Kellie Pickler doesn’t do anything with just half her heart.
When she puts out a country album – “The Woman I Am” drops Monday – she fills it with songs “that I love, that I identified with, or that told a part of my life story.”
When she commits to ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” she trains for 10 hours a day and wins the whole thing.
When she says she’s shaving her head to support a friend with breast cancer, the clippers come out and she winds up bald.
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So when she told the Observer in October that she hoped to do something special for her hometown of Albemarle in November after a long absence, it comes as little surprise that it wasn’t just talk.
“I’m trying to work in some time during the album launch to be able to come home and meet people, shake hands, take pictures, sign CDs ... where it’s not an in-and-out kind of a thing,” Pickler said during a phone interview Oct. 18. “(I’d like to) actually have conversations with people and say, ‘thank you,’ and spend a little bit of time in Carolina.”
Less than three weeks later, Nashville indie label Black River Entertainment announced that its biggest star would mingle with North Carolina fans during CD signings at two Wal-Marts over two days: the first in Belmont on Thursday, and the second in Albemarle on Friday.
It will be her first visit to the Charlotte area since slipping quietly into town in July to see the Beyoncé concert with childhood friends from a suite at Time Warner Cable Arena.
This week’s release of “The Woman I Am” – her fourth full-length album since gaining fame on “American Idol” more than seven years ago – caps an extraordinarily busy year for Pickler, 27.
She joined the cast of “Dancing With the Stars” last winter, and spent the spring cha-cha-cha-ing, jive-ing, rumba-ing, foxtrotting and quickstepping her way to the title alongside professional dance partner Derek Hough.
When she wasn’t dancing, she was singing.
“I’ve never in my life worked harder than what I did when I was on the show. I was bouncing from the dance studio to the recording studio and trying to get this thing together and finished up,” Pickler said of the new CD, which features 12 tracks including songs co-written by her and by husband Kyle Jacobs.
She also was honoring tour dates throughout “Dancing’s” run.
“Derek would fly with me to wherever I had a concert, and we would have to find a dance studio to practice in. (It wasn’t uncommon) to see us dancing in the airport going to our terminal ... to see us tango to Gate C33 trying to squeeze in a rehearsal.”
Things haven’t slowed down much since Pickler was crowned the show’s Season 16 winner in May.
In addition to tour dates, she appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Oct. 1 with Summer Miller (the friend she shaved her head for) to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month; she was in Raleigh Oct. 19 to accept an award from the USO of North Carolina for her support of military heroes; and she was a presenter Tuesday night at the 47th Annual CMA Awards.
She’ll perform at The Orange Peel in Asheville on Nov. 19 and at the Durham Performing Arts Center on Nov. 23. And as soon as she can, she plans to book a Charlotte show. Or maybe something even closer to home.
“I haven’t had a chance to go home to Albemarle and do anything musically there – that would be great,” Pickler said. “Not many places to perform in Albemarle, though. We’ll have to find a field or something and set up a truck bed there. I don’t know. Get some hay bales ...”