Remembering Kellie Pickler and Kyle Jacobs' Sweet Love Story

Kellie Pickler and Kyle Jacobs met cute and seemingly lived that storybook-romance life—on their CMT reality show and off-camera—before Jacobs died by suicide on Feb. 17, 2023.

By Natalie Finn Feb 17, 2024 12:00 PMTags
Watch: Kellie Pickler Shares Heartbreaking Message After Her Husband's Death

Kellie Pickler and Kyle Jacobs were planning to have a big wedding, figuring the more the merrier to watch them tie the knot after two years of togetherness.

But before the invitations went out, the Nashville-based couple realized something.

"Every time we got to the guest list, it was like, 'Oh my God, I hate half these people.' Nothing personal," Pickler said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show a month after she and Jacobs eloped to Antigua and swapped vows Jan. 1, 2011, on the beach, ankle-deep in the water.

"All we did was I packed the wedding dress and packed him an outfit," the country singer continued. "We totally just put faith in God that it was all going to work out, and it did, and it was the most incredible day of my life."

She had "1-1-11" engraved on her husband's wedding band on one side—and "Put it back on!" engraved on the other. So he'd know exactly what to do if he ever took it off, Pickler explained.

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She and Jacobs continued on in that spirited, playful vein, showing what good sports they were on two seasons of the CMT series I Love Kellie Pickler while also making music and teaming up time and again for causes close to their heart, be it visiting U.S. troops overseas (which is how they spent their honeymoon) or raising money for kids with special needs.

After being involved with the event for years, they hosted the Island Time Music Festival in 2021 to benefit the Little Yellow School House in Mexico. "It's one of the more beautiful things that we've ever done," Jacobs said on the Talk to Chuck podcast, prompting host Chuck Wick to tease that he never realized that the songwriter was as nice as his famously cheery wife.

"He's got a good heart!" Pickler chimed in. "He's a good man."

Janet Mayer/Star Max/GC Images

Such was the overwhelming consensus as tributes poured in for Jacobs after his death at 49 by suicide on Feb. 17, 2023.

"Thank you for being the greatest friend to me and big brother that I never had," Jennifer Wayne, host of the Design Network show Flip U, wrote on Jacobs' final Instagram post from two days before his death, celebrating Lee Brice's album Hey World, which he'd co-produced, going platinum. "You always protected me and looked out for me… no one will ever take your place with Kellie, but I promise that myself and all of her friends will wrap her in the biggest love we know how."

American Idol alum Dillon James commented, "No words what so ever but I am so glad we got to chat the other day, I'll be praying for you and your family bud. Thanks for all the laughs Kyle."

In his own tribute post, Brice called Jacobs "without a doubt, one of the best people anyone could ever hope to have in their corner."

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The common denominator among all the reactions was shock and the reminder that no one ever really knows what's going on in a person's head, that even the most upbeat-seeming people that look to have everything going for them may be suffering.

Autopsy results later released by the Davidson Country Medical Examiner stated that there were no traces of drugs in Jacobs' system when he died, but he had a "history of chronic alcohol use."

Pickler opened up about her own year-long battle with depression in 2008, telling People, "Everything in my professional life seemed great. But in my personal life, I was just crumbling."

She credited support from friends and the love of the then-new man in her life for helping her out of a dark place.

"He makes me feel so good about being me," she said of Jacobs at the time.

Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Pickler stayed out of sight for months after Jacobs died, having already stepped away from her post as midday talent on SiriusXM's contemporary country channel The Highway in April 2023, before she was finally ready to speak publicly.

"One of the most beautiful lessons my husband taught me was in a moment of a crisis, if you don't know what to do, 'do nothing, just be still,'" the 37-year-old told People in a statement published Aug. 17. "I have chosen to heed his advice."

All the support she's received "has truly touched my soul," she continued, "and it's helping me get through the darkest time in my life. As many of you have told me, you are all in my prayers."

Jacobs' family and friends held a celebration of life for him at Franklin First UMC in September, his family telling People, "While this celebration was long in coming, it was necessary for us, his parents, to cope with the shock of his passing, and to work through adjusting to this life without our beloved son." 

