Kellie Pickler is relying on tonight's Riverbend audience to help her select songs for her next album.
"I've been writing a lot for it, my husband writes songs and we've written a lot together. We have so many songs, we're in the narrowing-down process," the former "American Idol" performer said in a phone interview.
"The band just started working up some of the new stuff, so we're going to put some of that in [tonight's] set list to see whether people like it or not," she said of Riverbend's impromptu test market.
"We haven't gotten too far along on the album that we can't pull something and replace it. It's all about the fans, and I want to make them happy," Pickler said.
One number sure to be included is Pickler's new single, "Tough," which was released this week. The biographical song was written about Pickler by Leslie Satcher.
"Leslie is a great songwriter I met a couple months ago. We were getting to know each other, and I told her about my life, where I grew up, how I was raised. I didn't know she was going to do this, but she took my story and wrote 'Tough' for me. I'd never had anybody do that before!" said the singer.
Taste of Country website said "the audacious, uptempo number blows away all the froth that covered up who this woman is on past albums."
Its lyrics describe her life: "I wanted lace / I wanted pearls / To be a princess like the other girls / But life came hard to my front door / And I grew up trying to even up the score."
It's that candidness that has endeared Pickler to fans since she compared wearing false eyelashes to "having tarantulas on her eyes" while a finalist on Season 5 of "American Idol."
"I am a huge Kellie Pickler fan," said Chattanooga State student Karley Moon. "I can relate to her."
According to the Recording Industry Association of America, Pickler is ranked eighth among album sales of "American Idol" alumnae with 1.3 million units sold after two CDs.
In addition to a new album this fall, Pickler is making plans for a fifth USO tour. She has performed for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and is an outspoken advocate for U.S. military personnel and their families.
"I do come from a military family, but even if I had not, I can't understand why someone wouldn't be supportive of our military," she said. "They're working so hard, putting their lives on the line so we can do what we do. To not take time out of our schedule to thank them and show we appreciate their families for making that sacrifice is pretty selfish and not very patriotic of us.
ONE Fan's DEDICATION
One of Kellie Pickler's fans went into labor while waiting in the autograph line at the Country Music Association's Music Fest last week.
"She rushed off to the hospital, but [her] mom wasn't going to leave her place in line! She stayed and waited for her autograph and picture before she went to the hospital. I signed one for the baby, too."
"I met her briefly, and she seemed like a sweet girl, so if people think we're alike, I'll take it as a compliment," Pickler said.
Kellie Pickler hits
"Red High Heels"
"Things That Never Cross a Man's Mind"
"Don't You Know You're Beautiful"
"Best Days of Your Life"
"Didn't You Know How Much I Loved You"
"Makin' Me Fall in Love Again"
9:30 p.m. Kellie Pickler
Bud Light Stage
5 p.m. Bill Brewer
6 p.m. Carolina Chocolate Drops
7:45 p.m. Grupo Fantasma
Tennessee Lottery Stage
6 p.m. Bud Lightning
7:15 p.m. Chattanooga Allstars
Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union Stage
6:15 p.m. Rosedale Remedy
7:45 p.m. Bobby Horton
9:15 p.m. Husky Burnette
5:30 p.m. Mawre Drum Circle
6:30 p.m. The Dana Fuchs Band
8 p.m. Perpetual Groove