After two multi-platinum albums, Carrie Underwood says she felt less pressure while working her latest project, Play On, which arrived in stores this week.
During a recent interview with CMT Insider host Katie Cook, Underwood talked about her continuing desire to develop as a singer and songwriter. She also offered her observations about the current role of women in country music.
Here’s an excerpt from Cook’s interview:
CMT: You’re releasing your third album. It seems like the first one just came out. Does it seem to you like time is flying by?
Underwood: It really depends on the day. Some days, it feels like Idol and … making the first album seems like a million years ago. And then sometimes it seems like, “This is my third album? What happened? Where has the time gone?” So it really just depends on the day.
Some Hearts and Carnival Ride combined have sold over 10 million albums now, I think, so you obviously have a very good idea of what your fans want. But how much do you consider your past success when you’re picking new material or writing new material? How much does that weigh in?
I think on the third album, I’m not as concerned. On the second album, I was like, “Oh, my gosh. What if nobody likes it?” You don’t want to be a fluke at all. … The second one has done well, and the third one was [about] growing and becoming a better writer and hopefully a better vocalist. Hopefully, everything is just better for the third one. And I think all of that definitely shows.
In the ’90s Garth Brooks was such a megastar and, instantly, all of these labels were trying to sign the new Garth Brooks. All of these young guys in hats were getting deals. Then you came along and became so successful, it seemed like all these labels were trying to sign the next Carrie Underwood. All of a sudden, you’ve got all these beautiful young blondes with big voices getting deals. How does it feel to kind of be responsible for kind of ushering in this new era?
I don’t know if I ever really thought about it that way because I think of people like Miranda [Lambert] who were around before I was. So you could say she started it all. It’s her fault. (laughs)
So you don’t look around and think, “Gosh, there’s a lot of blondes on the scene all of a sudden?”
Nah, it’s all good. Us blondes have all got to stick together.
But do you get a sense of the influence you’ve had? I mean, I would think you could easily look around the industry and go, “I can see where I’ve opened some doors in the past few years.”
I don’t know. I really haven’t thought about it that much. I think it’s something that you might look back on at the end of your career, and it would be easier to point out things that you’ve done. But I think that … we all have our place. I think everybody in country music right now brings some new element, even if it is another blond girl with a big voice, whoever it is. [They] would definitely bring stuff to the table and bring fans into country music. And that’s what it’s all about. I feel like we’re growing an empire, and every single person that is part of this club, this team, is sucking in the rest of the world and getting them hooked. Which is great.
Do you feel like there is a bit more of a balanced landscape, though, because you’ve opened the door for more women to really be at the top of their game right now?
I definitely do see more women in country music and more women doing well, and I think it will be a while before we really get what’s coming to us. … I’m not complaining at all because I’d rather work as hard as I can and see a difference than have things handed to me, but it does seem sometimes like women have to work a lot harder to kind of keep up with the boys. And I definitely see the tides changing.
And it seems that within the crop of women right now, there’s a level of confidence I’m not sure I spotted a couple of decades ago.
I feel like before it was always this anomaly — woman one, singular — that would come in and really make her mark and do great. And now there’s more of us, and we’re all doing this. And so, I’m really happy with the way things are going. Hopefully, we can take over. I know it’s possible. (laughs)