Carrie Underwood: Living Proof that Dreams Come True
Carrie Underwood is living proof reality can sometimes exceed your wildest dreams. The small town girl from Checotah, Oklahoma had never even been on a plane until she left home to compete on the fourth season of American Idol, which premiered in January 2005.
‘I can’t believe it’s been a decade since I auditioned for American Idol,’ Underwood says. ‘So much has happened since then. In some ways it feels like it was a million years ago; in some ways it feels like it was just yesterday.’
In the decade since she exploded on the country charts with the hit single ‘Jesus Take the Wheel,’ Underwood has become one of the most successful singers in any genre of music. She has sold more than 64 million albums and scored 19 No. 1 hits, including her most recent, ‘Something in the Water,’ which spent seven weeks on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart and a record breaking 17 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot Christian Songs chart. It became her most successful single to date, besting ‘Jesus Take the Wheel,’ which spent six weeks at the top of the chart.
Underwood has earned more than 95 major awards, among them six Grammys. She’s the first female artist to be named the Academy of Country Music’s Entertainer of the Year twice and she’s a three time winner of the Country Music Association’s female vocalist honor. She’s earned the affection of fans and respect of her peers co-hosting the annual CMA Awards with pal Brad Paisley for the past seven years. She’s also spent the last two years as the musical voice of Sunday Night Football.
Underwood’s current album, Greatest Hits: Decade #1, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart when it released in December, becoming her fifth consecutive album to debut at the top of that chart since Underwood launched her career with her first album, Some Hearts, in November 2005. Greatest Hits: Decade #1 is a 25-song double disc set that includes such hits as ‘Before He Cheats,’ ‘Temporary Home,’ ‘Undo It,’ ‘Blown Away,’ ‘See You Again’ and ‘Jesus Take the Wheel’ as well as two new songs ‘Something in the Water,’ and ‘Little Toy Guns,’ which is currently racing up the charts.
‘I don’t think it would be quite as exciting if I didn’t have something new for the album,’ Underwood says of the new tunes. And she’s also happy that her latest album includes the previously unreleased, live version of ‘How Great Thou Art’ with Vince Gill. ”How Great Thou Art’ kind of took on a life of its own,’ she says of the song she and Gill performed together for the ‘ACM Presents: Girls’ Night Out’ concert/television special. ‘I hear people all the time come up to me and tell me, ‘I love that, I look at it online all the time,’ so I thought it was important to make that available on an album. That was a really amazing moment – I think for myself and for Vince – and we felt it.’
In addition to her skill as a vocalist, Underwood has co-written 10 of her 19 No. 1 hits, including ‘Something in the Water,’ which she penned with Chris DeStefano and Brett James. On her Greatest Hits collection, she offers up something unique or fans to give them some insight into the songwriting process by including the worktape versions of ‘So Small’ and ‘Last Name,’ both written in January 2007, and ‘Mama’s Song,’ penned in February of 2009.
‘I wanted to do something different with extras,’ she says, ‘so we’re including three worktapes that were recorded the day we wrote the songs – which I think is pretty special. Part of what’s fun is we mess up all over them: I’m not perfectly on key because it’s the first time I’ve ever sung the song, people are talking or jumping in on things, and it’s just kind of an awesome mess, but I’m really excited for people to have another view to what we do and to share the experience of hearing those songs first come to life.’
Underwood admits she’s become more comfortable as a songwriter in recent years. ‘I definitely feel more confident, being able to share my own ideas,’ she admits. ‘I’m not afraid to sound stupid anymore, which is always the biggest hump to overcome in the beginning because you are with these professional writers and that’s what they do. [You wonder] ‘Are they going to think I’m dumb if I throw this out there?’ but I don’t care anymore. I also don’t put that much pressure on myself to write everything. I don’t think it’s necessary. There are the best songwriters in the world right here in Nashville and there are tons of songs. Some of them I’ve heard and some of them I haven’t heard that are absolutely amazing. I feel like I’d be doing myself a disservice, my album a disservice, my fans a disservice to ignore that. It would be easy to sit down and write the whole album by myself, but it wouldn’t be the best album that it could be.’
Much has been written lately about the fact that the country charts are mostly dominated by male artists with Underwood and Miranda Lambert being the most consistent female hitmakers who are giving the guys some competition. Underwood is happy to be one of the women carrying the torch for women country music these days. ‘I grew up listening to Reba, Patty Loveless, Suzy Bogguss and Mary Chapin Carpenter, then Martina McBride and later on The Judds,’ she says. ‘There’s definitely been those stand out women that paved the way for the rest of us and hopefully we will build another step and 10, 15, 20 years there will be somebody to take what we did and keep building on it.’
This spring Underwood will expand into the clothing arena with the launch of CALIA by Carrie Underwood, a fitness lifestyle apparel brand, which will be sold exclusively at Dick’s Sporting Goods beginning in March. ‘It has been such a rewarding experience working with Dick’s Sporting Goods on all aspects of the design process for CALIA, from choosing fabrics to making sure the look, feel and fit is right for active women,’ she says. ‘The inspiration for this line came from my desire to have clothes that seamlessly take me from workouts, to errands, to rehearsals and beyond. As someone who is passionate about health and fitness, I’m excited to offer women a wardrobe that will move with them and encourage them to stay the path of leading an active lifestyle.’
Underwood’s busy life is about to get even busier this spring as she and her husband, Nashville Predators hockey star Mike Fisher, are expecting their first child, a baby boy. Though they haven’t chosen a name yet, the prospective parents have been busy preparing for their new arrival, and Underwood has been reveling in the miracle of motherhood. ‘The whole process itself is really beautiful, she recently told PEOPLE magazine.
‘Even when I feel pretty large, it really is such a miracle and such a beautiful thing.’
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