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Pickler, who didn't appear to take part in the service, had told People she was planning an "intimate memorial" for the fall, because "that is what Kyle would have wanted."

The "Best Days of Your Life" singer, who rose to fame when she finished sixth on American Idol in 2006 and solidly ranks among the long-running show's more enduring success stories, met Jacobs in 2008 when she literally spotted him across a crowded room at a Nashville bar.

"I didn't know who he was or what he did," Pickler recalled on The Real in 2015. "We just locked eyes and I went, 'I gotta know everything about this person.'"

They closed the place down, too busy talking to realize all their friends had left them to it.

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Jacobs popped the question June 23, 2010—the birthday of Pickler's beloved late grandmother—on the beach at sunset, a precursor to the idyllic island nuptials they ultimately decided on.

"In all honesty, I have been so blessed with the most amazing man ever," the artist gushed to Ellen DeGeneres after getting engaged. "He is such a man of God. He's so amazing. He has showed me what love is, what love really is. I've never been treated so respectfully. I've never been treated so loved the way he loves me. And it's so important to find that and never settle with a loser."

On The Kelly Clarkson Show in 2019, Pickler recounted the moment where she turned to Jacobs and proposed throwing wedding planning to the wind and just running off together: "He goes, 'Whew, thought you'd never ask!'"

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After wedding in the Caribbean, they took off for Baghdad because Pickler had a previously scheduled USO commitment.

"All of the soldiers at each spot where we would stay at had a 'honeymoon' suite for us," she told Clarkson. "It was the funniest thing."

A few years later, signing up to do a reality show may have not been the obvious move for a couple enjoying such a drama-free marriage, but their intentions were pure, according to Pickler.

"For us, we are so blessed and we just want to be a bright light in the world," she explained on The Steve Harvey Show in 2015 (thereby securing her and Jacobs' future spot on Celebrity Family Feud as well). "We want to laugh and have fun and live. There's a big difference between being alive and living."

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

I Love Kellie Pickler ran for two seasons on CMT, following her and Jacobs as they lived the sweet life together, at home in Nashville and on the country music circuit, tackling lighthearted issues like his snoring problem and their friend's fear of cotton balls along the way.

And there wasn't a trace of irony to be found anywhere in the show's title.

"One of my favorite things about Kellie is just the way she looks at life," Jacobs shared in an episode testimonial. "She just loves to laugh. She just doesn't take things too seriously."

The couple traveled to Japan to wrap up their show's second season, Pickler sharing that she had wanted to see the world since she was a kid, which is part of the reason why she loves her chosen profession so much.

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"Growing up in such a tiny little town where you know what you know, and you don't know what you don't know," the Albemarle, N.C., native said in 2016 on the podcast Get Real With Caroline Hobby, "I've always been that person, that little Curious George explorer that wanted to push the boundaries and go...I've always wanted to live out of a suitcase and see the world, meet as many different kinds of people that I can."

Stressing that she only formed opinions based on her own experiences and "what I witness with my own eyes," Pickler said she was endlessly interested in people and finding out what made them tick.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Catching up with E! News in 2022, however, she sang the praises of home.

"I'm such a simple girl honestly," she said. "I love gardening. My friends call me the fifth unofficial Golden Girl. I'm that 104-year-old trapped in a 35-year-old body. I love puzzles. I love good conversations. I love to sit on the front porch in my rocking chair. I just like to be in good company."

Her SiriusXM hosting gig at the time was right up her alley, but so was going home at the end of the day.

"I clock in and I do my job and then I come home and I'm a wife," she said. "I'm a friend. I'm a neighbor. I'm a godmother. I care about things that truly matter. I hate the word 'celebrity.' It dehumanizes people. I clock out of that world as quick as possible and I keep my feet on solid ground in the real world. I even have healthy boundaries with people that are in the business."

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Professed wanderlust aside, that perspective was pretty consistent with what she'd said a decade prior about keeping it simple.

