When Kellie Pickler competed on the fifth season of "American Idol," she finished in sixth place. Now, the singer is one of the front-runners who might take home the Mirror Ball Trophy for the 16th season of "Dancing With The Stars."
Pickler and her partner Derek Hough are set to perform three dances on Monday, May 20, including a Cha Cha relay and a "supersized" Freestyle routine. The contestants will also have to perform a new routine to a dance style that will be picked by the judges.
The 26-year-old singer is up against "Shake It Up!" actress Zendaya, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman and NFL star Jacoby Jones.
Pickler and Hough talked to OTRC.com recently while they were rehearsing for the finals about what winning the Mirror Ball Trophy means to Pickler, if the contestants have become competitive and what will be featured in their Freestyle.
Check out OTRC.com's exclusive interview with Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough at a recent rehearsal.
(Remember, after all "Dancing With The Stars" episodes on Monday and Tuesday, you can check out post-show interviews with the cast here.)
What do prizes mean to you?
Kellie Pickler: "I never won nothin'!"
Derek Hough: "Have you ever won anything?"
KP: "I don't ..."
DH: "Like, like tangible [starts touching the microphone]. Like an actual like a trophy?"
KP: "Microphone [touches the microphone]."
DH: "No, no, no. Like a trophy or a like ribbon?"
KP: "I think I have. I don't know..."
Well if it's taking you that long ...
KP: "Nothing athletic."
DH: "Like a teddy bear at the fair?"
KP: "I don't think I've even won anything at a fair."
DH: "Well, just anything in life? Besides like ..."
KP: "I just won Derek as a dance partner."
So when it comes to Monday night, you know you have to impress the audience. How do you know you will impress them?
DH: "You know, for me, for the freestyle ,the last performance, it's all about a big performance ... we're throwing stuff out but for our final performance, I really want to draw people in. I want to go the opposite way with it and pull them inside the dance and really showcase her ability and really just how amazing she is at dancing and she's never danced before, which I forget -- because you watch and you go, 'Come on, look at those legs, look at those feet' and it's pretty amazing to see what she's capable of."
How do you feel this new audience for you has embraced you?
KP: "You know I mean obviously the country music world is a family. Nashville, in general, has been so good to me and so supportive and whatnot but I think here on 'Dancing With The Stars,' it's like a family, it's like that too. Everybody's each other's cheerleaders and we've all embraced one another. It's good. It's a fun, it's not so much of a competition. I don't know. I mean it is, but we haven't taken the fun out of it."
Camaraderie is still there for the finals?
DH: "You can feel the competitiveness, for sure. I can feel it. I'm sensitive to it."
KP: "See I don't. I don't."
DH: "She doesn't feel it. I -- I feel it."
KP: "I don't feel it."
DH: "I'm sensitive to it. I'm aware of it and I'm aware when people go ... I kind of walk in somewhere and [they] go ... get out ... and I'm like 'Oh, I just wanted to say hi,' like go."
KP: "Maybe they're scared of me."
DH: "That's right. These guns."
KP: "I'm tough. Look at these guns. Bam!"
Zendaya said she wanted to do a little bit of hip-hop but did not want to make that all of her freestyle, but I'm thinkin' you come from the country world. Are you going to bring us a little bit of country? Are you going to bring us a little bit of rock 'n' roll?
KP: "Oh the whole ... we're just going to line-dance the whole time."
DH: "You know, actually, the freestyle, the freestyle we did ... we were going to do a country song."
KP: "We were."
DH: "We were going to do a country song, but the story of the song wasn't ringing true to us and to her journey and the song that we've chosen, for me, it really is about Kellie's journey on this which is ... we know Kellie. She's like, 'Hi, everybody!' and she's all happy and she's bright and she's got an amazing person, of course, but the song is about seeing beneath that, seeing the rawness and I feel like that's what we want to try to do with this freestyle is to show, you know, impressive things, but for that to be the impressive part, not the production element of it."
What do you win if you don't win the Mirror Ball trophy by having participated?
KP: "Oh my gosh, I've learned a lot. Derek has taught me a lot. He's a great teacher. I guess I just win the experience, you know. We'll always have these dances to go and look back on and laugh about the little funny parts and just like wow over the big fun things that we've done. I dunno, just the experience is a win-win thing for me."
DH: "You know what happens though, if you lose? Every video gets wiped away, that you've ever done."
DH: "Yeah. It's true. Only the winners get to keep their memories. Only winners ..."
KP: "I ain't really a blonde, Derek."
DH: "No, clearly. Those roots are coming through."
Reporting by George Pennacchio of KABC Television, which produces the entertainment show "On The Red Carpet" (check for local TV listings).