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Pickler well-schooled in singing

By Jack Hill

This article was published February 29, 2008 at 2:45 a.m.

— There being no such thing as "bad publicity," country singer Kellie Pickler - Rascal Flatts' opening act this weekend - laughs off hers.

After her well-publicized confusion over European geography and what country Budapest was the capital of, Pickler has been having fun with the pickle she found herself in on the Jeff Foxworthy-hosted reality TV quiz show, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

"I met some guys from Hungary recently and they brought me a flag of their country," Pickler says. "We did a special piece on the Great American Country network, of me and that flag.

I'm hoping to go there this summer and educate myself.

"I have been to a few foreign countries, at least. The highlight of 2007 for me was going on a USO tour that had me going from Kuwait to the heart of Baghdad. I never thought I'd be able to do that, and I can't wait to go back."

Her experience was filmed in December and first shown on the GAC network Feb. 16, with more screenings likely to follow.

Pickler, a former lovable loser on American Idol, came in sixth on the fifth season of the highly rated TV talent show. Her debut album, Small Town Girl, was the best-selling album by a new artist in 2006, and it continued to sell well in 2007 and reached the " gold"level of a half-million copies.

Last summer she went out as an opening act for Brad Paisley, and while the tour did not reach central Arkansas, Pickler did later with a show at the Arkansas State Fair in October.

Her first two singles, "Red High Heels" and "I Wonder," both of which Pickler co-wrote, reached the top 15 country singles, and her current hit, "Things That Never Cross a Man's Mind," is climbing the charts. She has been working on a second album, due out later this year.

A native of Albemarle, N.C., Pickler, 21, was reared by her grandparents and is a former cheerleader, dancer and Soniccarhop. Strong finishes in a succession of North Carolina beauty pageants led to her selection to participate in the 2006 American Idol competition. After her elimination, she signed a recording deal with 19Recordings/BNA Records.

"My definition of an American idol is Dolly Parton, whom I got to meet over a year ago," Pickler says. "It would be awesome if I ever get to also work with her or have her sing on one of my songs.

"I've been very blessed in having a lot of great things happen to me."

Weekend, Pages 80, 81 on 02/29/2008

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