07/18/2006 AT 9:00 AM ET
Former American Idol sweetheart Kellie Pickler has signed a record deal with country label BNA Records and 19 Recordings, the label founded by Idol creator Simon Fuller, the Associated Press reports.
“I’ve always dreamed of getting a record deal, so now my dream has come true!” Pickler said in a statement released Monday by Sony BMG, the parent company of the Nashville-based BNA.
The 20-year-old North Carolina native became an audience favorite during her stint on Idol – for her sunny attitude and naivete. Judge Simon Cowell once deemed her a “naughty little minx,” which she misunderstood to mean “mink.”
After she was cut from the show, Pickler told reporters she wasn’t surprised she was going home. “To tell you the truth, I thought I was going home last week,” she said. “But the fans voted and kept me in for another week. I deserved to get the boot this week because I had two bad performances back to back.”
Pickler, who was briefly linked to former Idol star Constantine Maroulis, will release a single in September and her debut album on Nov. 14.
Three of Pickler’s fellow Idol contestants – winner Taylor Hicks, runner-up Katharine McPhee and rocker Chris Daughtry – have already signed record deals with 19 Recordings and Clive Davis.
Pickler is currently touring the country with other top 10 finalists on the “American Idols Live!” tour and plans to “record the album in between tour dates,” according to the statement.
Her twangy rendition of Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” can be heard on the American Idol: Season Five compilation CD.