Carrie Underwood

Alt Or Nothing Kinda Galearrie Underwood manages an incredible juggling act young baby to think about and a husband to miss her. Has she r most women would be jealous of, and has a hard time thought about taking some time out before walking straight inti asking for help. She’s the kind of woman many could a new release? sympathise with and aspire to.

When I walked into the rented suite that the record label had secured for Carrie’s interviews about her latest release STORYTELLER, she looked magnificent. Many would have confused the 32 year old for a single, happy-go-lucky pop star, not the mother of seven month-old Isaiah Michael Fisher. Leaving her baby at home for the first time since she’d given birth she commented “We probably would have stayed a little longer if I [had bought him along], I had to think about it and I was like ‘OK I want him with me but what’s best for him?’ Probably not completely rocking his world with the time schedule. I could just picture him waking up ready to go at three in the morning.”

I’ve been told enough times by enough artists, to know that touring isn’t all fun and games at the best of times. 1t’s a heavy schedule, brutal routine and often a colossal amount of time spent on the road. 1f you’re lucky you’re travelling in a luxurious tour bus and staying in glamorous hotels, but most of the time that’s far from reality. For this, her first international trip she chose to travel on her own, but when Carrie is on US soil, 1siah travels with her.

‘It’s a whole new ball game. Just trying to figure it all out. I mean he’s the best thing that I’ve ever done but it’s definitely [challenging] … When we leave to go anywhere it’s like OK I’ve got my suitcases, I’ve got all my clothes, all my show clothes, all my makeup and my hair stuff and then I’ve got his bag and ‘oh do we have… pacifiers? OK, I’ve got bottles, I’ve got his bottle warmer, do I have milk, do 1?’ … so it’s just a whole new [challenge].”

The song titled What I Never Knew I Always Wanted on her new studio album STORYTELLER, seems to admit to the fact that maybe a husband, big white wedding and babies weren’t really on her agenda, but right now she’s in the midst of the release with a young baby to think about and a husband to miss her. Has she not thought about taking some time out before walking straight into a new release?

I mean it certainly crosses my mind occasionally when things just get super hectic and I kind of feel that I can’t do anything well that’s what kind of kills me. I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. I want to be the best. I want to be on top, professionally. I want to be an awesome mum, I want to be an awesome wife and once you realise that things just have to give or take sometimes, for me that’s really hard. So I’m giving it my all and I’m just trying to make it all work and I’ve learned to ask for help which I think is something that has been challenging for me, but it’s been good.”

The characters conveyed in the 13 songs of STORYTELLER, explore strong female personalities, hard-hitting storylines and almost comical ones, a mix of songs that have an instant connection with Carries’ own life and those that she can connect with on another level. As a co-writer on five of the songs (you don’t need to know which ones from the liner notes to work it out) the album also features the song-writing prowess of Hillary Lindsey, Chris DeStefano, Jason White, Brett James, Zach Crowell and Mike Elizondo, to name a few. The final three named songwriters here are also the three producers on the album, which becomes a smorgasbord of tastes, styles and storylines. STORYTELLER is all about bringing you on this journey that Carrie has recently undertaken.

In the beginning it was just a, blank -slate and. it was. like what the heck am I going to do with this. Where am I going to go, what sound do I want? When you have the whole world of options in front of you it’s almost impossible to just pick a direction and go there and then I heard Choctaw County Affair and I was like ‘OK, I like this. This is a totally different sound. I love the story aspect of it and this is what I want to do’, so that kind of came like the catalyst that it was just since I had a direction, loose direction,

It’s a Whole new ball game. Just tryu to figure it all out. I mean he’s the best thing that I’ve ever done but it’s definite whenever we would go in to write I would kind of gravitate more towards these kinds of themes or these kinds of sounds. 1t just became easier to get the ball rolling. Then when listening to demos I’d be like ‘you know that’s a great song but it really doesn’t fit with what I’ve got going here so let’s keep looking.’ Yeah so it was all just kind of just puzzle pieces you know.”

Bringing together a new collection of sounds, has lead to many reviews and critics stating her move to mainstream. I’m not sure I’m for that opinion. While we see Carrie taking a new direction, her classic ‘Carrie’ take on some very good songs of choice, still give it that powerful vocal-led sound, but sees her travel into a rock arena more so than ever before. I love it – you see Carrie with more grit, really delving into these characters and their situations and conveying them as true to their story as she can. The sounds, the production, the style, I only feel like the mould hasn’t been broken, she’s just chosen not to do the same thing over and over and I commend her massively for that move! 1t definitely makes her a much more interesting artist to speak to and even more so when it comes to listening to her.

“That’s kind of me anyway… I feel like we are just so influenced by other genres in music because music is so easily accessible. I mean country music now, there’s something for everybody. 1t’s an exciting time to be part of it.”

Smoke Break is the leading single from the album, and is a song about resilience, a song that takes on the ‘bro country’ suc-genre that explores drinking, smoking and relaxing after a hard day at work, except this time it’s the ladies taking the break.

The song opens with ‘She’s a small-town, hardworking woman just trying to make a living/ Working three jobs, feeding four little mouths in a run-down kitchen/ When you never taking nothing and doing nothing but giving/ 1t’s hard to be a good wife and a good mom and a good Christian.’ The chorus then peaks with ‘She said, I don’t drink/ But sometimes I need a stiff drink/ Sipping from a high, full glass/ Let the world fade away/ She said, I don’t smoke/ But sometimes I need a long drag / Yeah, I know it might sound bad/ But sometimes I need a smoke break.’

