Kellie Pickler's pairing with Sean "Diddy" Combs at the 2013 CMA Awards was unexpected, to say the least. Country fans didn't really understand what he was doing there, even after he sort of explained it. Pickler says she found out about the matchup one day earlier. She did what she does best -- she rolled with it.

"He was so kind and so, so sweet," the singer tells Taste of Country about Combs, adding that it was great to see him there.

You'll have a hard time getting the 'Dancing With the Stars' champion to speak ill of anyone these days. She's all smiles as she projects a warm satisfaction with life. On 'The Woman I Am,' Pickler's just-released fourth studio album, you'll have to search to find that bitter edge that cut deep on previous projects.

Credit time and Kyle Jacobs for the change. Pickler is now making the music she wants to make, often with her husband of two-and-a-half years. "He just picked up the guitar and started picking and I just kinda found the melody and … then we just sing," she says of their co-write on the album. "It just comes out so naturally."

Words like "naturally," "simple," "hopeful" and "buoyant" pretty much sum the collection of 12 songs. Sure, there's still plenty of her characteristic grit and swagger -- this is, after all, a woman who slipped a flask of whiskey into her clutch before taking to the red carpet.

ToC: You're getting great reviews for your dress and how you looked at the 2013 CMA Awards.

Pickler: Awww, thanks. That makes me feel good.

On Twitter, you showed that your brought a flask of Jack Daniels with you. What is etiquette there? Do you pass it up and down the row?

[laughs] My husband was sitting with me, so I think there were a few people that took a sip around us.

Do you get first dibs on songs that Kyle writes with other songwriters?

Sometimes, I guess. If I say, "Baby, I love this song, I wanna cut this song" then I definitely (do). It just depends on who he writes it with.

Is the song 'No Cure for Crazy' one he suggested, or did you discover it?

I had called him … they were doing a writer's retreat. I think it was during 'Dancing With the Stars,' he was getting ready to write another song. And I said, "Well write a song for me, I need a song."

So him and the three other guys who were there, they wrote 'No Cure for Crazy,' so I don't know what they're trying to say [laughs]. I thought it was hilarious. It's so true.

The title track of the album, which you wrote together, that couldn't be more different. How did that co-write begin?

I was doing an interview, and before we hung up the last question he asked me was if he were to play one of my songs for a friend who had never heard my music, which song would best describe me? I thought back on all the songs I've written and recorded, and of course there are songs on my records that are part of my story and are part of my life, but it's not just me. I said, "I haven't written it yet, but I'm going to write that song."

My husband came from work and we wrote 'The Woman I Am.' And it was really neat to do a lot of self-reflecting and trying to see yourself as an outsider.

Do you and your husband make appointments to write together?

We usually don't. Anytime we write it usually happens organically. It's just a random inspiration.

Did you learn anything on 'Dancing With the Stars' that you were able to immediately apply to your music career?

I think just to take chances and risks. You can't please everyone and you have to just get out there and do your best, and it's OK if you fall down because you miss a step.