Gwyneth Paltrow Has 'the Chops' to Win Over Country Fans

10/20/2010 AT 02:20 PM EDT

Will Gwyneth Paltrow go from Oscar-winning actress to chart-topping country star?

The director of her upcoming film Country Strong says the actress has got the right stuff to make it big in Nashville.

"She worked very hard on the music," director Shana Feste told PEOPLE at Elle's 17th Annual Women in Hollywood event, where Paltrow was honored. "She worked with Byron Gallimore, who was Tim McGraw and Faith's Hill's producer … And she had guitar lessons and vocal lessons and she took it very, very seriously."

"I just knew that she had the chops to do it and I thought that it was a surprising choice," Feste said of Paltrow's role as a troubled country star looking for a comeback. "She's not who you'd think of when you think country singer. Your mind doesn't immediately go to Gwyneth Paltrow, but I knew that she had the acting ability to pull it off."

Paltrow's demonstrated her singing skills in previous films like Duets, when her cover of the Smokey Robinson's "Cruisin'" with Huey Lewis garnered radio play and even topped the charts in Australia. And now Feste thinks the Paltrow's Country Strong songs could win over country fans.

"She has one on the radio now, and there's another one called 'Coming Home,' which is a beautiful power ballad and it really shows off her vocals," said Feste.

The filmmaker was also pleased to discover Paltrow's down-to-earth demeanor. "She's just very friendly and very warm and effusive and that's the thing that I wasn't expecting," said Feste. "She's kind of like making a movie with your best friend. We just had a lot of fun and laughs on set. She ate with the crew every day and I think Nashville just embraced her because she's very, very warm."

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