Carrie Underwood Encourages Her Fans on New Album, Play On (Part 2 of 2)

Singer Explains Her Love of Animals and How Music Can Change the World

In the second half of this two-part interview with Carrie Underwood, the Checotah, Okla., native discusses her superhero producers, her fondness for small animals and the meaningful messages in new songs like “Change” and “Play On.”

CMT: I was surprised to hear so many traditional country instruments in “Quitter” since it was produced by the Swedish producer Max Martin.

Underwood: Well, it was actually produced by Max Martin and Mark Bright. When you get something like that together, it’s like they’re superheroes and they’re combining forces to make something really great. So, yeah, we brought him in to my world. And I think it worked out really well.

Did you have any idea how that would turn out when those two got together?

No! (laughs) And you never know when you work with somebody new, no matter who it is. You always just wonder if it’s going to work out. But you never know unless you try. And it really did. It came together and it ended up sounding so fresh and so different than anything I’ve done and that I’ve heard anybody else do. So it was a lot of fun, meeting new people.

Were there any creative stipulations on that collaboration?

The only stipulation, of course, was to make it sound like it belonged with the rest of the album. And that’s the way it is with any song. It doesn’t matter what it is. You just have to make sure that it flows, that it brings something new to the table, because you want everything to have its place or else you’d be listening to the same song for 13 tracks. And nobody wants to do that. It has to belong.

In the song, “Change,” this lyric caught my attention: “The world is so big, it could break your heart.” What does that line mean to you?

To me, there are so many problems in the world, it’s kind of like, “Where do I start?” You know, you want to make a difference. That’s what the whole song is about — the smallest thing. If everybody does the smallest thing, it adds up to amazing, amazing things. But people don’t see that. They can be weighed down by all this stuff they see on the news or the things that are in their newspapers or people talking about something. It just seems impossible.

I think music can change the world. What are some examples that you can think of?

I think it does. Well, the song “Change”– if somebody hears that and they’re like, “You know what? I do change the channel every time I see one of those commercials asking me to donate. Maybe I’ll call in, even if it’s 25 bucks.” I mean, whatever you’ve got in your pocket. That’s what it’s saying — the smallest thing, the change in your pocket, can make such a difference. If anybody sees that and wants to do something after that, wants to give money or donate their time — and time is money, so donate what you can — then it already has changed the world.

I want to ask you about your C.A.T.S. (Checotah Animal, Town and School) Foundation. Why was it important for you to include animals in your charity work?

I grew up out in the country, and I’ve always just had a huge love of animals. Just from birth, I was catching frogs and bringing them in the house. And one time when I was little, I let a rabbit loose in the house. It was all my fault, I know. It was like two weeks loose in our house. But I’ve always thought if I see it and it needs help, I have to help it. In my college dorm room, I snuck a cat in. I’m sorry, NSU [Northeastern State University of Oklahoma], but I had a cat in the dorms because it needed help. I think being out in the country, people seem to be a lot more relaxed on spaying and neutering. We lived in an area of town where everybody would come dump their animals. I know what that’s like. It was really important to help out the little critters where I come from because I love them, too.

There’s a lyric in “Play On” that says, “‘Cause you’re going to make mistakes/It’s always worth the sacrifice/Even when you’re wrong/Play on.” Why are those lines so important to the message of that song?

If something seems bad, instead of hiding under the covers and not facing things, we can make things worse than they already are. You have to keep going. You have to keep playing the game. You have to keep doing what you do. And, yeah, it is worth the sacrifice even if you have all these doubts in your head. You just gotta keep playing.

So the message isn’t necessarily, “I think this is the wrong thing to do, but … .”

No, don’t do things you think are wrong! (laughs) I don’t want people to lose all their money, like gamble it away or something. It’s just all about keeping going. Keep playing your song, keep doing your life things when stuff is bad. When it rains on you, just keep going, even if you think you shouldn’t.

Was that something you needed to remind yourself the day you wrote that?

Yeah, it’s a very therapeutic song to sing. And I feel like it would be a song that people could listen to and feel inspired to be a little happier about life.

When you heard it played back the first time, what was going through your mind?

I thought it would be a great album title. (laughs) I don’t know what people would think about it, and it may never be a single or anything, but it was definitely a message that was poignant. Yeah, it’s just fun to sing.

Read the first part of the Carrie Underwood interview.
Craig Shelburne has been writing for CMT.com since 2002. He is also a producer for CMT Edge, Concrete Country and Live @ CMT.