01/27/2011 07:39 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Gwyneth Paltrow on Country Music, Being a Working Mom and the Death of Her Beloved Father

Gwyneth Paltrow takes on country music in the Screen Gems' feature Country Strong where she plays washed-up country star Kelly Canter, who leaves rehab early to embark on a comeback tour. In an exclusive interview, Paltrow shares her thoughts on everything from her newfound love for country music, how she consciously scaled back on work to raise her children, and how her father's death continues to affect her to this day.

Zorianna Kit: Country Strong is your first big lead role since you had your second child. Was it a conscious decision to not work much?

Paltrow: Yeah. I mean, I had done so much work in my 20s and I was pretty burned out and pretty over it.

Kit: Then you got married and had a family. (Paltrow is married to Coldplay singer Chris Marten. The couple has two children, Apple, 6, and Moses, 4.)

Paltrow: I just wanted to be with them and I didn't want to have a nanny do anything. I wanted to do everything myself. When my son was about six months old, I started to think, I have this itch to get back, because I am an artist. I have something to say.

Kit: And along came Iron Man.

Paltrow: It was a perfect job for me. (During the shoot in Los Angeles) my son turned one. My kids went to the same nursery school that I went to when I was little. I wasn't in any of the film's action sequences, so I would just be home. A 30 second scene would take two weeks of shooting. I'd be in the pool with my kids, loving life. I worked three days a week, it was genius.

Kit: Is it easier going to work now that they are getting older?

Paltrow: Sort of. To be honest, I think my son is a bit young for me to be away. I mean, I brought them with me to Nashville (to shoot Country Strong) but that was really tricky in and of itself because the part required for me to be in a really different head space. I really feel like during the first five years of a child's life it's really important to be there as much as you can. Now my children are self-sufficient. They have an inner life and they know what they want and they know who they are. I think that it's okay to work. I just feel lucky that I don't have to do every day, 9 to 5. When I'm gone, I'm really gone. When I'm home, I'm really home. That's the way it works in our house.

Kit: Your father (filmmaker Bruce Paltrow) passed away before you met your husband and started your own family unit. How has your father's death affected you?

It was the most pivotal moment of my life. And it was terrible. When people ask me, 'How do you do a scene like that where you cry all day?' it's like, I have so much pain over the loss of that man. Like I could cry for 100 years. It's really hard for me knowing that my kids will never know him. It's really hard for me to realize that if he were to come back to life, he wouldn't know where I lived, he wouldn't know my phone number, he wouldn't know my kids, he wouldn't know my husband. He wouldn't know my life. It's still such a hard thing to get my head around, but it's my reality. I have friends who didn't know their fathers and it's no big deal for them.

Kit: Like it's completely normal for them.

Paltrow: Right. And that's just not my story, so it's very sad for me because was such a great guy. He was so funny. It just sucks, it really just sucks. That's it.

Kit: Shifting gears a bit, what was it like immersing yourself in country music for Country Strong?

Paltrow: I think there's something so deeply refreshing about it. I'm so sick of the New York cynicism and the hipper than thou - I'm just sick of it. It just seems tired to me. (With country music), there's no irony, there's no cynicism. It's true blue. I just find it really refreshing.

Kit: It is what it is. There's no reading between the lines.

Paltrow: It's like, let's not be esoteric and, like, too cool for school. It's like, let's just be who we are and be awesome and full of soul and truth.

Kit: You delivered a terrific performance in the film. Let's go back in time to your performance in Shakespeare in Love. when it was pre-kids, pre-marriage, etc. Does that feel like a hundred years ago?

Paltrow: 120 years ago! It feels like another life, like I can barely remember it. Also because it was so stressful and (certain people around me) had cancer and it was just horrible.

Kit: If you had to do the awards race all over again at this stage of your life, it would probably be very different, wouldn't it?

Paltrow: Oh yeah, for sure. I think that it's so intense to go through something like that, especially when you're -- I mean, I was like 26 years old. It's really, like, a baby. And it's a lot of current towards you. I couldn't handle it. Now, I could. But back then, I had no idea what hit me. It was crazy.

Kit: The win must have been career changing for you?

Well, I think what it does is, because without even realizing it, people put these goalposts in your psyche. It's like, if you are a professor, you want tenure. If you're an actor, you want an Oscar. It's just something that gets in there through the culture. So you're striving for this thing and then you get one. And you're like, okay, so I'm 26 years old and I supposedly have achieved everything I set out to achieve. Who am I and what do I actually want, and where am I going?