This summer, programmers at Go Country 105 radio in Los Angeles unveiled a new single called “Country Strong” and asked listeners to guess who was the twangy alto belting out lines about how she’s “hard to break, like the ground I grew up on.”
Callers rang in, naming pop country divas such as Martina McBride and Faith Hill, but they were stumped. Perhaps that’s because the ground this singer grew up on was Santa Monica and New York City — and about as a hard as a featherbed.
“Country Strong’s” unlikely performer — and star of an upcoming movie of the same name — is Gwyneth Paltrow, one of Hollywood’s most citified actresses. The drama, coming to theaters in December, is a major departure for a woman known for her art-house pedigree, Grace Kelly looks and marriage to Coldplay rocker Chris Martin.
To play faded country star Kelly Canter, Paltrow had to learn to strum a guitar, sing in stadiums full of extras, and drawl like a Southerner (despite now living in London). On Wednesday, the actress is taking a nervy step at earning some country cred: She’ll perform live on national TV on the Country Music Assn. Awards, with one of the genre’s most respected singers, Vince Gill.