Takes the Wheel
by Jay S. Jacobs
Carrie Underwood had over 29 million people show up at her coming out party. That day, when she and rocker Bo Bice vied for the final slot on Fox-TV’s mega-hit talent contest American Idol was the turning of a page for the young singer. Since winning the season four crown, she has released a top-five debut album called Some Hearts and two smash hit singles – “Inside Your Heaven” and “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” As far as she is concerned, this is just the beginning.
Underwood sat down with us to discuss the whirlwind ride she has been on for the past year.
How did you originally get into music?
I always just sang around the house. I don’t really know why. But, I started singing in church and when I got a little bit older I’d do stuff like talent shows and little fairs and things like that.
How did you decide to audition to American Idol?
I saw on the news where people were sleeping outside in Cleveland. And I thought, hmmm, I wonder where they’re going to be now? I got on the internet and found out they were going to be in St. Louis and just decided to go.
A year ago you were an unknown small town girl. Now you have been on the most popular show on television, you have a top 10 album and have had hit singles and your biggest musical heroes know you? How surreal has it been? Has it been all you dreamed?
I never really knew what to expect, but it really has exceeded any expectations I think I could have had. Sometimes I have to sit back and think about all the stuff that I’ve done that day or the past week. Yeah, it’s very surreal.
Previously the show tended to get lots of R&B and pop. Why do you think the show was so open for different styles like your country and rock from Bo (Bice) and Constantine (Maroulis)?
I think just to keep things interesting. My year we had a very eclectic group of people. We had pretty much every single genre of music represented on the show. I thought that was really cool and I thought it was cool that America picked a country girl to win it.
I really loved your performance of Heart’s “Alone” on the show. Any chance you’ll ever officially record that?
Not record that, no, but I am doing a special later on VH1, a tribute to Heart. There’s going to be a whole bunch of people that are going to be involved with that. It’s going to be good.
Is Simon really as cranky as he tries to get everyone to believe?
I think he’s just honest about what he thinks. I think he just says what he thinks, whether it’s right or wrong or (laughs) whatever. He just says what he thinks.
How about Paula and Randy? What were they like?
They seemed to be… I like seeing them now in public for the different things that we’re doing. Because they always come up to me and talk to me and ask me how things are going. So they seem really nice.
I’m sure you’ve heard this question a million times, but what was it like at that final moment when your name was called as the next American Idol?
It was one of those moments I feel like I’ll remember forever. It was just awesome to have all of those months of work and being on TV and doing stuff every single week and all the nerves and everything – just, whew, it’s over. (laughs) I can move on and hopefully have an incredible career. I was just an incredible moment.
Even before the show was over you had recorded your first single, “Inside Your Heaven,” which debuted at the top of the charts. I was kind of surprised that both you and Bo released the same song as a single. In previous years each of the top two recorded different songs. How did it come about that you both did the same song?
Well, I think the year before us, I’m pretty sure that Fantasia (Barrino) and Diana (DeGarmo) recorded the same song.
Oh, okay, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that…
I just think Fantasia’s was the one that everybody heard. But, yeah I think it’s been that way before I was.
You went down to Nashville to work on the album. How did you decide which songs you were going to do?
It was all about just listening to a whole bunch of songs. There was no specific theme we were going into in the beginning. We would just, you know, I’d pick out a few songs that I really liked and definitely wanted to be on there. Other songs it was kind of like had to like them and had to work with the other songs. So we actually picked too many, were going to record too many, and we ended up putting almost all of them on the album.
With the new album you have released two separate singles for different formats, “Jesus Take the Wheel” for country and “Some Hearts” for pop. Why did you guys decide to do that?
I think just because of the exposure I got on Idol, just kind of to see what we could do with it. (laughs) Obviously, “Jesus, Take the Wheel” did so much better so, I’m pretty sure (laughs again) we’re going to stick with that side.”
There were a lot of really nice country songs like “Wasted” and “I Just Can’t Live the Life”…
Well, we tried to out as much on there as we could and as different on there as we could. Just so – for the listener to sit down and listen to the CD. You know, that they wouldn’t get bored with it.
Yeah, like I was just going to say, musically the album is rather diverse, there is pop-rockier stuff like “Some Hearts,” “We’re Young and Beautiful” and “Lessons Learned,” more traditional country like “Wasted,” “I Just Can’t Live A Life” is Adult Contemporary and “Don’t Forget To Remember Me” and “The Night Before (Life Goes On)” is more AC with country elements. Were you looking to experiment with styles on the album?
It just kind of came out the way it came out. We didn’t really mean to, per se. It was just kind of listening to songs and figuring out which ones I liked, which ones worked. We wanted a diverse group of songs, but it was all about what worked together on an album.
In the album, when the songs turn to love, it seem evenly split between a lot of the relationships are in trouble or dying like in “Before He Cheats,” “Starts With Goodbye” or “I Just Can’t Live the Life” and more positive things like “Lessons Learned.” As a singer, do you find happy relationships more interesting to interpret or troubled ones?
Of course I never… I mean I’m singing a song and I try to put myself in a place so I can really feel the song. I don’t know which ones are better. (laughs) I like happy songs, because they make me happy. But, also, whenever you’re depressed or something and you sit down and listen to a song that feels like you can relate to, then that’s good.
I really like the song “Lessons Learned” about how all things, even the bad ones help to define who we are. What lessons have you learned?
In relationships or life? All of the above?
In life. In general. However you’d like to answer it…
I think the most important thing that I’ve learned is that things will work out. The most important thing is just to be happy. It’s not what you do, it’s not how much money you make, it’s just at the end of the day, if you can look back and think, okay, I’m a happy person. There’s people around me that I love and love me. It’s good.
What were (producers) Mark Bright and Dann Huff like to work with?
They were awesome. They had two completely different producing styles. But they are both friends. It was just all about figuring out what they meant when they said stuff. It was just great to work with them. I thought it was great for me to work with two different people. Get kind of two different takes on the album.
Idol albums tend to have covers on them. While your cover of “Independence Day” was on the American Idol album and the single, why did you decide you didn’t want to have a better known song on the album?
That’s not my song. That’s Martina McBride’s song. That’s the song she’s most known for. So, I personally didn’t feel like it should be on my album. When we were discussing which ones were going to be on the album, I specifically said that doesn’t really make sense to me. We have so many great songs that people have never heard before. Why don’t we put those on there instead of that one. Everybody agreed. You know, it’s just not my song.
In the end, how would you like people to see your music?
I really hope, obviously, I have a long and successful career. I hope people look back and my music and say she’s done this for a long time and she’s done it well. I want to form good relationships with people and just do everything the right way.
Are there any misconceptions you’d like to clear up?
I think I have a problem with conveying emotions. (laughs) And whenever I’m doing interviews on TV or something like that, I’m a funny person. I swear I am. My mom says I’m cool. (laughs hard) But, I don’t know, I think a lot of people, they don’t really know me and they may think I’m a little more reserved than I actually am because I’m trying to be all sweet and stuff on TV.
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Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 28, 2006.