Here's a nice interview with Carrie done back in July. Not sure why it is just now appearing in the paper but it is.
Music Preview: First she won 'American Idol.' next up for Carrie Underwood: Country stardom.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Carrie Underwood knew she could sing, but she was studying broadcast journalism at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma when she decided to throw her cowboy hat in the ring for "American Idol."
Now, it looks like America has lost a news reporter and gained a country star.
Underwood, who hits the Mellon Arena Saturday as part of the "American Idols Live" tour, topped rocker Bo Bice last May to become the fourth winner on Fox's smash reality series. It was a surprise to nobody. Underwood, as house critic Simon Cowell said early in the contest, was "the girl to beat." In fact, Cowell, no lover of country music, went on to say, "I will make a prediction: Not only will you win this competition, but you will sell more records than any other previous 'Idol' winner."
There had been attractive blondes on the show before. And there had been country singers. But the 22-year-old Underwood put it all together, building a fan base with her Nashville-ready voice and a winning country-girl personality.
She didn't always stick to her strength, departing at times from the Martina McBride/Dixie Chicks-style fare to try her hand at Heart or Pat Benatar.
But don't expect to hear "Love Is a Battlefield" on a Carrie Underwood record, unless it's got steel guitars on it. You can't take the country out of Carrie Underwood. She grew up on a farm in Checotah, Okla., the next town over from Merle Haggard's Muskogee. Her dad worked at a paper mill, and her mom was a school teacher. They were more into "oldies," as Underwood calls it, like the Beatles and the Bee Gees, and her two older sisters preferred '80s rock, but Underwood was drawn to pop-country singers like McBride and Shania Twain.
Although she was performing in talent shows by seventh grade and musicals in high school, Underwood decided to take a safer route and major in communications. She was performing in a country music show at Northeastern State when her friends talked her into auditioning for "American Idol." She and her mom drove all night to St. Louis to audition, then she waited eight hours before passing with a version of McBride's "Phones Are Ringing All Over Town." When she headed for Hollywood, it was her first time on a plane.
The next few months were spent auditioning every week in front of millions of TV viewers who are now well-prepped for a debut album that will drop in November on Arista. If her single, "Inside Your Heaven," is any indication, Underwood has it made. It did more than top the country charts: It made her the first country artist to debut at No. 1 on the Hot 100.
In late July, Underwood took time out from the backstage bonding on the "Idol" tour to talk about what happens next.
I just saw a news story that you've been named the World's Sexiest Vegetarian. Had you ever talked about being a vegetarian on the show?
If someone asked me, I'd tell them, but it's not like I walked around talking about it all the time. I had a shirt from a fan who knew I was a vegetarian, from Urban Outfitters or something, that said "V is for Vegetarian" so I'd wear that, and I wore it one night when we went bowling, and they took a whole lot of footage and people saw that on me.
So, did you have to compete for this honor, too?
No, I guess they just kind of know who is and who isn't. I think it was with PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals]. They just know.
Well, it's good to be on their good side.
So, how has the tour been going?
It's been pretty good. We have our moments. I mean, there's 10 of us and 10 different personalities, so sometimes it's a little -- I'm sure everyone feels the same way about me, too. It could be a little hard to be with each other all the time, but so far it's been coming together pretty well.
Was the closeness that people saw between the contestants the real thing?
Yeah, we never really felt like a competition. Everyone wanted to stay around, of course, as long as they could. But it was never like, "I have to beat this person. This person has to go home tonight." You know what I mean? It was just a "We'll all do our best and see what happens" kind of thing. We're all friends, like I said, we're around each other all the time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so being around each other all that time with anyone could be a little difficult.
Is there anyone you've been really impressed with on this tour?
I absolutely love watching Anwar [Robinson] sing. I think he has the most incredible voice ever, and everybody just kind of gets quiet when he sings. I'd say he's my favorite to listen to.
Yeah, his song selection wasn't always the best, though.
He did things that he loved. That's him. I did country music, and I got some criticism for singing a lot of country music, but that's who I am.
When you got into "Idol," did you have any notion that you might win?
