Interview: Kristin Chenoweth talks about going country, co-hosting tonight’s American Country Awards
From Monday’s Life section of The Oklahoman. Click here to read more about the Oklahoma nominees for the American Country Awards.
Kristin Chenoweth goes country
The Oklahoma-born and bred actress/singer already is a Broadway, TV and movie star, but this year she also released her debut country album. On Monday, she will continue her country crossover when she co-hosts the second annual American Country Awards on Fox.
Although her Tony-winning Broadway performances, Emmy-honored television work and big-screen movie roles have made her famous, Kristin Chenoweth still considers herself just a country girl from Oklahoma.
“I know that some people see me in different things: I’m known for ‘RV,’ ‘West Wing,’ ‘Pushing Daisies,’ Broadway, ‘Wicked,’ it’s kind of always different. But I hope what they learn about me … is, yes, I’m a trained opera singer and, yes, I’ve done Broadway, but country music is also in my heart,” Chenoweth said last month before her Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame induction in Muskogee.
In September, Chenoweth, 43, released her first country album, “Some Lessons Learned,” and on Monday (today), she continue her successful crossover when she co-hosts the second annual American Country Awards, airing live from Las Vegas from 7 to 9 p.m. on Fox. The 4-foot-11-inch-tall classically trained soprano will share hosting duties with 6-foot-6-inch-tall country baritone Trace Adkins, who presided over the show solo in its first year.
“I’ll just let y’all know if he’s clipped his nose hairs,” Chenoweth joked with a smile during the hall of fame press conference.
While the Broken Arrow native turned down an invitation to appear at the 45th Annual Country Music Association Awards to attend her Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame induction, Chenoweth said she was looking forward to co-hosting and performing for the newer Academy of Country Music Awards.
And she won’t be the only Oklahoman featured at the ACAs. Hot new duo Thompson Square, which includes Miami native Keifer Thompson, earned seven ACA nominations. Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts and Toby Keith also will vie for the commemorative guitars that are given in lieu of trophies for the fan-voted awards.
In addition, Thompson Square, Shelton, Keith and Lambert’s all-girl trio Pistol Annies will perform on the awards show, which will transport some of Nashville, Tenn.’s top talents to Las Vegas.
“I think one of the reasons I like Nashville so much is that it does remind me of Oklahoma. Having been in New York and L.A. … it’s totally different,” Chenoweth said.
“I certainly was not known for country music at all. It’s been opera and musical theater, and I wasn’t sure how the country album would go over. But it’s doing pretty darn good. I’m very proud that they’re accepting it and they understand that it’s my roots. It’s where I came from. I think the musicians (that have come) before me have proven that our state, definitely there’s something in the dirt. I love Nashville, but Oklahoma’s my home.”
Chenoweth actually scored her best-charting album on the cross-genre Billboard 200 with “Some Lessons Learned,” which debuted at No. 50, according to Billboard.com. The actress/singer concurrently bowed at No. 14 on Billboard’s country albums list, marking her first entry on that chart.
Although her four albums have delved into vastly different musical styles, the actress/singer said she has a reason for every song she chooses.
“The first album I did was what people expected of me: ‘30s and ‘40s Broadway, big, orchestral music. And that is definitely part of who I am. The second album was a Christian album, and I had to fight real hard to get it. The third album was a Christmas album, and I had to fight real hard to make sure that we could say Jesus on it. The fourth album is a country album because that’s how I grew up singing,” she said.
“I’m definitely an artist who does a lot of different things. Some view it as sort of a curse; I like to think of it as a blessing. But for me, every single thing I do is about the lyric and the character. A lot of great voices are out there, but it’s about what you have to say. And I get to do it through music and through a character in a film or on television, and that’s what I love the most.”
Along with her foray into country music and Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame induction, Chenoweth has racked up many career highlights in 2011. A Tony Award winner for “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and Tony nominee for “Wicked,” she starred in the Broadway revival of “Promises, Promises,” which launched in April 2010 and wrapped up in January 2011.
Already a 2009 Emmy winner for the late, great comedy “Pushing Daisies,” she earned her fourth nomination this year for her guest performance as April Rhodes on Fox’s cult hit show “Glee.” Plus, she has been working on the anticipated new drama series “G.C.B.,” formerly titled “Good Christian Belles” and based on Kim Gatlin’s novel “Good Christian Bitches.” The show is set to premiere in March on ABC.
“(It’s) about five women in the South who grew up in church and how they deal with each other and their demons and humanity,” she said.
Plus, Chenoweth sang this year for Oprah Winfrey, President Barack Obama and the Queen Elizabeth II of England and made her debut at the Grand Ole Opry.
And she has no intention of scaling back her multi-faceted career.
“I will go on tour in the spring, and then in the fall I will probably do another season of the show that you have not seen yet. And then on my next hiatus, I will revive ‘On the Twentieth Century’ on Broadway, which was originated by one of my favorites, Madeline Kahn, and hasn’t been revived since maybe before I was born. I’m excited to get to go back to Broadway; whenever they’ll have me, I’m ready to go. So, I have dates through about 2013 and ’14,” she said, laughing.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
American Country Awards
The second annual American Country Awards, co-hosted by Broken Arrow native Kristin Chenoweth and Trace Adkins, will air live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday (today) on Fox. To follow Brandy McDonnell’s live blog of the show, go to BAM’s Blog at blog.newsok.com/bamsblog.