One Carrie Under God: Faith Anchors Country Superstar Carrie Underwood
By Deborah Evans Price, senior music editor, GospelMusicChannel.com
Carrie Underwood became America's sweetheart in 2005 when she took top prize on the fourth season of American Idol. Since then the Checotah, Oklahoma native has won four GRAMMY Awards and has earned three consecutive "Female Vocalist of the Year" titles from both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music, and last spring she collected the ACM's "Entertainer of the Year" trophy.
"If anybody ever doubts God, look at my life," Carrie tells GMC.com. "I didn't know what I was going to do, and I was clubbed over the head with this amazing opportunity [American Idol] and then everything throughout the show and everything that has happened since has been so perfect. Even bad stuff has worked out for good. So everything happened exactly how it was supposed to. I always had dreams of being a country music singer...and meeting my favorite [artists] and singing with them, but the older I got, the more reality would set in. Then God reminded me that I don't call the shots. I'm going to do what I'm supposed to do whether I think it's possible or not."
Carrie's success has surpassed her expectations. Her first two albums – 2005's Some Hearts and 2007's Carnival Ride – have sold more than 10 million copies. These days life continues to be a whirlwind for the talented singer/songwriter. Her new album, Play On, released on Nov. 3 and Wednesday night she co-hosted the 43rd annual CMA Awards with Brad Paisley. On December 7, she'll star in her first network television special on FOX, which will feature Paisley, David Cook, and Dolly Parton as special guests.
"[It's] sink or swim," Carrie says with a smile when discussing her busy schedule. "You are in the lion's den and you're going to figure out what to do and figure out how to make it through it all, or you're just going to shrivel up and disappear. I'm really lucky. I have some really wonderful people around me that make doing what I love possible."
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Considering the staggering success of her first two albums, one might expect Underwood to be worried about sales of Play On, but sitting in a Music Row recording studio, looking stylish in a black dress, red belt, red bracelet and red Marc Jacobs flats, Underwood is relaxed and confident. "I feel like the second album had the most pressure for me," she says. "On this one I feel like I'm home. I'm in the music business. When people mention names like Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban and Brad Paisley, sometimes my name is in there, too. So I feel like I'm home. It's always nerve-racking putting out a new album, but as far as pressure goes, I feel like most of that was on the second one."
She's excited about fans hearing her new music, and happily states she's co-written seven of the album's 13 tracks, including one she's particularly proud of titled "Temporary Home." "I would love people to listen to 'Temporary Home' and know that I believe what I'm singing. I'm a Christian and this earth is just passing through, as life isn't the end," she says. "I would love people to listen to 'Mama's Song' and say 'OK, she loves her mama and she's in a good place in her life right now.' I think that's what a lot of it is about. Even things that I picked, songs that I didn't write this time, are happy songs."
She's hoping the title track will encourage people who are going through a hard time. "Whenever stuff goes wrong, you've just got to get up in the morning and you've got to play on, finish your song, finish what you started, even when things don't look good," Carrie says of the song's message. "I've been really lucky in my life to where things really haven't gone wrong that often, but we all have our days...It makes me feel really great when somebody who has been there comes up to me and says, 'I love this song,' which has already happened and I'm so excited to hear more stories like that. It's a really cool inspirational song."
In recording the album, Carrie once again works with producer Mark Bright, who is also the head of Word Entertainment, the record company that is home to Point of Grace, Mark Schultz, pureNRG, Diamond Rio and other acts. "I trust Mark," she says. "I've known him now for five years.I've worked with him on every album. I trust him and he trusts me. I'm comfortable with him now; whereas in the beginning it was like 'Oh my gosh, this guy is a big time producer! What if I do bad?' I was really afraid to mess up. Now I'm not afraid."
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Now that she's seen her dreams come true, Carrie relishes sharing some of her blessings with others. Last summer she launched C.A.T.S. – Checotah, Animal, Town and School Foundation – to help her hometown. "It's always been a goal of mine to be able to do something for my community because it is a small town," she says of Checotah. "It's really important to me to be able to spread the love."
Though she loves her career and the opportunities that come with it, she says there may come a time when she'll walk away from the spotlight to start a family. "I definitely can see that," she admits, then smiles and adds, "Of course not tomorrow, not in the next five years as far as walking away, but I think there's a time in everybody's life, like Brooks & Dunn. They are done and they know that they are done. This is their choice. They are just as popular as they always have been. People love them. People still buy their albums and they are still having hits on the radio, but they know that it's time. So I would never rule out something else being my time, but once again, I'm trying to do what I think God wants me to do. I'm here doing the best job that I can. We'll just see how things go."
About the Writer
Deborah Evans Price has covered Christian/Gospel music for Billboard magazine since 1994. She also contributes regularly to Country Weekly, 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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