Carrie Underwood Blown Away by Life, Love & New Music
Sitting in her manager’s Nashville office on a recent Friday afternoon, Carrie Underwood gazes wistfully out the window and marvels at how much one decision can change a person’s life.
“Seven years ago when I decided to try out for American Idol, my life changed completely in the blink of an eye,” the Checotah, Okla. native says. “I went down a different train track and took off at about a million mph. I definitely consider myself really lucky because I came up through a completely different way than most people do having [competed on] American Idol... and I’m so lucky to still be a part of that. They still let me come back and sing and meet the contestants.”
Since winning the fourth season of American Idol in 2005, Underwood has become the popular talent competition’s most successful participant. In the past seven years, she released three albums via 19 Recordings/Arista Nashville: 2005’s Some Hearts, 2007’s Carnival Ride and 2009’s Play On. Over the course of those three releases, she’s sold more than 14 million albums, scored 14 No. 1 singles, won five GRAMMYs and earned countless other industry accolades.
On May 1, Underwood unleashed her fourth album, Blown Away, an ambitious 14-song collection that runs the gamut from traditional country and faith-based ballads to rockin’ up-tempo anthems. “I feel like I’ve taken all of my albums into as many different directions as possible while still keeping them coherent,” says Underwood. “This is just a whole new level of that. I really do think there’s something for everyone.”
The first single, “Good Girl,” has already climbed into the top ten of Billboard’s country singles chart, buoyed by a high-energy video that Carrie says was a little too energetic at first. “The first edit we got moved so fast,” she says. “You can watch it five times back to back and see something new every single time. There’s so much going on. The first edit was crazier. I was talking to [my manger] Ann [Edelblute] and I was like, ‘My head is spinning. I feel like we’ve got to tone it down.’ As exciting as [the newly edited version] is, it’s toned down,” Underwood says with a smile.
In an industry where most artists crank out an album a year or every two years, Underwood took nearly two and a half years between albums, much longer than the norm. “To me, if you have no life in between albums, you have nothing to write about,” she says. “I have to live. I have to have something new to say and figure out what that's going to be.”
Since her last release, Underwood married Nashville Predators hockey star Mike Fisher, but for those expecting an album full of love songs recorded by a newlywed, that isn’t the case.
“I don’t do love songs. Not really. If you look back at all of my albums, there might be one or two,” she says. “Love is the most complicated of human emotions. Everybody writes about it and everybody sings about it and in my opinion, most of the time, not very well. If you’re going to put something out that is about the most amazing and complicated of God-given emotions, it better be dang good. It has to be serious and real.”
The album closes with “Who Are You,” a soaring tune penned by legendary rock writer/producer Mutt Lange. Though most would consider it a love song, Underwood has a different take. “I’m very happy in my life. I count my blessings every day and I have the most wonderful husband in the world,” she says, “but even that one to me is more about God.”
Underwood co-wrote eight of the 14 songs on the album, working with such frequent collaborators as Hillary Lindsey and Luke Laird. She also expanded her circle and wrote outside the country market, co-writing with Dove Award-winning Christian singer/songwriter Brandon Heath, who sang at her wedding. Though her collaboration with Brandon didn’t yield any songs that made it on the new album, she’s looking forward to writing with him again. “We wrote a song together that I love and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up somewhere else, but it didn’t quite fit in with this album,” she says. “Brandon is an amazing writer and I’m very glad I met him because I will definitely write more with him in the future. What a gentleman!”
One of Underwood’s favorite songs on the new album is a beautiful ballad penned by Tom Douglas, Hillary Lindsey and James T. Slater titled “Forever Changed.” “It’s is basically going through a life. Just thinking about it just gets me emotional,” Underwood says and she tears up describing the lyric about “this young girl meeting the love of her life and getting married and having a baby. It’s that circle of life.”
Does she think the song might be a future radio single? “I hope not,” she says. “I can’t sing this song every night.”
“Thank God for Hometowns” is a tender ballad that celebrates small-town life. “I heard that one when I was going back to my 10-year high school reunion, so it was like, ‘This is just perfect in my life right now. It fits,’” she says.
“See You Again” is a beautiful song about being reunited with a loved one in heaven. “The very first one we had in the bag was ‘See You Again,’” she says of the song she wrote with David Hodges and Hillary Lindsey. “That was one that we wrote for the Narnia soundtrack. We wrote three amazing songs for that purpose. We just had this magical four days of writing and everything we came up with was brilliant. I love that one!”
Of course the album has plenty of fun tunes as well as poignant ballads. Among the rollicking, up-tempo tracks is a song called “Cupid’s Got a Shotgun.” “That’s a thousand percent Alan Jackson inspired,” she says of the straight country tune. “When I was writing it with Chris Tompkins and Josh Kear, Josh said ‘cupid’s got a shotgun’ and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! We have to write that,’ so we just went with it and literally 15 to 20 minutes later, we had the song... Once we got into the studio I was like ‘Brad Paisley has to play on this. He’s the only person. He’ll make the song,’ so we left so much space in the song for him to come in and play. He did his thing and he sounded awesome. He added that last piece of the puzzle and it’s just so country. It’s really cool.”
The album also includes some darker subject matter that might be surprising coming from country music’s sweetheart. The title track, written by Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins is an intense, cinematic song about an abused girl who locks herself in a storm cellar, leaving her alcoholic father passed out on the couch as a tornado heads toward their home. “Two Black Cadillacs” is about a wife who finds out her husband is cheating and teams with his mistress to get revenge. “It’s just more drama. It was so fun writing that song,” says Carrie. “Obviously people know it’s not my life. I try not to overthink it. If I had a whole album full of songs like that, it would be like, ‘What is she trying to say here?’”
In the past year, Underwood has enjoyed some interesting career highlights, among them teaming with rock icon Steven Tyler for the CMT show Crossroads and performing on the GRAMMYs with legendary crooner Tony Bennett. Things are about to get even more fun for the petite songstress as she embarks on her Blown Away tour. She’s excited about taking her new music to the fans and will be hitting the road with her two dogs, Penny and Ace.
“The great thing about this album is there are so many songs that are so visual,” she says. “We can do so much with them... I love the album from start to finish and love every song on it. I think it’s my best album, so I hope people can find something they really like.”
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About the Writer
Deborah Evans Price has covered Christian/Gospel music for Billboard magazine since 1994. She also contributes regularly to CountryWeekly, CMA Close Up, Devo’Zine, Christian Single, HomeLife, BMI Music World, and other publications. A Nashville resident since 1983, Deborah has held editorial posts at Radio & Records, Country News, American Songwriter and Billboard. Amy Grant, Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, Charlie Daniels, 3 Doors Down, Third Day, Don Henley, Bon Jovi, Chris Rice, Sandra Bullock, Mercy Me, Alan Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood and Steven Curtis Chapman are among her many interviews. Additionally, she's a sought-after music industry analyst who has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, TNN, The Today Show, and ABC PrimeTime Live, among other outlets.Deborah is a member of the Gospel Music Association's board of directors and a graduate of Leadership Music. She resides south of Nashville with her husband, Gary, and son Trey.
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