When I meet Mindy McCready during the CMA Music Festival, I am instantly overjoyed.

The country singer, 34, provided the soundtrack to some of the happiest days of my life. One: Working on Mantis at Cedar Point, where the message of her 10,000 Angels subliminally messaged the all-female crew out of boy trouble every 60 minutes in the queue line. Her tunes Guys Do It All The Time and A Girls Gotta Do (What A Girl’s Gotta Do) lifted my spirits on long drives – all lyrics firmly embedded and easily recalled.

Naturally, I was scared for her when she started making headlines for a litany of disturbing offenses including jail, arrests, suicide attempts, drug overdoses, child custody issues, domestic incidents, identity theft, a high-profile affair and a sex tape.

But the woman who stands before me – just weeks after a headline-making “overdose” – is calm, cool and collected. She’s here to promote her album, I’m Still Here, which was released earlier this year when she appeared on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew.

Now the single mother of son Zander, 4, sets the record straight about her recent overdose, sex tape and child custody battle in addition to past suicide attempts. She also gives advice for stars including Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan and offers sobering words for those considering taking their own lives.

What do you want people to know about you now?
I think the biggest thing I want people to know is there’s a lot of things that have been misconceptions out there.

The media has publicized things that were scandalous and over-sensationalized, and they get in the habit of doing that. The media themselves, having to do with me, takes on its own entity. It takes on its own thing, and they are competing with their own stories, so the new story they told has to be better than the last story they told, so it’s running up the bad. It’s hard to get that to switch over to good. It’s hard to get the media to start writing about positive things, and writing about the positive stuff you’re doing.

I can do twenty good things, and one bad thing, and all they write about is the bad.

I have a book coming out soon, which I’m very excited about. It’s my first autobiography, and in that book, I talk about everything for the first time. I talk about my first record deal, how that came to an end, my second record deal, Joe Galante. I talk about everything. It was amazing for me to get to do because it was so healing. For me to get to stop protecting all of the people I’ve been protecting, stop taking all of the blame, stop taking all of the responsibility, because the truth is when you look at an artist’s career, and you see these great pictures of the artist standing there smiling, and there’s all these people smiling saying ‘look at what we did, we got a number one record, we sold 7 million units.’ Everybody is standing behind you smiling, but when the artist has a single that flops or they don’t sell as many records, you’re standing by yourself and there’s nobody in the picture.

However, the same people were there all the time. They just didn’t want to take responsibility for the bad, they only wanted to take responsibility for the good. It’s a very, very lonely business when you make mistakes, and when you become a person who is a multi-mistake-maker [laughs], it’s hard to recover from that. It’s hard to get the wheels rolling in the right direction.

I think I’m almost there. I’m doing everything I possibly can to tell the truth, to tell the real stories, apologize for doing what I’ve done wrong. The only thing I can do is learn from it, and that’s the greatest thing I can do. Be a great mom, and be a better star – be a better celebrity.

You were saying there were misconceptions. A few weeks ago, did you attempt to take your own life?
I broke my toe.

Friend: You should’ve called the toe truck.

I’m fine. I’m absolutely fine.

What about the other attempts in the past?
I have gone through some stuff where I have been at the end of my rope, and I didn’t want to live anymore. There were times in which incoherently, I tried to do that. Not ever was I in a place when I was with myself – about my wits. It was more that I was depressed or upset or out-of-it about something, and I decided I didn’t want to live. But those things were years and years ago, and there hasn’t been any issues with that for a very long time.

How did you get through those dark moments?
It wasn’t really one thing. It was the fact that I grew stronger with each thing, and I could see that growth and I could understand a little more why these things are happening to me each time something happens, and what I was supposed to learn from that, and where I was supposed to take that. It’s not the fall – it’s how you get back up again. All of the times when I was falling and falling and falling, I was getting back up again – just not in the spotlight. I was learning from all that, and becoming a more grateful and more intelligent and more wise person.

All of my mistakes have turned out to be definitely a better investment in my life and in myself than all of my triumphs.

My son was probably the biggest inspiration. When Zander was born in 2006, I had a reason to live no matter what else happens. Having a child is something that people describe it all the time, and I’ve heard a thousand people say it – ‘it changes you, it changes you, it changes you.’ But you have no idea until you have one what it really means. He was my reason to do everything. He was my reason to survive, he was my reason to fight, he was my reason to live.

