Kellie Dawn Pickler (born June 28, 1986) is an American country music artist and television personality. She gained fame as a contestant on the fifth season of the Fox reality show American Idol, eventually finishing in sixth place. In 2006, she signed to BNA Records as a recording artist, releasing her debut album, Small Town Girl, later that year. To date, it has sold 817,000 copies. The album, which was certified gold by the RIAA, produced three singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts: "Red High Heels" at #15, "I Wonder" at #14, and "Things That Never Cross a Man's Mind" at #16. The first single from her self-titled second album is "Don't You Know You're Beautiful". It was released in mid-2008 and reached the Top 25. The second single from her self-titled album is "Best Days of Your Life" which she co-wrote with Taylor Swift which has now become her first Top Ten hit and her most successful hit to date.
Pickler was born at Stanly Memorial Hospital in Albemarle, North Carolina, to Cynthia Morton and Clyde "Bo" Raymond Pickler, Jr. Her mother left when Kellie was 2. She came back and got custody for two years, but the court returned the girl to her grandparents when she was 12, as her father was in and out of jail during her childhood. Therefore, she was raised by her grandparents. The major influences in her life are her grandfather, a former electrician Clyde Raymond Pickler, Sr., and grandmother Faye Pickler. She was raised in Palestine, a small town near Albemarle. She has a half brother named Eric, a half sister, Courtney, and a half brother, Michael; however, she has never met Michael. After her grandmother's death from lung cancer in January 2002, she continued to reside with her grandfather and her younger sibling Eric until she became a contestant on Idol. Pickler graduated in 2004 from North Stanly High School in New London, North Carolina. She was a cheerleader and beauty queen. She sang "On the Side of Angels" by LeAnn Rimes at her high school graduation.
She worked as a waitress at a Sonic Drive In franchise and, in 2005, she made an appearance on WSOC-TV's Gimme the Mike! Charlotte contest. She finished in second place. She participated in the Miss America circuit and won the "Miss Stanly County" pageant at age 17 and subsequently competed for Miss North Carolina 2004. She dropped out and later focused on paralegal studies.
Main article: American Idol (season 5)
The 19-year-old Pickler auditioned for American Idol in the fall of 2005 in Greensboro, North Carolina. She sang both Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" and Martina McBride's "A Broken Wing". The judges sent her to Hollywood. Pickler advanced through the semi-final rounds in February. On March 9, she reached the Top 12.
Pickler was among judge Simon Cowell's favorites. He once predicted Pickler would be in the final three, and said he preferred her over the previous season's winner, Carrie Underwood. Recognized for her "quirky" personality and Southern charm, Pickler gained attention on the show by saying that she had hardly ever performed before real audiences, and by mispronouncing words. She was compared to Jessica Simpson in a March 27 story in US Weekly magazine titled "Kellie: The Next Jessica Simpson", due to her "sweet Southern style and ditzy demeanor". Pickler has stated several times that she was not heavily exposed to modern pop culture.
Performances and results (during voting weeks)
Top 24 (12 Women)
Top 20 (10 Women)
"Something to Talk About"
Top 16 (8 Women)
"I'm the Only One"
"Blame It on the Sun"
"Walkin' After Midnight"
Songs from The 21st Century
"Suds in the Bucket"
Great American Songbook
"Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered"
Kellie Pickler and members of her band Joshua Henson, left, and Ryan Ochsner perform for U.S. service members during the first stop of the 2008 USO Holiday Tour on Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany, Dec. 16, 2008.
After her elimination, she appeared in numerous shows promoting the TV show and performed the song "Walkin' After Midnight" in some of her appearances.
On May 6, 2006, she returned to Albemarle, North Carolina, for a parade and a reunion with her father. She received a key to the city from the mayor of Albemarle. The mayor also proclaimed the day as "Kellie Pickler Day." Pickler also received numerous awards from local and statewide government officials praising her accomplishments as a contestant on the American Idol television show.
Pickler pursued her recording aspirations in Nashville, Tennessee, shortly thereafter. On July 17, 2006, she signed a record deal with 19 Recordings/BNA Records. She later announced it herself on The View. She was part of the American Idol Pop Tarts tour ensemble, performing for three months in various cities. During that period, Pickler worked on her album in collaboration with top industry experts in different cities wherever the tour took her.
2006?2007: Small Town Girl
See also: Small Town Girl
Her first single, "Red High Heels", debuted on September 13, 2006, and its music video was officially released on October 20, 2006. It reached #1 on the GAC Top 20 Countdown on February 9 and received a nomination for the CMT Video Awards for "Best Breakthrough Artist Video".
