Originally published in the November 19, 2007 issue of Country Weekly magazine.
Keep an eye out: that cute blonde standing next to you at the store wearing sweats and a baseball cap might just be Carrie Underwood. “People are so used to seeing me on TV, hair done, full makeup, beautiful clothes and high heels and stuff like that,” Carrie says. “Nobody really expects me to be walking around Target in my jeans and T-shirt or sweats and a cap. What everybody else does is what I do.”
Well, maybe—but not everybody rocketed to fame as the winner of the popular TV talent contest American Idol and released a debut album, Some Hearts, that sold six million copies and included three No. 1 hits (“Jesus, Take the Wheel,” “Before He Cheats” and “Wasted”). And not everybody is now expected to live up to that high standard with her second effort, the new Carnival Ride.
When it came time to make the new album, she admits, “I got scared. I thought, ‘Is there really anywhere to go but down?’ That fear was in my head. Then I realized it was more about making an album that I love than it was to top the first one. I don’t even know if that’s possible.
“Life throws at you whatever it throws at you, and I’m lucky enough to be here and do what I love. Whatever happens, it’s icing on the cake.”
Despite her enormous success, an average day for the superstar singer is . . . well, pretty average. “I usually don’t let myself sleep past 9,” says Carrie. “I take my dog outside and make breakfast. Then I get ready and run errands or clean the house. I vacuum floors and clean my toilet. I make my bed every day.”
Carrie’s constant companion is her 1-year-old rat terrier named Ace. “He’s black and brown and just 9 pounds, so he’s very portable,” she chuckles. “He flies with me and travels with me on the bus. And when I’m home, Ace and I just hang out.”
Carrie owns her own home in an upscale Nashville suburb. “I live in a really beautiful area,” she says. “I like that, just because what I do is so crazy. I’ll go out and do an appearance at some place nearby, and then I get to come home to peace. That’s really nice.”
Comfort is key in Carrie’s home. “A lot of it is more of a cottage feel,” she explains. “It’s warm colors, greens and reds. My breakfast room has a lot of roosters and chickens [in the décor]. I don’t know why I like them, but I do. My den is homey feeling. My formal areas have lots of antiques, which I love.”
When she has a rare day off, the Checotah, Okla., native enjoys the usual pursuits any other 24-year-old might gravitate toward. “I like shopping,” she says. “That’s a big treat. Plus, I’m still working on putting my house together, so I’ll go out and look for house things. And I hang out with my friends.”
Sometimes, though, a day off means a day inside and alone, just relaxing. “I stay in my pajamas,” she says. “‘Pamper Carrie Days’ usually include Sunday night or Monday night football games [on TV]. I’ve always been a Dallas fan. Growing up in Oklahoma, their games were always on.”
When the subject of Dallas Cowboys football comes up, so does the inevitable question of her rumored romance with Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. She and Tony did attend the Academy of Country Music Awards together in May, and she’s been to some of his games. “We never were really dating,” she insists. “We’re really good friends. We both grew up the same way—we both had a lot come to us really fast. We are really close. We support each other, but we’re not together.”
She does admit that her mother is a big fan of Tony. “She loves Tony,” declares Carrie. “She’ll sometimes call and say, ‘Tony looked awful cute playing the other night.’ I’ll say, ‘Mom, you date him then!’ ”
In fact, Carrie reveals she isn’t currently dating anyone. “I’m not opposed to dating,” she says. “I’m never not looking. It would be nice to have somebody to talk to, somebody to call when good news happens—besides my mom—who would be excited with me.”
So, what is Carrie’s idea of that ideal somebody? “I don’t look for anything initially,” she says. “But I would like somebody who’s ambitious and wants to better their life. I want them to always want more and always be looking to grow as a person. I like funny guys, and I like ‘guy guys’—guys who drink beer and watch football.”
