Dancing With the Stars' Julianne Hough Goes Country

Reality show superstars have gone country.

Dancing with the Stars' Julianne Hough is just the latest reality contestant to make the jump into country music -- a leap that's not as far as it seems.

"I grew up listening to Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Shania Twain and Faith Hill. My family toured in a band that sang country songs. They are timeless. What turned me on to country music is that it is so real," Hough says. "[Hill] has her career, but she also has a family and her kids, and that's what I want. You can have the family and the life."

And nothing can launch a career rocket like being on a TV show watched by millions of loyal fans. Just look at Carrie Underwood. After being crowned the winner of American Idol in 2005 -- and blessed by Simon Cowell, who announced she'd be the most successful AI winner ever -- Underwood took over Nashville. Just pull that truck up to the back door of the Country Music Awards Wednesday night because the prediction is that she'll be taking home all the top trophies.

Underwood hosts this year's Country Music Awards, airing at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, on ABC. While she's not nominated, Hough will be working the pre-show for ABC according to a network publicist. Next year she'll be making her own run at the title of country music queen.

Hough spent the summer on tour with Brad Paisley promoting her self-titled album that bowed in May at No. 1 on the Country Billboard charts. She also hooked up with her current boyfriend, fellow country singer Chuck Wicks, during the tour.

The dancing dream was supposed to join Paisley on Dancing with the Stars tonight to promote the Country Music Awards show, but her recent surgery as a result of her endometriosis canceled that performance. Instead, she'll perform her hit, "My Hallelujah Song," next Tuesday on DWTS.

While Underwood might have made it on the country music scene anyway, winning American Idol ensured she would get a better shot at stardom. Hough thinks she gets the same boost from her DWTS connection.

"Obviously, I have a fan base with Dancing with the Stars," Hough says. "I would have continued trying to do my music even if I wasn't on the show, but the fans I have from the show have followed me over to my music career, and I've gotten a lot of air play, so that's awesome."

And she says she understands how those in the country music world might not welcome her with open arms.

"You know what? I would be skeptical of myself if I wasn't me. I'm serious. What's this dancer chick doing trying to come over to our format?" Hough asks. "But what's been cool is that the minute they talk to me and know this has been a passion of mine from three years old, and they hear the music, they've been so gracious."

Country music has been grabbing a lot of media attention lately, between Underwood's storming of Nashville, Hough's promising new album, and of course, young Taylor Swift's messy breakup with teen heartthrob Joe Jonas, whose summer fling with the singer turned into an autumn burn when she got dumped by phone.

But then, isn't that what country music is all about?

Hough says that she may be young, but she's had enough personal heartache to relate perfectly with the world of country music. When she was 10, after the breakup of her parents' marriage, she and brother Derek moved to London for five years and attended a performing arts school while living with Corky Ballas, his wife and their son Mark. Hough says it was a difficult time for her, but she made the most of it and became a hot commodity on the dance scene.

"I never stopped singing, but I had more experiences and opportunities when it comes to the dance," Hough says.

But in her heart, she says she's just a country girl.

"Country is where my heart is. It's always been there," Hough says. "I don't want to do anything that's not real to who I am. otherwise, it's phony. And I want to be real."

You'd expect no less from a reality star.

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