Interview: Kellie Pickler Talks Highlighting Good on ‘Pickler & Ben’, Honoring Her Grandmother Through Music
Kellie Pickler is a woman of many talents: She's a singer and was a major contender on American Idol during the show's fifth season -- and her debut album then sold almost one million copies. Pickler also proved herself to be a quick learner and an excellent dancer, winning Dancing With the Stars in 2013. And she has a magnetic personality and can quickly connect with others, making her the perfect choice for her own CMT reality show, I Love Kellie Pickler, as well as to co-host the brand-new daytime TV talk show Pickler & Ben.
Pickler & Ben, co-hosted by journalist Ben Aaron, premiered on Sept. 18, but Pickler and fellow country artist Faith Hill -- who is one of the show's executive producers, along with former Oprah Winfrey Show co-executive producer Lisa Erspamer and Hill's manager Jason Owen -- were already talking about it way back in 2015.
"I fell in love with the concept instantly," Pickler tells The Boot. "It's positive, uplifting, a lifestyle talk show, and we get to an shine a light on people in the community doing do great things. We get to surprise military families, and we get to be a part of something that's positive. I fell in love with it instantly."
The fact Pickler & Ben is the first-ever talk show based in Nashville is something special, too. Pickler remembers, "I thought, 'There's nothing that doesn't feel right about this. Everything feels right about this.' I instantly jumped on board and said, 'Absolutely, I would be honored.'"
Aaron is the opposite of Pickler in so many ways, but he's perfectly matched to co-host with her. The singer tells The Boot, "The moment that we met, it clicked. It was like brother and sister. He became the brother that I never had!"
It's clear that Pickler adores her new show, but that's not due to her role as its co-host, or even because it puts her in the spotlight. Rather, it's because Pickler & Ben is part of something positive and giving; there's deep heart and care behind the screen.
"I've never experienced anything like this before," she reflects. "I am so blessed to work with the people I work with every day ... It's just a joyful show, and we want to make people smile. We want to make people feel good and be a bright light in their world. We get to do this with the show, and it really is wonderful."
Pickler adds that Pickler & Ben is able to spotlight "good people who do great things" and "serve those who serve": "We get to use Pickler & Ben as a vehicle to be a part of things that matter and give back to the community," she continues. "It feels good to give. It feels good to do something for other people. We get to do that every day."
If Pickler's reality show, I Love Kellie Pickler, gets picked up for another season, Pickler says viewers will get to see a whole lot of behind-the-scenes action from Pickler & Ben, too.
As if two television shows weren't enough work, Pickler recently released a deeply meaningful new single, "If It Wasn't for a Woman;" the song -- which she performed for the first time during the 2017 CMA Music Festival -- is about Pickler's late grandmother, Faye, the woman who raised Pickler, along with Pickler's grandfather, Clyde Sr.
Faye is "the woman I called mom," Pickler notes, and the anniversary of her death recently hit Pickler particularly hard -- but it turned into something beautiful.
"I was on the phone with my Great-Aunt Jean, which is my grandmother's sister; they were best friends, they were very close," Pickler shares. "She was going to put flowers on the grave ... I told her before we hung up the phone, 'I hope she visits me today. I need her. I hope she visits me today,' and Aunt Jean says, 'Oh, she will, baby, she will.'"
Pickler recalls that she walked into her kitchen, and her husband, Kyle Jacobs, and their friend Brian Bunn were sitting at the table. She recounted her conversation with her great-aunt, and the song came pouring out.
"It was like my grandma wrote it," Pickler says. "We wrote it around the kitchen table, talking about her love and the influence and impact she had on my life. It happened so organically."
Though her grandmother is gone, her spirit and impact live on through Pickler. The memory of her grandma greatly affects how the singer approaches life.
"One of the most beautiful qualities about my grandmother -- she had so much grace for everyone; she was a safe place for everyone," Pickler shares. "I try to think about her every decision I make: 'Would she be proud of this? Would she be able to sit here in the front row and watch her baby girl do this? Say this? Sing this? Would this make her proud? Would this honor her?' I am always very mindful of that."
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