Originally published in the July 4, 2005 issue of Country Weekly magazine.
For the first time ever, the winner of the wildly popular TV talent show American Idol is a country singer.
Checotah, Okla., native Carrie Underwood was named the champ for the series’ fourth season May 25. During a live two-hour finale seen by over 28 million people, Rascal Flatts joined Carrie for a version of their hit “Bless the Broken Road.” That performance was quickly picked up by enough radio stations to push the version onto the country airplay chart.
Carrie has signed a million-dollar recording deal with Arista Records, which released her first single, “Inside Your Heaven,” to stores on June 14. The disc also includes her version of “Independence Day,” originally performed by her favorite singer, Martina McBride. Carrie’s full-length debut album is expected this fall, and she hopes it will include an appearance from Rascal Flatts.
Carrie plans to stick to country, while remaining open to a broader audience. “I love country music, and that’s where I fit in,” she told CBS TV’s The Early Show. “I like crossover country music, too. So I think that would be a good avenue to explore. But it’s really all about picking out songs and finding ones that you feel fit you, no matter what genre they belong in.”
Before completing her album, Carrie will hit the road on the American Idols Live! Tour, which will kick off July 12 in Sunrise, Fla., and include 41 shows through Sept. 10. She made her Grand Ole Opry debut June 10.
Carrie, 22, beat out a field of more than 100,000 hopefuls to appear on American Idol. She then defeated her 11 fellow finalists, including runner-up Bo Bice, over the course of a season that saw more than 500 million viewer votes cast. During various episodes, Carrie sang country hits including “Independence Day, “ the Dixie Chicks’ “Sin Wagon” and Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”
Their duet with Carrie isn’t Rascal Flatts’ first involvement with American Idol. After seeing finalist Josh Gracin sing their hit “I’m Moving On” on the show, the trio pushed their record label, Lyric Street, to sign the ex-Marine. The company did just that, and released his well-received self-titled debut album last year.