With more than 14 million albums sold worldwide, 14 No. 1 singles, with six as co-writes, five Grammys, and countless other accolades—all achieved with three albums in less than seven years—Carrie Underwood remains ever-passionate, fueled by a restless creative spirit, good-natured competitive streak, and abundance of God-given talent. And now, Carrie unleashes her most ambitious project yet with Blown Away.
Teaming again with producer Mark Bright, Carrie delivers a 14-song collection that covers a particularly vast expanse of emotional territory. She celebrates the understated pleasures of small-town living in “Thank God For Hometowns” and explores the exquisite fragility of life in “Forever Changed.” She’s not averse to tackling abuse and betrayal then doling out a little sweet revenge with such compelling tracks as “Blown Away” and “Two Black Cadillacs.” Musically the songs range from rollicking up-tempo anthems, such as her smash first single “Good Girl” to the island-flavored escape of “One Way Ticket” and the steel guitar-laced country lament of “Wine After Whiskey.”
Such musical and lyrical diversity is the foundation of Carrie’s artistry. After all, this is a young woman who in the past year has performed with Steven Tyler on a top-rated edition of CMT’s Crossroads, scored a No. 1 country hit with good friend Brad Paisley on “Remind Me,” and sang with the iconic Tony Bennett on this year’s Grammy telecast, delivering the classic “It Had To Be You,” their collaboration on Bennett’s Duets II album.
The Oklahoma native is a fan of all types of music, yet she’s purposefully planted herself in the country format, even while her eclectic tastes have influenced her creative output. She’s been careful to not get pigeonholed and prides herself on not being predictable. “I feel like I’ve taken all of my albums into as many different directions as possible while still keeping them cohesive,” she says. “I love this album from start to finish and love every song on it. There’s not one single song that’s like another song I’ve ever done. I think it’s my best album. I really do think there’s something for everyone.”
Her ability to be unique yet accessible has been crucial to Carrie’s career from the beginning. She became America’s sweetheart in 2005 when she won the fourth season of American Idol, a vehicle that transformed her from a shy Oklahoma girl with a great voice to a budding superstar. Since then she’s become the popular franchise’s most successful alum.
She’s won a vast array of awards including three female vocalist awards from both the Country Music Association (CMA) and the Academy of Country Music (ACM). In 2010, when Carrie garnered her second win as ACM Entertainer of the Year, she became the first female artist to win the award twice, and only the 7th female to take the award in the 40-year history of the ACM category, among Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Barbara Mandrell, Reba McEntire, Shania Twain, and the Dixie Chicks. Thanks to her past wins for the categories of Entertainer of the Year, Top Female Vocalist, and Top New Female Vocalist, Carrie also received the ACM Triple Crown Award, which has been won by only one other female artist—Barbara Mandrell in 2004. In addition to the above, Carrie’s won 6 American Music Awards, 6 People’s Choice Awards, 7 CMT Music Awards, 9 American Country Awards, and 7 BMI Songwriter Awards. Carrie also received a Golden Globe nomination in 2010 for Best Original Song for “There’s A Place For Us,” which she recorded and co-wrote for Chronicles Of Narnia: Voyage Of The Dawn Treader.
Carrie’s 2005 debut Some Hearts topped Billboard’s Country Albums chart for 27 weeks, has sold over 7 million copies, and was voted No. 1 Country Album of the Decade by Billboard. Her 2007 sophomore album, Carnival Ride, and 2009’s Play On each debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s country and all-genre album charts. Over the course of three albums, she’s saturated country radio with such hits as “Jesus, Take The Wheel,” “Before He Cheats,” “So Small,” “Last Name,” “Just A Dream,” “Cowboy Casanova,” “Temporary Home,” “All-American Girl,” “Undo It,” and “Mama’s Song.”
Carrie’s highly acclaimed concert tours have further helped to establish her into the elite status of the country music community, or in any genre of music, with her stellar performances. In 2008, after wrapping her “Carnival Ride Tour” she became the top-selling country female touring artist of the year, selling out many of her 137 shows before 1.2 million fans. In that year, Carrie also became the most-heard artist at country radio and was named the No. 1 Hot Country Songs Artist by Billboard and No. 1 Top Country Artist by Radio & Records. In 2010, her next headline arena tour, the “Play On Tour,” played 108 shows with one million fans attending, which resulted in Carrie being named again as the top-ranked female country touring artist of the year. In 2012, in support of Blown Away, Carrie will headline another major international tour, which will no doubt be one of the hottest tickets of the year.
Carrie is a proud member of the Grand Ole Opry and expanded her résumé making her acting debut in the 2011 film Soul Surfer. She can be seen in print and TV ads as the North American face of Olay beauty products, and has a long-running deal with vitaminwater®. One of country music’s most respected young ambassadors, Carrie has served as co-host of the CMA Awards with Brad Paisley the past four years.