Her debut album, Small Town Girl, released on October 31, 2006, topped Billboard's Top Country Albums and landed at #9 on Billboard Top 200 selling over 79,000 copies in its first week. Its sales made her the best selling new country solo artist of 2006. The album includes five songs that Pickler co-wrote with songwriters Chris Lindsey, Aimee Mayo and Karyn Rochelle.
On January 18, 2007, Pickler co-hosted The View and was presented with a gold record by Rosie O'Donnell, certifying that her album has gone gold. She also performed her second single "I Wonder", which is a personal song about her absent relationship with her mother, Cynthia Morton. It was the first performance of the song on national TV.
Pickler was nominated for "Top New Female Vocalist" for the 42nd Academy of Country Music Awards.
She was also part of Brad Paisley's "Bonfires & Amplifiers" concert tour from April 2007 through October as one of the opening acts. The tour was booked in at least 37 cities in the U.S. including a couple of stops in Canada.
Pickler appeared in country music artist Brad Paisley's music video "Online" in 2007.
On September 2007, Pickler released a version of "Santa Baby" for a Christmas country compilation. A month later, at the ASCAP Awards in Nashville, Pickler received a songwriter award for co-writing her debut single "Red High Heels". She performed her second single, "I Wonder", at the 2007 CMA Awards. During the performance, she was visibly overcome with emotion and struggled to even finish the song before bursting into tears. The performance received a standing ovation. She was also nominated for the Horizon Award. The performance led her to receive 3 CMT awards the following April.
In November, 2007, Pickler appeared on a Celebrity Edition of the quiz show Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, playing for the charities of her choice (American Red Cross and the AARP's Grandparenting Program). Worth a guaranteed $25,000, she was asked, "Budapest is the capital of what European country?". She replied, "This might be a stupid question? I thought Europe was a country?". She voiced that it might be a place where people spoke French, and then was repeatedly confused as to whether France really was a country or not. When told the answer was Hungary, she did not believe the host. She said, "Hungry ? That's a country? I've heard of Turkey, but Hungry? I've never heard of it". The video has become a YouTube hit.
While on her first USO concert tour in Iraq, Pickler met a few people from Budapest, Hungary, who presented her with a flag of their country.
2008?present: Kellie Pickler
While "Things That Never Cross a Man's Mind" was climbing the country charts (it eventually reached #16), Pickler returned to the studio to record her second studio album for 19 Recordings/BNA Records. She performed the debut single, "Don't You Know You're Beautiful" at the ACM Awards on May 18, 2008 and received a good response from the audience. She was nominated for "Top New Female Vocalist", but the award went to one of her best friends Taylor Swift.
"Don't You Know You're Beautiful" was released to radio in June 2008 and was a Top 25 hit for Pickler, peaking eventually at #21. Her second self-titled album, Kellie Pickler, was released on September 30, 2008 and debuted at the top of the country chart, as well as #9 on the Billboard 200, selling over 43,000 copies in its first week. It matched the debuting spots of her first album, Small Town Girl.
On November 12, 2008, Pickler performed the second single off her album, "Best Days of Your Life" a song which she co-wrote with Swift. She was also nominated for "New Artist Of The Year" for the second year in a row, but she lost to Lady Antebellum.
"Best Days of Your Life" made its radio debut in November 2008, and debuted at #56. The song climbed very slowly up the chart, but, the song ended up becoming Pickler's first Top 10 hit on the Hot Country Songs chart. After nearly 40 weeks on the chart, the song peaked at #9 in August 2009.
Pickler was nominated for "Female Video Of The Year" at the 2009 CMT Music Awards for "Don't You Know You're Beautiful". She lost once again to one of her best friends Taylor Swift. She also presented the award for "USA Weekend Breakthrough Video Of The Year" with Idol judge Randy Jackson.
Pickler accompanied one of her best friends Taylor Swift on the first leg of her Fearless Tour 2009. In June, she launched her first ever headline concert tour in promotion of her self-titled album.
"Didn't You Know How Much I Loved You", a re-recording from Pickler's debut album, Small Town Girl, was released on August 30, 2009 as the third single and debuted at #55.
Pickler's father, whom she describes as an alcoholic and drug addict, recently served a three-year, nine-month prison sentence at Florida State Prison for aggravated assault and battery stemming from a 2003 stabbing incident. He was released on May 6, 2006, a week after her elimination from Idol.
