Kellie Pickler reveals the keys to her success since 'American Idol'
By: Gibson Johns
Can you believe it's been a decade since Kellie Pickler was a contestant on "American Idol"?
In the ten years since she finished in sixth place on the fifth season of "Idol," Pickler has proven to be more than just mainstay in our hearts: She's been a constant presence in country music, having released four hit albums already, ranking her as one of the most successful Idols in the show's history.
From the moment she released her debut single "Red High Heels" in 2006 to the upcoming second season of her beloved CMT reality show, "I Love Kellie Pickler," the blonde bombshell has never stopped putting a smile on our faces and getting our toes tapping.
Before her appearance on AOL BUILD last week, Pickler sat down exclusively with AOL Entertainment to talk about the end of "Idol," what it's like being the star of her own reality show, her partnership with Flonase for the Greater American Road trip and what she attributes her ten years of success to.
Relive Kellie Pickler's "American Idol" journey through photos:
Check out our full conversation with Kellie Pickler below:
You had the chance to appear on the final season of "American Idol" twice -- as a mentor and on the finale -- before it wrapped earlier this month. What was it like to go back?
I'm a fan and a part of the "Idol" family, so it was amazing to go back. We had fifteen seasons worth of Idols there, so it was one big "Idol" family reunion!
What were rehearsals like for that amazing country medley you were part of?
It was great -- it's always good when you're in good company! It was so crazy because, when you think about that many Idols coming back -- there were, like, 60 of us -- with everyone's schedules, nobody was there at the same time for rehearsals. Really, the first time that we did that show all together with every Idol present was the day of the show.
Lauren Alaina and I were sitting there for our duet, and we were literally going, like, "You do this, I'll do that and we'll just see what happens!" She's such a pro and so amazing, so we made it work.
Going back as a mentor must have also been pretty special. Did it serve as a reminder of where your now decade-long career started?
That's crazy to think -- it's been 10 years! I was 19 and green when I did the show, and I was blessed to go back and mentor Tristan and Amelia -- a fifteen-year-old and a sixteen-year-old -- and I couldn't imagine doing the show at their age! But they were pros and they're smart, talented girls. They're going to be just fine.
As you look back onto your career since "Idol," what do you think the key to your success has been?
There are a lot of keys. You don't get a key ring with just one key on it. Actually, you don't even "get" the keys: You have to find the keys along the way and build up your own collection.
When I did "Idol" at 19 and green, I knew then that I wanted to move to Nashville and pursue a career in country music. Knowing who you are and what you want to do plays a big factor, and the people that you surround yourself with also matter a lot. I've been blessed to surround myself with people that love and support and ground me. They give me a pat on my back when I do something right, but they also love me enough to tell me when I'm wrong. It's easy to surround yourself with "yes" people that tell you what you want to hear versus what you need to hear.
Knowing what you want to do and being willing to make the sacrifices to make those things happen is very important. You have to be able to make those things work and also strike while the iron is hot. A lot of people come off of these big shows where they're front and center for months -- you're on people's television sets every week and then all of a sudden it's over; it's in with the new and old with the old.
You have to always work hard. There's never a time in anyone's career where you don't pay your dues -- I don't care who you are. You just have to work hard without compromising your integrity.
Let's talk a bit about your reality show on CMT, "I Love Kellie Pickler," which is headed into its second season! What's the experience of filming your own reality show been like?
It was really great, because I actually got to spend a lot more time with my husband, because usually I'm gone on the road all the time. We actually got to be home together! We really just looked at it like, "We're going to document our lives like everyone else does on their phones." We have a show to document the fun little shenanigans we get ourselves into, and we just document the memories we make together.
What can we expect from season two?
I think it's going to blow season one out of the water -- and I mean that in a positive way! I think that there's always room for improvement and growth. My in-laws just moved into town from Minnesota, so they're adjusting to the Nashville life and weather. This is their first Nashville summer! And our winters are not Minnesota winters, so they got a kick out of the Nashville so-called "winters," for sure.
Did you learn anything about yourself after filming and watching the first season?
Sometimes you can be your biggest critic. I hate to hear myself talk because, I'm like, "My God, I sound like a hick!" [Laughs} I never think I have an accent until I hear myself talk back. It's really a growing process and a learning experience. All you can hope is that that wisdom comes with experience as you get older.
The show is so light-hearted, though -- it's a comedy in short little 30-minute episodes -- so there aren't really moments or situations that are too serious. It's fun.
You're hitting the festival circuit this spring and summer ... how do you prepare for tours?
I feel like I'm just kind of on autopilot or cruise control -- you have to prepare and know what you're doing, but I just kind of get out there and do it. Sometimes thing change last minute or you get a wild hair and want to change something and add a song, but you just have to get up there and have a good time. People are there to enjoy the night and forget about whatever is going on in their world.
Have you been recording any new material recently?
I have not been recording much lately, but hopefully when we get everything wrapped up -- we shoot [for "I Love Kellie Pickler"] almost every day -- I mean, even today is the first day we've had without cameras in a long time. It's pretty much every day because you never know what's going to happen.
You also have an exciting partnership with Flonase Allergy Relief in an effort to shed light on the fact that, despite bad allergies, you don't have to let them stop you from living your life. You're sending the Eh Bee family off on a two-week Greater American Road Trip. Can you tell me more about the campaign?
I'm so excited to be able to partner with Flonase and the Eh Bee family, who I just love -- they're so wonderful and the kids are so precious. I was just sending them off on their road trip! We're sending them to the most allergy-ridden cities in the US, but they'll be just fine with their Flonase! Then we'll meet up in Austin at the iHeartCountry Festival.
(People can follow the Eh Bee Family's trip and their check-in's with Kellie on social media with #BeGreater and at BeGreater.Flonase.com. On the site, you can also enter to win your own ultimate adventure.)
I understand that you've also been an allergy sufferer yourself.
I've always been an allergy sufferer, but it got even worse when I moved to Nashville. I didn't know this, but Nashville is actually one of the US cities with the highest allergy counts. When I first moved there, it was described to me like a bowl: Everything just falls down into it and stays there. If you have a black car, it's going to be yellow! [Laughs]
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