How is your relationship with your son these days?
We talk on the phone every single day. He’ll be back with me in a month or so, permanently. I’m very excited about that. He’s four years old, so it’s been awhile.

What advice would you give others going through difficult times?
I think people need to know that if they’re going through difficult times, it’s for a reason, and most of the time, it’s because they’re special people.

I think God has a big plan for them, and he wants them to learn from something tough so that they appreciate it after the fact.

So if you’re going through something — and I know it’s hard to do when you’re in the moment of suffering — but if you’re going through something bad, look at it as an honor and a privilege because it means you’re chosen. It means that you have a special something. You have a special task and a gift that God wants to be able to work with you, and He wants to be able for you to be prepared for what he’s going to put in front of you.

I wouldn’t have been prepared to go through what I’m going through now if I hadn’t already gone through what I’d already gone through.

There’s a sex tape out there of you. Do you think making a sex tape is a good idea or a bad idea?
I think it’s a terrible idea. I did not do that for publication. I’m absolutely against it. I am going to sue them, we are in the process of starting that. It is absolutely illegal. They did not have the right to distribute that, they do not now, they are doing it illegally. They offered to pay me to shut my mouth and to not sue them. I refused. I am the very first celebrity to do that.

The exploitation of celebrities in regard to that is really, really bad, and somebody needs to do something about it, because people do those kinds of things in their life, in their past, and it always comes back to haunt you – it does – but why should we be different than anybody else, and have to have it plastered all over the universe just because these billion-dollar companies have more money and more power, and they don’t really care? They figure if they make more money than they’re going to have to pay you in the lawsuit, it’s worth it. Meanwhile, your soul is damaged because of it. I do not condone anything that they do. I don’t condone that industry, and I absolutely, positively refuse to take money from them, don’t want anything to do with it, except for to see them in court.

What would you tell young stars like Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan?
I would tell them to remember what’s real and what’s not real. The fame thing isn’t real. It’s a completely bulls*** façade. It doesn’t represent anything having to do with real life and reality, even behind the scenes. People that are famous are just like everybody else – they live life, they have problems just like everybody else.

Fame is a double-edged sword. There are great things about it, and there’s horrible things about it. There’s been a lot of embarrassing times when I would’ve liked to have suffered in silence, when I would’ve liked to have had my issues by myself and not had to have the entire world judging me while going through a problem that they didn’t even really know what was going on because not one person was telling the truth.

I would tell them to remember what’s real  — a lot of people around you when you become famous tell you ‘yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, you’re wonderful, you’re wonderful, you’re wonderful, ’ and it’s really hard to keep perspective on who you are. You lose yourself really quickly. Finding yourself is a very hard road back.

Who has been your biggest supporter?
I’ve had a lot of support, and I have a lot of really good, close friends. My friends are as much like my family as my family is. I’m a person who I’ve remained friends with people for 16 years, since I first moved here. That’s not something I think a lot of people can say. My relationship with the songwriters in Nashville, my relationship with the publishers, my relationship with the song-pluggers … all of those people are my friends. They were my friends to start with, and they’re my friends now.

I think there’s proof in that when I went out to make a new record, they came out for me. When I said ‘I want to hear your best songs,’ they were writing them for me and playing them for me when it’s very hard to get those songs from those people. They have specific artists that they want to record them, and it’s hard to even hear them. That was proof to me that people had true and honest and endearing feelings for me that were not motive- and agenda-felt, which is a rarity in this business.

Where do you see yourself headed in the future?
I see myself singing forever. I love to sing. That’s what I was born to do. And I was born to be Zander’s mom. My future is going to definitely hold those two things. Hopefully, my book will do well and maybe I’ll write a couple more. We have a TV show coming out soon – and maybe some movies. The TV show will be out in a couple months, and the book will be out at the same time.

Here’s a pic of Mindy and I:

valeriemindymccready.jpg

Pick up the OK! on newsstands now for more coverage of the CMA Music Festival. The cover line is Kate Gosselin/”Finally: A New Man For Kate!”

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