(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that's happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)
Kellie Pickler's third album, 100 Proof, is my favorite album she's made. Possibly my favorite album, period. And she recently told EW.com why she thinks the critics have loved it so much. "It's the only album that I've ever had that the critics have embraced. You know why? Because it's me. This is all I've ever wanted to do," she explains. "The first time I ever walked into Sony, and I saw Dolly Parton's plaques hanging up on the wall, that's all I could talk about -- Dolly! I want to make a record like her or Loretta Lynn. I wanted to make a hardcore country album. That's who I am." But now that Pickler and her record label, Sony Music Nashville, have split, she admits what it was like to make that album. "Recording this album, to be honest -- and I don't mind saying this -- the process was hell. We couldn't agree on songs. The thing is, my life is a country song. I don't need to be manufactured, and I don't need anyone to tell me what to say or what to sing." Josh Thompson, who was also part of Sony's roster, has now also exited the label.