MARQUETTE - Kellie Pickler is living her dream.
"I always wanted to be a honky tonk angel," she said. "I am doing what I love."
The country music singer-songwriter, who rocketed to stardom after being part of "American Idol" during season five, will be performing in concert Aug. 13 at Ojibwa Casino in Baraga.
The concert will take place as part of the casino's Baraga Summer Tent Event and Pickler's opening act will be the winning entrant in a Battle of the Bands competition that takes place Friday.
The No. 6 finisher in her season of "Idol" in 2005, Pickler, now 25, is listed by Forbes magazine as the No. 7 Idol money earner during 2010, bringing in more than $1.8 million, a greater total than several of the various season winners.
"('Idol') absolutely was an important moment in my life," she said in a telephone interview this week. "Katherine McPhee (the runner-up in her season) and I are still close and we speak a lot."
A Battle of the Bands will determine the opening act for Kellie Pickler's Aug. 13 concert that's part of the Ojibwa Casino's Baraga Summer Tent Event.
The band battle, with a top prize of $1,500 and the concert booking, takes place Friday at the casino. Second prize is $750 and third is $500.
The contest is open to musicians from any genre, not just country, and the music does not have to be original, although it can be.
"We're looking for talent-based performers, so the music can be cover songs or originals," said Jessica Skytta, the casino's promotions director.
Registration is open until Wednesday, with entry forms required to be submitted to the Baraga office of the casino by the end of Wednesday.
For complete rules and a downloadable entry form, visit ojibwacasino.com.
Tickets for the show are $35 for general admission or $45 for premium seating. They can be purchased at the Ojibwa Casino in Baraga or via telephone by calling 906-353-6333 or 1-800-323-8045.
McPhee isn't Pickler's only famous friend, of course. Pickler is also close with Taylor Swift, the country-pop star, who she toured with in 2009-10. Does it help to have friends who are having the same sort of life experiences?
"For the most part, sure," she said. "My life is mostly good, though. I have nothing to complain about."
A native of Albemarle, N.C., Pickler has earned a variety of trophies during her career so far, including honors from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and the Country Music Television awards.
Pickler, who has won fans outside of music with her fun and witty appearances on television shows like "Ellen" and "The View," hasn't visited the Upper Peninsula before, but has learned a bit about life in a northern town from her husband, Kyle Jacobs.
"My husband is from Minnesota," she said. "So I had my first real white Christmas a few years ago. I was struck by how in Minneapolis they can call for 10 feet of snow and school will still be on but where I am from, there'll be a few flakes and everything will shut down. In the South, no one really knows at all how to handle snow."
Jacobs, who Pickler married on New Year's Day this year, sometimes joins her while she's on tour.
"My husband's a songwriter so he's able to come along a lot," she said. "That works out really good."
While's she has toured in many places, there's one aspect of being on the road she especially enjoys: Performing for military members as part of USO tours to Afghanistan and Iraq.
"That's the most incredible thing I have been able to be a part of," Pickler said. "I have great respect for the military. I was raised in a military family and I am honored to go to Afghanistan and Iraq and take a little piece of home to them.
"It's hard. I have a lot of friends over there now and you never know what's going to happen. But you have to look at the big picture and not dwell on what might happen."
While's she has already achieved great success at a young age, Pickler does have many dreams to fulfill.
"There's so much I want to do on my bucket list. I always wanted to jump with the Golden Knights (the Army's skydiving team) and fly with the Blue Angels (the Navy's flight demonstration squad)," Pickler said. "And there are so many places in the world I haven't seen yet.
"With my career, I want to keep things slow and steady. I don't want to burn out," she said, adding with a chuckle: "When you reach the very top, there's no place to go but down."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is rprusi@miningjournal. net.