Of course, everybody started out wanting to. I wouldn't have been in it if I didn't want to win. But I was very realistic about it, from the very beginning to the very end. I thought, "OK, there's so many people here' and, as the weeks went, "there's so many talented people here." I was never like, "OK, I'm going to win, I'm going to win." Probably, like at No. 4, I was like, "I have a one in four chance of winning this thing," but I didn't get my hopes up.
Clay Aiken recently told me that two days after the "Idol" finals he was handed the songs for his record, "Measure of a Man." Are you experiencing the same thing?
Fortunately, everyone has been very willing to work with me, not just for me. I've had input so far, and everyone has listened to what I had to say. I wanted to go in a country music direction, and there were some people who wanted to push me in a pop direction, but we sat down and I said, "This is where my heart is. These are the people who voted for me, and they're being so supportive and wonderful. I don't want to abandon who I am at all." I'm not going to want creative control, because I don't know anything about the music industry. I'm learning, but most people have years to learn who they are. I'm still working on that.
Are you involved in selecting the songs that you're going to do?
Yeah, we actually had a writers' weekend a couple months ago. We got together with writers in Nashville, and I helped out on things they were doing. They let me hear some ideas that they had, and we all just collaborated. Everyone's been so good about letting me have a hand in it, even though I don't know what I'm doing.
You don't write any of your own lyrics do you?
I definitely want to. Right now, I'd kind of like to leave it up to those who know what they're doing so it can be a good album, rather than me trying to do it and maybe it wouldn't work. I like to write, but I don't know if I'm good enough yet.
Is there someone in the country industry that you model yourself after or look up to?
I look up to a lot of people, actually. I love the new country sound that pop listeners would like, too. I also love Gretchen Wilson and that old country sound. I can't see myself in one direction. I just want to listen and if I like the songs, those are the ones that are going to be on there. I hope everyone can enjoy it, but from a country music standpoint. I hope, because I was on the show, people who don't listen to country music will give me a shot and give country music a shot, because it's a wonderful kind of music.
Just watching from afar, this whole "Idol" thing seems like a pretty breathless process. Did you get any downtime after the show?
Not really, but that's OK. My family and friends have just been so supportive; no one's making me feel bad about not being home. I'm just trying to take it all in, and I know it's important to strike while the iron's hot, so I'm willing to work, whatever I need to do.
What had you been doing right before "Idol"?
I was going to school, in my last year at college. And I was working at a veterinary clinic. I love animals. I kept taking these strays in that I found that needed help, so I said, "Maybe I could volunteer here a couple days a week," and they were, like, "We need someone to work here."
But you had this singing passion?
Yeah, definitely. But I was realistic. I'm a very level-headed person. I knew I had to get a real job. Millions of kids dream of being famous, of being an actor or singer or model. I knew that if that's what I was supposed to be doing, the doors would open in front of me, and they sure did.
So you have no regrets about leaving these other things behind?
I'm just putting them on hold. I have one semester left of college, so one way or another, I'm going to get my degree. I worked 31/2 years to get that degree and, dang-gammit, I'm going to get it.
And the clinic, you're not going back?
No, no-no, but animals are definitely my passion, they're my love. I love singing and I love getting in front of people every night, but as far as making the world a better place, I'm all about helping animals, and I plan to do a lot of charity work.
What is it like for you being in your hometown, just being out and about?
I got to go home twice since the show was over, about a total of a week. I went to Wal-Mart, and I was like, "I've been in here a million times, it will be fine, no one will treat me any different." I was wronnng [laughs]. They're just so proud and so happy for me. I see people wearing their Carrie Underwood T-shirts, and it's just awesome the support that I have. I really wouldn't want to come from any other place.
So you have been living in hotel rooms?
Pretty much. The tour bus and hotel rooms.
It's like you've been held hostage by "American Idol" ...
I wouldn't say 'hostage,' because that's a forced situation. If I didn't want to do it, I wouldn't do it. But this is my future and what I love to do.
Have you gotten advice from any former Idols?
Not really. I met Fantasia during the show, and she actually told me I was her favorite, and that made me feel really good. She was, like, "Enjoy it. Take a deep breath and take it all in."