropic endeavors.

“I knew what my passion was, I ran after it, chased it down and I caught it.”

Pickler, a North Carolina native, was only 19 when she auditioned for the fifth season of “American Idol” in Greensboro.

She finished in sixth place, but that was only the beginning for Pickler.

She has since released four albums, won multiple country music awards, took first place with partner Derek Hough in “Dancing with the Stars” and supported a number of charities.

“I’ve been blessed, but I’ve worked hard and I’ve surrounded myself with people who help me make the right decisions.”

Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn are a few of Pickler’s influences, and she said she only dreamed of joining their ranks when she was a youngster.

“I spent my life chasing dreams and it’s great when your dreams become a reality,” Pickler said.

Her first album, “Small Town Girl,” was released soon after her “American Idol” appearance and she released a self-titled album in 2008.  “100 Proof” was released in 2012, and her newest album hit stores last November — “The Woman I Am.”

She said the title track for her latest album is her most autobiographical song yet, and her husband, Kyle Jacobs, helped her write it.

“This album is a collection of songs, written and found, about what I love, that describe where I am in my life right now.”

She describes herself as a storyteller and said her songs are simply a collection of stories.

Not only is Pickler a talented singer and songwriter, but she is also a very talented dancer.

She and Hough were named the winners of the 16th season of “Dancing with the Stars” in May 2013, but she said her dance background was limited.

“I had never ballroom danced. They don’t really have ballroom classes back home where I’m from,” Pickler said, laughing.

Hough pushed her to do her best though, Pickler said, and even choreographed their routines around her strengths.

“I had an amazing dance partner and teacher. It was such an honor to work with him. I had a lot of fun.”

And when she’s not singing, dancing or touring, Pickler is sure to be found working with one of the many charities she supports.

She’s been doing USO Shows since 2007 and she did her first tour in Iraq.

“It’s by far the most life-changing thing I’ve ever been a part of. It’s life-changing and eye-opening. There are so many things we take for granted that we have no idea about until those luxuries are taken away from us.”

She said the nonprofit organization is all about bringing home to the servicemen and servicewomen. Pickler encourages anyone who is interested in helping to visit uso.org.

“We want to show them we love them, support them and care about what they’re doing.”

Pickler also supports Lung Force, which raises money and awareness for lung cancer, which is the No. 1 cancer killer of women in America.

Her grandmother, Faye Pickler, passed away after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

“She was the woman that raised me and the woman I called ‘mom,’ so this cause is very near and dear to my heart. I love being able to be a part of something that helps save lives.”

Pickler also supports breast cancer funding and research, another form of cancer that has personally affected her.

Her best friend, Summer Miller, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, and to show her support before her bestie started chemotherapy treatments, Pickler shaved her head along with Miller.

“At the end of the day, it’s just hair,” Pickler said. “We can be so hard on ourselves as women, placing these unrealistic expectations on ourselves. We just need to be the best people we can be. We have one body and one life and we need to make the best of it.”

She said shaving her head with her best friend was very liberating and she enjoyed breaking the mold about what society expects a woman to look like.

Not only does Pickler support lung and breast cancer research, she also supports St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“When God’s blessed me so much, I have so much to be thankful for, and I’m now in a position to be part of something bigger and better than myself.”

She’ll be paying a visit to West Virginia in July, a state she frequented when she was younger.

“I’m really looking forward to coming back and spending time with some true country music fans.”

Pickler will be performing July 19 at the Friends of Coal Auto Fair, along with Jake Owen.

She said she is personally a big Jake Owen fan and believes he is a wonderful asset to this generation of country music fans.

As for her part of the performance, she said the audience can expect to hear songs from her first three albums and a lot of the new music, too.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

For more information about the Friends of Coal Auto Fair or to purchase tickets, visit www.friendsofcoalautofair.com.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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