‘DWTS’ Kellie Pickler on Her Ex-Con Dad: ‘He Has Struggled with His Own Demons’

by | May 14, 2013 at 10:38 AM | Dancing With The Stars, Interviews

"DWTS": Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough (Photo: ABC)

After Kellie Pickler’s ex-convict father talked about her in an emotional interview on “Dancing with the Stars,” the country singer revealed more about their difficult relationship—and eventual reconciliation—to reporters on Monday night.

“I never thought he wasn’t a good person,” Kellie confided to xfinityTV backstage. “He has struggled with his own demons and I think we all have demons. Everyone’s demon is different. My dad’s just happens to be alcohol and drugs. That’s definitely affected him and everyone around him, but the thing I admire about him is that he stepped back and recognized those demons and faced them. He is clean and sober today and doing great.”

Clyde “Bo” Raymond Pickler Jr. was in and out of prison while Kellie was growing up, and, as her “DWTS” TV package showed on Monday, she was abandoned by her mother and raised by her beloved grandma.

But now, father and daughter have put the old hurt behind, according to Kellie. “It’s great, we’re doing really well,” she said. “It’s been rough but right now we have the best relationship that we have ever had, to be honest.”

Still, Kellie found her TV segment about growing up in North Carolina difficult to watch on Monday. Clyde broke down in tears as he talked about Kellie, who starred on “American Idol” before becoming a country singer, and is now thrilling fans on “DWTS” with partner Derek Hough. “We don’t see the packages until they air live before the dance. I didn’t see the whole thing but I was hearing it and trying not to,” she admitted.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t see the whole thing. I didn’t hear it all but the parts that I did hear I did start to get emotional — and Derek told me to listen to his voice, just calm down and listen to him talk. I was plugging my ears trying not to hear. It’s hard not to go, ‘What are they airing and what’s being said?’”

Kellie said she and her father “have been pretty apprehensive about doing interviews about our life because when you go through the whole ‘American Idol’ experience and you are green — obviously, he and I had never done TV before or been in the media spotlight — so you can kind of wear your heart on your sleeve and say lots [of things], then it goes into editing and it’s cut and pasted and put together in a different way.

“When I was on ['Idol'] there were a lot of tabloid things that were kind of mean about my dad, and I have never not loved him. We have always been close in spite of our circumstances. But it was hard to read things that made him out to be a bad person. Some of those things were really harsh and taken out of context so it makes you want to be careful. We were apprehensive about doing the interview but I do think that ‘Dancing with the Stars’ have been very tasteful and very classy and have taken great care of us.”

Kellie’s dad was in the “DWTS” audience one week and she says he might attend the grand finale.

Meanwhile, Kellie also developed a strong bond with fellow “DWTS” celebrity Andy Dick, who was eliminated from the show earlier this season. Andy was open about his past problems with substance abuse, and Kellie said, “I love him. I think I saw a lot of … I just connected with him instantly and his story. I ‘get’ it as far as him and my dad, as their struggles are the same. He had the same demons so I can sympathize with him on that.”

The singer said she rose above her hard childhood, shrugging, “It’s so easy to sit back and have a pity party, but you have to step back and look at your life and count your blessings. I am so blessed and there is always going to be someone out there who has it a lot worse than I could ever even think of. I think you just count your blessings. I know where I came from and I know where I am now, and I haven’t forgotten that.”

Recap: “DWTS” Serves Up a Bevy of Perfect Scores

Kellie, who got her first score of perfect 30 for her Argentine tango with Derek on Monday night and also got a strong 28 on their second dance, the flamenco, reflected, “I think ultimately, of course, your raising can mold you and shape you in a sense, but ultimately you are who you are because you chose to be that way. There has to come a time in your life where you step up and take accountability and responsibility for your actions and who you want to be. No one is making me be here, no one is making me do what I’m doing. Regardless of what I have seen and experienced and grew up around, I have a choice of whether or not I want to do the same – or create my own path.”

Another celebrity goes home — one week shy of next week’s Finals — on Tuesday’s “DWTS” results show, airing at 9/8c on ABC.