A version of this story appears on the cover of Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman. To read about the Oklahomans nominated for the American Country Awards, click here.
Kristin Chenoweth considers herself ‘a creature of the live audience’
For the second year, the award-winning actress/singer, who hails from Broken Arrow, is co-hosting the American Country Awards with country star Trace Adkins.
Singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth may be best known for her Tony-winning Broadway roles and her Emmy-honored television career.
But the multitalented performer has country music in her heart, thanks to her Oklahoma upbringing.
“With this last album I did, I really wanted to pay homage to how I grew up singing. And that was a huge influence on me, obviously, because as you know, in Oklahoma there’s 45 country music stations and maybe one pop-rock,” Chenoweth told The Oklahoman with a laugh.
“So think about who my influences were: They were Dolly and Reba and Trisha and Shania and Patsy and Loretta. Those were the people that I listened to. Of course, I loved the Broadway cast albums ‘cause we didn’t have tons of Broadway coming through Broken Arrow, but that was largely my musical influence.
“It’s so funny when people say, ‘Who are your favorite performers?’ It’s Julie Andrews, Madeline Kahn and Dolly Parton and Sandi Patty, which I know is very eclectic. But that was how it was for me in Oklahoma.”
Along with releasing her debut country album, “Some Lessons Learned,” last year, the suburban Tulsa native, 44, co-hosted the 2011 American Country Awards with multiplatinum country star Trace Adkins.
The 4-foot-11-inch classically trained soprano again will share hosting duties with 6-foot-6-inch baritone at the third annual awards show, which will air live from Las Vegas at 7 p.m. Monday on Fox. Along with meeting more of the country stars she loves hearing on the radio, Chenoweth said she is most looking forward to reuniting with Adkins, who hosted the fledgling ACAs solo in their first year.
“Honestly, that’s what brought me back this year. It’s him,” Chenoweth said Monday in a teleconference. “He is a really good person. He has a very good sense of humor and for some reason we have kind of a fun chemistry. It’s not two people that you would necessarily put together, but it works. I just flat out adore him.”
Although 2012 has been a tough year for Chenoweth, the Oklahoma Music Hall of Famer sounded like her usual optimistic self as she chatted about the fan-voted ACAs, her celebrated Broadway career and the challenges of balancing her many professional interests with her social life, including dating. She has recently been linked with former “Bachelor” star Jake Pavelka.
“That’s my biggest struggle in life, is the balance issue. I know that a lot of people know that I got hurt in July. I’m doing so much better, so much better, but I think it slowed me down to a point to really try to be very, very careful. I like to do a lot of different things and I’ve realized that life is short and I want to do things that make me happy and really help me leave my mark in this world,” said Chenoweth, who Sunday performed her hit Broadway song “For Good” with Oscar-nominated actress Anna Kendrick at the star-studded benefit show Trevor Live” in Los Angeles.
“The answer is I struggle with it and I’m hopefully getting better at it. I really just try to weigh my time and … I want to be great. When I say yes to something I want to be great at it. So that’s what helps me decide.”
Over the summer, Chenoweth suffered a skull fracture and other injuries when a piece of lighting equipment struck her on the head while during filming of the TV show “The Good Wife.” The injury forced her to give up her recurring role on the CBS drama. as well as delay her planned European concert tour.
She suffered an emotional blow back in spring when her freshman ABC series “GCB” was canceled. Based on the book “Good Christian Bitches,” the soapy primetime drama stirred controversy. with its storyline, which Chenoweth described last year as “about five women in the South who grew up in church and how they deal with each other and their demons and humanity.”
“Those characters that we all played on ‘GCB’ were so fun. It disheartened me to think that there was a few that thought it was making fun of God, which I would never do. I thought it was just having fun with a world that I knew very well,” she said.
“When you lose a lot of your major advertisers I understand why ABC did what they did, but it still makes me sad.” I miss her. I miss (my character) Carlene, but whenever I do I just put on my wig and I feel better.”
Of all her different projects, the petite Tony winner said she most enjoys performing live, which is part of the reason she relishes co-hosting the ACAs with the towering Adkins.
“Well, the most challenging part for our producers, I’m sure, is to get us in the same frame,” she quipped.
“What we want to do is we just don’t want to screw up live. That’s going to be the biggest challenge, but also one that I love because it’s live theater. I look at it as live theater. … I just am a creature of live audience.” It doesn’t even have to be necessarily an opera or a musical. Even in concert, I love the live audience. So I probably thrive there more.”
Clearly, she also thrives on a busy schedule.
“This challenge that we were talking about earlier about me trying not to overdo because I’m still in the process of healing and I want to have a life and enjoy myself? But I really do love all the different things that I get the opportunity to do. Right off the bat I have some concerts coming up; I have one New Year’s Eve in Park City, Utah. I have a Lincoln Center ‘American Songbook Series’ that will be filmed for PBS on Feb. 15. And then I do like a mini European tour in March. I was supposed to do that in September; we had to put it off while I healed. … After that it’ll be (the Broadway revival of) ‘On the Twentieth Century,’ we’re trying to work out the dates because I want to do that as well as ‘Soapdish’ on Broadway,” she said.
“I really want to do another country album, actually, and do more writing on my own. Just being in Oklahoma for a week and a half for Thanksgiving, it just connects me to my upbringing, to my family, to my faith and who I am at the heart of it all. I think Oklahoma has a lot to do with it and country music is a huge part of it.”
The American Country Awards will air live from Las Vegas at 7 p.m. Monday on Fox. For the second year, Trace Adkins and Oklahoma native Kristin Chenoweth will host the fan-voted awards show.
Online balloting for ACA Artist of the Year closes Friday (today). Fans can vote at www.theacas.com.