"For me, success is being in a place of happiness," she told Taste of Country in 2012. "I know a lot of people that are in the business and people that are not in the business, that have other professions, that you look at and they have it all. There's nothing that they don't have except for one thing and that is they're not happy. They're not happy people. To me, you can have all the money in the world and all the fame in the world and still lay your head on your pillow and cry because you're not happy.

"For me," she continued, "I feel very successful in the fact that I have come so far from my raising and how I was brought up to where I am now. I look at my husband and I think, 'This man...this is all I need. I get to go on stage every night and sing songs that I love and I got an album now that I am just more proud of than anything and of course I want my music to be heard by as many people as possible, every artist wants that."

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images For CMT

Getting to work with her husband through the years was an added bonus.

"Kyle is a sanctuary for me," Pickler told The Knot in 2016. "He is my best friend, so I trust him completely... I'm so blessed to be able to experience this life with my best friend. My life partner. He's my adventure-travel buddy and just my treasure. I'm so blessed to have somebody to share this life with."

Playing a little rapid-fire game with Hobby on her longtime friend's podcast in 2016, Pickler picked Jacobs when asked what made her excited.

"He's so wonderful," she said. "He does excite me." Hobby observed that they had "the best relationship."

Pondering what her figurative vision board looked like, Pickler said, "I just want to be a bright light in the world. I just want to make people happy. I want to be happy—I am, I'm blessed. We have a beautiful life, beautiful people in our lives with great hearts and great motives. We're all just trying to get through this world and make it."

In a 2014 interview for McPherson Guitars, Jacobs described his typical day as, "I wake up in the morning and have my coffee, and eat my Cheerios. Spend some time with my wife and I'm pretty much writing a song every single day at 12 o'clock." Sometimes "a song just happens like that," he said, snapping his fingers. But whether it does or not, then he heads into the studio and "by the end of the day, I'm pretty spent."

Writing and producing could be "rather taxing," the Minneapolis native said, "but I will never complain. Still to this day, I can't believe it's what I do for a living, and it truly is a blessing...Five, 10 years from now, honestly I'd love to just still be doing what I'm doing."

He also shared that he got his first custom-made McPherson as an anniversary gift from his wife, with their wedding date "1-1-11" engraved into the back of the headstock. He called it "literally the most beautiful guitar" he'd ever seen or played.

Jacobs used the instrument to perform their wedding song "Say I Do" while Pickler danced the rumba on Dancing With the Stars in 2013, during the week the contestants paid tribute to the best year of their lives.


Jacobs' Instagram page features a cozy hodgepodge of pics of Pickler and their dogs, hangouts with friends, scenes from the recording studio, sites around Nashville and your usual Insta-randomness, such as a shot of a half-empty Mott's jar after he was struck by a major applesauce craving on his 48th birthday.

Pickler, whose last studio album was 2013's The Woman I Am, told Sounds Like Nashville in 2021 that she and Jacobs had been busy writing. "He's been working so hard producing and whatnot," she said. "We're ready to get back in the studio and put new music out that will heal and help people."

While Jacobs' final Instagram post was from Feb. 15, he last shared a photo of his wife on Jan. 1, 2022, writing, "Happy 11th wedding Anniversary to my Patriotic Princess… @kelliepickler …Her mind, heart, and soul is not only comitted [sic] to our military and first responders, it is convicted to let them know that they are appreciated and loved…And the good news for me is…She loves me too…:) #lovewins."

Scroll on to see their love story in pictures:

2010 Music City Keep on Playin' Benefit Concert
2011 CRB Country Radio Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
2013 at Nashville's The Stage on Broadway
2015 CMA Awards
2015 CMT Upfront Event
2015 FOX & Friends Appearance
2015 CMT Music Awards
2016 New York Outing
2016 Viacom Kids and Family Group Upfront Event
2017 CMT Music Awards
2017 Build Series Event
2017 New York Outing
2017 CMA Awards
If you or someone you know needs help, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the network, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit for additional resources.

(Originally published May 13, 2023, at 5 a.m. PT)