Pickler's mother was repeatedly charged with writing bad checks and was convicted in 1988 for passing a forged prescription for Valium at the Albemarle Wal-Mart, where she worked. The day after Pickler's second birthday, her parents split up. A year later, in July 1989, her mother vanished. When her father would get locked up, Pickler would live with her grandparents, outside Albemarle, which is 45 miles northeast of Charlotte. In 1992, her mother returned to Albemarle, but rarely made contact with her daughter Kellie. But in March 1995, with Bo Pickler in prison for armed robbery, her mother was granted custody. Kellie was in the fourth grade. "She got custody of me for two years," Kellie said in a February interview with The Observer. "During that time, she was physically and mentally abusive of me." In a 1997 court filing, Kellie's grandparents said her mother had moved to Union County with the girl and treated the child harshly. The court restored custody to the grandparents. Her mother vanished again, and Kellie hasn't heard from her since. In a April 2006 interview with NBC Kellie said "One thing that's so important in life is we learn to forgive others. I ask the Lord every day to forgive me for my sins and for things that I've done wrong. And who am I to not forgive someone for what they've done?" said Kellie. "I have forgiven her. I know that I haven't spoken to her in years and I probably wouldn't know her if I saw her. But she's my mother and she's a person. God tells us to love everyone. And I love her. She's my mother."
On February 26, 2007, she met her personal 'idol' and strongest influence, the country music superstar Dolly Parton. The surprise was arranged by Sony BMG Nashville chairman Joe Galante.
In 2007, Pickler was in a relationship with Nashville Predators player Jordin Tootoo and visited his family in Nunavut, Canada. Later that year, the two broke up.
Pickler's best friend has been Summer Miller, who Pickler met when they were teen pageant hopefuls. Pickler is close friends with American Idol fourth season winner Carrie Underwood ,country pop singer Taylor Swift, the latter of whom co-wrote Pickler's second single "Best Days of Your Life" from her album Kellie Pickler,, with her American Idol roommate Katharine McPhee, for whom she was a bridesmaid at McPhee's 2008 wedding and also with songwriter Aimee Mayo.
In June 2008, she joined close friend Carrie Underwood, a long-time vegetarian, in giving up eating meat. Pickler says she first decided to go vegetarian for health reasons, but a TV ad that vegetarian Pamela Anderson did for animal rights group PETA piqued her curiosity. "One night I couldn't sleep and I was up and just Googling random stuff and I'm like, 'Hmmm, PETA.' I saw all the videos and I just thought it was horrible. It's animal cruelty. A lot of it has to do with knowing what happens to the animals and it really bothered me and so I will not eat meat." In May 2009, it was announced that Pickler was nominated and won the title of "World's Sexiest Vegetarian" by PETA.
Pickler has stated that she is a fan of NASCAR. She performed at the Orbitz 300, the season-opener of the 2007 NASCAR Busch Series Season. In 2008, she performed at the Food Lion Speed Street NASCAR 600 Festival, a weekend-long event leading up to the 2008 Coca-Cola 600.
Pickler is dating Nashville song writer Kyle Jacobs, who also co-wrote two songs of her second album: "One Last Time" and "Going Out in Style".
Kellie Pickler performs at the USO Holiday show at Kandahar Air Field (December 2008)
Pickler actively supports St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, where she helps raise funds and gives kids special visits. She also participates in charitable events to help raise funds for various organizations. She performed live to help raise funds for the "N. C. Children's PROMISE" to benefit the Children's Hospital in Nov. 12, 2006, performed live to help refurbish the Hurricane Katrina damaged NFL Youth Education Towns Boys & Girls Club of New Orleans on December 16, 2006, visited St. Jude Children?s Research Hospital on January 12, 2007, and visited Pennington Elementary School in February 1, 2007. ?When you?re able to give back to your communities and organizations like St. Jude, it?s a great thing,? Pickler said. ?It?s been a great experience, and I encourage anyone and everyone to help.?
Pickler was part of a Country and Western artist studded online auction for charity by Mario Magro: Kiss for a Cause Foundation Celebrity Auction held June 15?25, 2007, in support of orphaned and abandoned children. The event auctioned off celebrity lip prints and signature pressed on the inside of Mario Magro Crystal Le Coop handbags at the 42nd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.
She has participated in two USO tours. The first, in late 2007 and early 2008, took her to Iraq; the second, in December 2008, included stops in Germany, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and England.
In early August 2009, Pickler participated in ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition's rebuilding of James Terpenning's family home in Beavercreek, Ohio. Pickler performed a free concert at the home, and helped during reconstruction.