Marriage and motherhood are definitely in Carrie’s plans, but she’s skeptical about starting a family while maintaining a music career at the same time. “I don’t think I can have a kid on the bus,” she says. “It would take a very, very special person to be in this business and really focus on their kids as much as they need to be focused on. I don’t think I’m that good of a person. I think one day when I decide to have a family, I’m going to choose my family [over the music business]. But right now, I don’t have that to worry about.”
For the moment, it’s all about music—in particular, the much-anticipated Carnival Ride. The first single, “So Small,” made Carrie the first woman in 43 years to debut in the country singles chart Top 20. The album’s other songs run the gamut from the emotionally riveting “Just a Dream”—about a young woman who loses her fiancé in a war—to the playful “Last Name,” which chronicles a drunken misadventure. The latter tune may be more fantasy than reality, as Carrie reveals she’s not much of a party animal.
“I drink,” she says. “I’m 24, so it’s allowed. But I’ve never like lost control of myself in any way, and I’ve never done anything stupid. If I’m out with my friends or drinking at dinner, I’m really good at knowing my limits. I never want to do anything that people could take pictures of that would be embarrassing to me the next day.”
One autobiographical song on her new album is “Crazy Dreams,” which speaks of seeing dreams become reality. As someone who has seen her own crazy dreams come true, Carrie hopes to inspire others. “It’s so cliché to say, ‘If I can do it, you can do it,’” she says, “but this is something that could happen to somebody else. I’m sure every day someone gets to live out their dreams.”
Carrie says her favorite song on Carnival Ride is “Wheel of the World,” which inspired the album’s title. “My favorite line [in the song] pretty much sums up everything that I’ve been through,” she says. “I think everybody could find something in this particular line: God put us here on this carnival ride / We close our eyes never knowing where it will take us next. It’s beautiful, and so true. We just kind of trust and hope that whatever ride we’re on in life takes us where we need to go.”
Unlike many who achieve a lot at a young age, Carrie seems to have avoided developing an inflated ego. “A lot of people can lose their way if they don’t have people around them who will tell them the truth,” she admits. “I have a great family and good friends who will be honest with me and let me know if something I’m doing is inappropriate. They treat me like a human being, not like a superstar.”
Even Ace, her canine companion, keeps her grounded. “I don’t know what he got into the other night, but it made him sick. In the middle of the night, he was waking me up to clean up a mess. It wasn’t pretty!” So much for the glitz of stardom.
With her feet on the ground and her eyes on the future, it seems there is no limit to where Carrie Underwood can go from here.
“There are tons of things that I’d love to do in my life,” she says. “I love what I do, and I pray every day that I don’t take it for granted. I want to do what I’m supposed to do with what I’ve been given.” CW
SIDEBAR: CARRIE’S LUCKY ACE
Carrie’s 1-year-old rat terrier Ace originally belonged to her former fiddle player. “I don’t think he had ever had a dog before in his life, so I don’t really think he knew what he was getting into,” Carrie says. “I said I’d babysit him for a few days, and we were perfect together. Then he was like, ‘You’ll take him, right?’ Even though it was the worst time for me to have a dog, it really has worked out. I think he was sent to me. He’s my little guardian angel.”
On Carrie’s new Carnival Ride CD there’s a song, “The More Boys I Meet,” where she sings about how the more men she gets to know, the more she loves her dog. “That is true to me,” she confesses with a laugh. “Boys come and go, but I love my dog more than anything in the universe.”
SHE’S A WINNER: For someone whose debut album was released less than two years ago, Carrie’s mantel is amazingly full of awards. Here are just a few:
- 2006 Academy of Country Music Awards – Top New Female Vocalist of the Year
- 2006 Country Music Association Awards – Female Vocalist of the Year, Horizon Award
- 2006 American Music Awards – Favorite New Breakthrough Artist
- 2006 Billboard Music Awards – Female Country Artist of the Year, Country New Artist Of The Year, Female Billboard 200 Album Artist of the Year
- 2007 People’s Choice Awards – Favorite Female Singer
- 2007 Grammy Awards – Best New Artist
- 2007 ACM Awards – Top Female Vocalist