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Kellie Pickler Discusses Mom, Dad and Others Who Inspired ’100 Proof’

Kellie Pickler
BNA Nashville

Perhaps as much as any country artist, Kellie Pickler shares the details of her oft-tortured personal life with her fans and critics. On previous albums, she sang about her mother (‘I Wonder’) and an ex-boyfriend (‘Best Days of Your Life’). Unlike, say Taylor Swift, Pickler isn’t afraid to name names, but for the most part that’s because the “names” are related to her.

’100 Proof’ serves as an autobiography of Pickler at age 25. She’s married now (‘Rockaway’) but still keeps a close eye on her father, a recovering alcoholic with a criminal history (‘The Letter’). “I hope he takes this song exactly the way that I sing this song,” she says, “and that is from a state of love and I’m so proud of him.”

While she says she’s come to peace with her relationship with her mother, it’s clear she still thinks about her and the mother she’ll become one day (‘Mother’s Day’). Grandpa Ken doesn’t make the album, but he lives with Pickler and Kyle Jacobs now, so she gets a chance to talk to him anytime. Ex-boyfriends, and her childhood are other topics explored on ’100 Proof,’ the most raw and vulnerable project of the former ‘American Idol’ contestant’s career.

The music on ’100 Proof’ is a pretty big deviation from what was on your first two albums, did you have to fight with your record label to go in this direction?

To be honest, it was a big risk to take for all of us. I understand that record companies are in a tight spot right now where it’s kind of scary to take risks … how people get music now is so different than what it used to be. People don’t buy records anymore necessarily, the tangible copy, so I understand and I completely get the fact that record companies are somewhat scared to do anything risky. But fortunately I’ve been able to go in the studio and make a record that I am more proud of than anything I’ve ever done. I’m so proud of this record. I love the songs, I poured myself into making this record and it’s been a good journey. I really got lost in making this record and sometimes you gotta get lost to find yourself.

In a lot of ways it does play like a biography. How did your dad react when he heard ‘The Letter?’

He hasn’t heard it yet.

Are you going to make him buy it?

[laughs] No, I just got the tangible copy. I wanted to get the whole package, the CD in the tray so that I could write him a personal note in there and send it to him. It’s funny you say that, because I’m actually getting that in the mail for him today.

Update your fans as to where your relationship with your dad is, and also where you are with your mom and the rest of your family.

Umm, well as far as mom goes there is no relationship. So there’s really nothing to say on that. There’s been absolutely no contact so there’s not a relationship.

As far as my dad goes … it’s been a rough journey, it’s been hard. But life ain’t easy, is it? But my dad and I … I’ve always been a daddy’s girl regardless of what anybody might say or think. Like any alcoholic, it’s a hard road. And once you’re an alcoholic you’re always an alcoholic. You’re never not an alcoholic even if you’ve been sober for 35 or 40 years. It’s still something that you constantly battle and you work with.

You know, I grew up going to Al-Anon and A.A. with my dad, which is good because he knows that I support him and love him and I’m his daughter and he’s my dad and that’s never gonna change. My love for him is never gonna change. And that’s what ‘The Letter’ is about. My dad is sober now, he’s clean. He’s clean and sober today. What tomorrow and the future holds, we don’t know.

‘Mother’s Day’ is also about motherhood and your mother, did you have any hesitation about going back there again? (2007′s ‘I Wonder’ was about their troubled relationship)

When my husband and I wrote this, I had no intentions of recording it. It was really just written out of the blue on Mother’s Day and had no intentions of anyone hearing it or going into the studio to cut it for that matter. And it just kind of found its place on the record, I guess because it was supposed to be on there.

‘I Wonder’ was written and sung from the eyes of a child. ‘Mother’s Day’ is a woman, a grown woman accepting the fact that things are the way that they are. But it ends in hope. And I in no way shape or sing this song with any hard feelings or negative feelings. I sing this song in a forgiveness place. I think I’ve went through all the emotions of being pissed, or hurt and angry and mad and frustrated and I learned real quick that that doesn’t help anything. It didn’t make me feel any better. it didn’t change the fact that things are the way they are. But it wasn’t until I crossed that bridge of forgiveness that I can move forward. And with that song it helped me move forward.

Who were you thinking about when you wrote ‘Long As I Never See You Again.’

I’m not gonna say who I was thinking about, because I don’t need to.

Will he know?

Umm, he might. I guess if he hears it he might. I don’t know if he likes me enough right now to buy my record so he might not hear it [laughs].

Does he play hockey? (Pickler once dated Jordin Tootoo)

No. No he does not play hockey.

Knowing what sacrifices it takes to have a career like some of the artists you’ve opened for, is that something that you want? Do you want that fame?

I don’t care about being famous. I just wanna sing country music. I don’t give a damn about being famous, I just wanna sing country music. Does that make sense?

Yeah, but perhaps I didn’t mean fame, but the success?

Well, I think everyone’s definition of success is different. For me success is being in a place of happiness. I know a lot of people that are in the business and people that are not in the business that have other professions that you look at and they have it all. There’s nothing that they don’t have except for one thing and that is they’re not happy. They’re not happy people. To me, you can have all the money in the world and all the fame in the world and still lay your head on your pillow and cry because you’re not happy.

For me, I feel very successful in the fact that I have come so far from my raising and how I was brought up to where I am now. I look at my husband and I think, “This man … this is all I need.” I get to go on stage every night and sing songs that I love and I got an album now that I am just more proud of than anything and of course I want my music to be heard by as many people as possible, every artist wants that. Every songwriter and every singer wants their as many people to hear their music as (possible).

So I don’t ever look at it any other way I guess. I don’t really feel any different. I don’t know if that’s because I don’t watch myself, I don’t … I never saw the ’90210′ thing because I don’t wanna watch myself. I don’t follow my career. I just f—king sing, you know?

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