Yet for those who think they know Carrie, Blown Away is likely to catch them by surprise, particularly the cinematic title track with its swirling, atmospheric production and intense lyric about abuse and revenge. “I got chills,” she says of the first time she heard the Josh Kear/Chris Tompkins penned stunner. “I remember where I was when I heard it and called my manager and said, ‘Do not let anyone else have this song. It’s my song.’ It’s such a visual song. You listen to it and you can see everything that is happening. It’s so dramatic. I’m not a drama person, but when you can make a movie in song form in 3 and a half minutes, it’s surreal.”
“Blown Away” finds a daughter getting revenge on an abusive, alcoholic father and the next song, “Two Black Cadillacs,” also has a larger-than-life cinematic quality which makes both tunes feel like mini-movies set to music. “Two Black Cadillacs” relates the story of a wife and mistress who conspire to get even with the man who betrayed them both. “It’s just more drama,” says Carrie, who co-wrote the tune with Josh Kear and Hillary Lindsey. “It was so much fun creating all this drama and singing about it. That’s the great thing about being an entertainer; you’re just a big actor. When we start sitting down and writing songs, you just never know what’s going to come out.”
Carrie co-wrote eight of the 14 songs on Blown Away, including the first single, “Good Girl,” which has rocketed up the charts. “ ‘Good Girl’ was one of the last ones I wrote for the album,” she says of the tune she penned with Chris DeStefano and Ashley Gorley. “We wanted something a little more fun and up-tempo. Chris DeStefano is just a mad scientist with his Pro Tools, and he can play every instrument. We walked out of that writing session with a demo. It sounded awesome. It was ready to go. We let everybody hear it, and everybody was so excited.”
“Cupid’s Got A Shotgun” is another of the album’s high-energy tracks, and it gets an extra kick from Paisley contributing his signature guitar licks. “Once we got into the studio, I was like, ‘Brad Paisley HAS to play on this. He’ll make the song,’ ” Carrie says of the tune she wrote with Kear and Tompkins. “We left so much space in the song for him to come in and play. He did his thing and sounded awesome. He added that last piece of the puzzle, and it’s just so country. It’s really cool.”
In addition to being musically inventive, Carrie has long been known for delivering songs with substance, and the new album delivers its share of potent messages. “Nobody Ever Told You,” which Carrie wrote with Luke Laird and Hillary Lindsey, boasts an empowering lyric and a breezy, engaging melody. “People need to hear compliments more,” she says of the song’s life-affirming lyric. “People need to hear ‘I love you’ more. People need to hear ‘You are beautiful’ more.”
“Good In Goodbye,” co-written by Carrie, Lindsey and Ryan Tedder, is a bittersweet look at life beyond heartbreak that offers tender truth in the lines “As bad as it was/As bad as it hurt/I thank God I didn’t get what I thought I deserved.” On the other end of the emotional spectrum, “Thank God For Hometowns” is a sweet salute to small-town life. “I heard that one when I was going back to my 10-year high school reunion,” the Checotah, OK, native says. “I listened to the demo when I was driving in to go stay with my parents. It was just very fitting in my heart at that time.”
“Forever Changed” is a beautiful ballad that brings tears to Carrie’s eyes as she discusses it. “I had a hard time recording it, and I still have a hard time listening to it,” she says of the Tom Douglas/Hillary Lindsey/James T. Slater penned ballad. “That is the most wonderfully well-written song I’ve ever heard in my life. There’s this young girl meeting the love of her life, getting married and having a baby. It takes you back in time, and there is something old fashioned about it. At the end, the mom’s obviously slipping away a little bit. It is a sad song, but it’s not meant to be a sad song. It’s about love, being forever changed, forever loved.”
In a few short years, Carrie has seen the power that music has to change lives—to incite dialogue, to instill hope, and to simply entertain. She’s aware of the platform she’s been given. She respects it and appreciates every moment. “I’m very happy in my life, and I count my blessings every day,” she says. “Seven years ago when I decided to try out for American Idol, my life changed completely in the blink of an eye. I went down a different train track and took off at about a million miles per hour. I feel like I’m still learning. In the beginning, it was like, ‘Oh, I have a No. 1. That’s awesome!’ I didn’t really understand what that meant. ‘Jesus, Take The Wheel’ and ‘Before He Cheats’ were No. 1 for several weeks, and that doesn’t happen often, but I had no idea. I realize now what hard work it actually is, and I feel like I can appreciate those victories even more. Touring is more fun because I know what it’s like to headline a tour. I feel like I’m able to be more and more creative all the time. I always feel like I’m taking steps forward.”