Carrie Underwood Previews Cry Pretty at Nashville’s Parthenon

Talks Life in the Spotlight and Details New Album with

Whenever Carrie Underwood passed the Parthenon on her trips to Nashville growing up, she always thought she’d get married there.

That didn’t happen (She and her husband Mike Fisher exchanged vows in Georgia in 2010.). It was, however, the most regal spot to host Monday night’s (Aug. 20) private listening session for her upcoming album, Cry Pretty.

The Parthenon was built in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition, and it is a full-scale replica of the Athenian original. Inside, a 42-foot statue of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and war, stared down on the party of Cry Pretty songwriters and Music Row insiders all seated in clear chairs set up in rows like a wedding ceremony. The whole place (outside and inside) glowed in pink, the album’s signature color.

Underwood was overcome with emotion as she introduced her latest work, described by UMG Nashville president Cindy Mabe as her most personal album to date.

“This journey has been one of chances,” Underwood said of the album-making process, “and taking steps forward.”

A part of that step forward was co-producing the music with David Garcia. Underwood co-wrote nine of the album’s 13 songs including the bonus song, “The Champion” featuring Ludacris.

The first half of the album offers a mix of waltzes that embody hard country and ‘60s soul starting with the powerful, “Cry Pretty,” and ending with the catchy boat party anthem, “Southbound.”

The second half starts with the dark drama of drowning problems in making love with strangers and whiskey chasers in “Drinking Alone.” Written by Marc Beeson, Andy Albert and Allen Shamblin, “The Bullet” is a striking ballad about the tragedy of outliving children and good lives taken unnecessarily by gun ammunition. “Love Wins,” “End Up With You” and “Kingdom” round out her uplifting finale.

The party gave Underwood a standing ovation when she took the podium to thank everyone for their time spent listening.

Last week, Underwood visited the CMT offices to discuss her upcoming album, Cry Pretty, arriving Sept. 14. Every performance you do, whether it’s onstage or in the studio, is always recognized by all the major music organizations. Does that put any additional pressure on the album-making process?
Underwood: I mean, I just want to do a good job first and foremost for me and for my fans. Anything that comes after that, hopefully, it’s good. But I just want to be creative and make the best music I possibly can and hopefully keep getting better, more confident and stronger in my abilities. Anything after that, it is what it is.

You’ve been known for your songs of empowerment. Do you think Cry Pretty continues in that e creative trajectory?
I think so. There’s definitely a lot more vulnerability, but it’s still done in a way that’s strong. I feel like “Cry Pretty” the song is a good example of that where it’s talking about emotions and somebody letting it all out, but it’s done in an unapologetic, strengthening way. I feel like the rest of the album is vulnerable without being weak.

It’s empowering being vulnerable and being real.
I feel like if you start talking about it or in today’s society, women are especially kind of now more than ever [feel] that they need to suppress those emotions. I’m pregnant right now, I get made fun of if I cry. You know what I mean? “Oh, she’s pregnant,” when it has nothing to do with it.

As a journalism graduate do you ever analyze the coverage of your career and is the reporting as balanced on your talents as an artist as it is your personal life?
I feel like it’s interesting. I’ll do a super long interview about new music or important worldly topics, and the headline ends up being something kind of superficial. It’s interesting being on this end of things, knowing what you tell people and then seeing what the take away was. I do feel like we’re kind of locked in this culture right now that people want the dirt, and sometimes there’s no dirt. And then there’s click bait.

I said this recently, people put words in my mouth sometimes and then get mad about what they said I said. I’m like, “That’s not even close to what happened.” Or I don’t know, it’s just interesting. I feel like that’s the culture that we’re in. I try my best to keep things musically focused. And that’s all I can do and hope that some of the important stuff gets picked up on, too.

What is your secret to personal strength when navigating a private life in the spotlight?
I feel like we’re in control of what we do and don’t completely share with the world. I’m lucky enough to live in Nashville, Tenn. where we don’t have a lot of paparazzi. I feel like I can still have a life, and I feel like for a lot of country music artists, that’s why we love living here. We can take our kids to school, go to work, hang out at CMT and do what we do. I feel like that’s an important part of it, and I’m glad to be in a genre of music that still allows us to be humans first and foremost.

Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.