Kellie Pickler broke down crying during the CMA Awards on Wednesday night while performing “I Wonder,” a song about her estranged mother, who abandoned her when she was 2.
“Oh, I hear the weather’s nice in California,” the former American Idol finalist sang at the end of the song, as the tears began to fall down her cheeks. “And just in case you’re wondering about me/ From now on I won’t be in Carolina/ Your little girl is off to Tennessee.”
Pickler’s mother, Cynthia Malone, has said that she was forced to leave her child because of an abusive relationship with her then-husband. “I knew God had to have a purpose for [Kellie] because there was too many times I would have miscarried because of all the hitting and beating on my stomach,” Malone told the Charlotte Observer in July.
Pickler, 21, struggled to finish the song and spoke the final word, “Tennessee,” as the Nashville crowd rose in applause to support her.