“OK I’ve had conversations with my people about Smoke Break and I’ve had a lot of questions like ‘oh you’re not promoting smoking?’ I’m like ‘no it’s a metaphor!’ 1f you listen to the song I don’t think there is really any question what it is … But then again we have guys who basically talk about smoking pot in their songs, blatantly, and I haven’t heard anyone ask them any questions about it. So I have a metaphorical song that references smoking and drinking [and they say] ‘oh my gosh she’s promoting tobacco.’ I’m not!”

Heartbeat, The Girl You Think I Am and What I Never Knew I Wanted all seem to combine a similar character – one that could easily represent Carrie. Co-written by Carrie, each of these songs really stand out for me as bringing the collection together on a personal level as Carrie explores the storyteller in her. The stories though, all centre around a different part of her life, as a doting wife, a mother and a daughter.

“Well in Heartbeat it was definitely just [about] mine and my husband’s lives. We are so busy, so for me sometimes it’s just like ‘1 love having dinner with all our friends but can we just go out alone occasionally?’ We don’t get a whole lot of alone time so for me that’s kind of where I was coming from. The Girl You Think 1

Am was definitely very personal. We were all sitting around talking about our dads and for me … I mean I didn’t realise until I was an adult how my dad saw me and that to me he sees me as being so much better than I am. I mean, I know he knows a lot of my mistakes because he was there for them, like you know teenage and college and whatever years but it’s almost like he has blinders on or something and kind of holds me higher, which is really sweet. Like I said I’m an adult and I realise that. I want to be the girl that he thinks that I am. What I Never Knew I Always Wanted was all about my husband – that’s my story all the way. We never needed to get married or [have a]£-ice”wedding day my whole life I was never [like that], I’m not that kind of person. I always assumed 1’d have kids one day. Some day … But now that I have him I’m like ‘oh my gosh why didn’t I do this before?’ He’s amazing and I couldn’t imagine life without him! Just going in and writing, no matter what, you either inject your own story into it or somebody that you know, a friend or something you know, real life works its way into writing. 1t’s inevitable.”

Another new song from the album, Mexico, explores a woman running from the police with a gun and money, after what you can only assume was a burglary saying to her man ‘I’ll meet you in Mexico.’ Church Bells opens as a more traditional country tune, exploring domestic violence and a woman who eventually stands up to her man by ‘slipping something into his Tennessee whisky.’ The characters are interesting, three-dimensional and the stories full of grit and drama. They make for some great storytelling.

Alongside her successes as a songwriter and artist, Carrie Underwood has many other interests and occupations. She is the co-host for the CMA Awards for the eighth consecutive year this November alongside Brad Paisley. She is also the voice of primetime television’s ‘Sunday Night Football’ for the

I always assumed Id have kids one day. Some day … But now that I have him I’m like foh my gosh why didn’t I do this before?f He’s amazing and I couldn’t imagine life without him!.. and that’s OK. I felt that it helped that I was healthy before and healthy during pregnancy. Not once during my pregnancy was I like ‘oh my gosh I need ice cream.’ I had cravings like everybody else but I’m a believer that cravings are your body telling you that you need some nutrition. If you are [thinking] I need sweets maybe you need Vitamin C. Maybe you should go eat an orange, you know what I mean? I don’t know, that was my thought process so it made it easier, not easy, but it helped after I had him, to get back to where I felt good about myself.”

Carrie is extremely down-to-earth. In fact, so much so, you could definitely forget, talking to her, that every one of her previous studio albums have sold Platinum or multi-Platinum. You could also forget that she’s won seven Grammy awards, has received over 100 major honours, sold more than 56 million records and has recorded 21 number one singles, 11 of which she co-wrote. The fact is Carrie Underwood is one of the most successful female country music artists of all time and is hailed as the maker and breaker of records. For a female artist in the country music scene, to make such a success at radio time and time again is definitely a mean feat. So why is it that the girls have a harder time on radio in the US than the boys, who seem to dominate the industry with every song? third season, and won the CRB Artist Humanitarian Award at the 2014 Country Radio Seminar. She has also recently embarked on creating an active wear clothing range titled CALIA by Carrie Underwood, and is an active promoter of positive body image and healthy living.

“I’ve always been interested in healthy foods and environmental things, even as a kid in Oklahoma, in rural Oklahoma. I’ve just always been interested and always wanted information on things like that. I feel good and I feel like I want other people to feel good too … It’s not all about being skinny or whatever, it’s about like being strong and liking yourself and feeling proud th at you’ve accomplished someth ing. After a good workout I feel accomplished so I guess when you know something that makes your life better and makes you feel better, you want to tell people about it.”

Having a baby is a monumental event for any woman. Many women take years to get back into shape, and many more never feel like their body will ever be the same again. Carrie, however looks as good as she ever has and explains how she dealt with pregnancy.

“My body is never going to be the same as it was. There’s things about it that have changed for good and will never change back,

“I don’t know. I ask the same question … plain and simple I feel like women just have to work harder in general. These guys can roll out of bed and go hit the stage and play a show … there’s so much more to think about as a woman. We do have to for some reason put on heels and fix our hair and there’s more pressure on us to look perfect all the time. They can sing their songs about drinking and whatever and, I don’t know, it’s a little wonky right now. I feel like there’s been a lot of good discussion about it.”

With the success of every album so far, with critics questioning whether Carrie has created an album for the mainstream or an album to satisfy her own needs to stand out, to do something a little different with every studio release (I believe it’s the latter), she must surely feel the pressure of the successes of her previous records?

“I feel like I’m at a point now in my career that some of the pressure’s off as far as trying to get sales or trying to … I feel like I have my place in country music and I just want to make music that I love and that hopefully the fans love. I don’t want to worry about the rest.”

As the Queen of Country leads the Country 2 Country Festival line-up announcement this year, it’s clear that the buzz surrounding Carrie Underwood and her international touring prospects will continue. Laura Bethell www.carrieunderwoodofflcial.com

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