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New CD, TV special make Pickler a busy girl

September is a big month for Albemarle native Kellie Pickler. The “American Idol” alum co-hosts “CMA Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock” with Taylor Swift and Julianne Hough at 9 p.m. Sept. 8 on ABC, and her second CD is due Sept. 30. Following are excerpts from an interview with staff writer Mark Price.

Q. You do a lot of TV work: What do TV producers like so much about you?

I don't know. It's so crazy. This has been going on since “American Idol.” I'm so nervous when I'm doing it, especially when I'm asked to interview people. I'm used to being interviewed, not doing interviews. It tears me apart and my nerves are shot all to hell for the week. But hosting the ABC special wasn't so bad, because I knew all the acts, like Rascal Flatts. They're like my big brothers. If I had to say what producers like about me, I guess it's that I'm being myself. I think people eventually see through someone who is not real.

Q. Any embarrassing moments?

When I was on “Are you Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” and I didn't know the capital of Hungary. I'm sorry, but I guarantee that if you walk the streets of Albemarle and ask somebody what is the capital of Hungary, most wouldn't know it was Budapest. There were people who made fun of me, like people make fun of you in high school. But I'm proud that I raised $50,000 for charity on that show.

What you have to keep in mind is that I was 19 when I first auditioned for “American Idol.” I'd never been on an airplane; I'd never been outside of my hometown, except to go to Myrtle Beach. I'm 22 now. I'm learning a lot about life, and it's all in front of the cameras.

Q. How will this new CD be different from the last?

I worked on the first album on the days I was off from the “American Idol” tour, so it was difficult and rushed. It wasn't the greatest experience, but I've taken more time with this one and spent two years writing songs. Plus, I've been singing every night for the past three years, so there's a drastic difference in my voice. I think five of my songs will definitely make the album. Taylor (Swift) and I wrote one song and she sings harmony on it, which was cool.

Q. Do you get home to Albemarle much?

I live in Nashville now and I don't get back that much. I'm too busy. I'm on a tour bus and haven't had a chance to do anything but work. It's always good when I come home and catch up with familiar faces. It's cool to go back and see people are proud of me and supportive. I will never forget what my hometown did for me when I was on “American Idol.” They had voting parties, and everything shut down and they had big screens up and watched the show outside. Whatever I do, I try hard to represent North Carolina as best I can. I always try to take into consideration that I'm a reflection of Albemarle. I don't want to reflect badly on anyone.

Q. Are you happy?

Yes, I am. It has taken awhile. I still have these moments where I get on the tour bus, where I cry, and I think to myself, ‘Why am I crying?' My life is just so surreal, with so much happening in such a short amount of time. I'm lonely and I miss my friends. I've missed out on a lot of things. My best friend got married and I was supposed to be the maid of honor and I couldn't even go to the wedding because I had a show. I guess I'm paying my dues now. Maybe when I'm better established, I can find more time for my family and friends.