The Life and Success of Carrie Underwood
Carrie is not just known for her singing career, her success spans almost every area of her life—from her public persona to her family and personal life. Not only has she proven herself to be a spectacular singer, amazing actor and successful celebrity, but she has also proven by her relationships and ties with family and friends that she knows what is important and always remembers to focus on her real priorities.
Carrie has such a passion for philanthropy, and has supported so many causes and charitable programs, even going as far as establishing her own. Whenever she gets the chance to be able to show up in a charitable event, she never fails to really lend a helping hand and do what she can to reach out to those in need.
Carrie is the kind of Christian that truly exhibits the traits of what Christians should be. Bold regarding her faith and outspoken in sharing the gospel, Carrie nevertheless allows herself to be thrown in to the ‘legalistic’ kind of Christianity and always gives people the right hand of fellowship, believing that as Christians, it is our duty to love, not to judge and condemn.
Her life has been a tremendous inspiration to so many people, even to those who are close to her. From the time she started her career up to today, Carrie remains to be one of the meekest and kindest artists that one could ever see.
Carrie’s Early Life
Carrie Marie Underwood was born in 1983 in the city of Muskogee, Oklahoma, to parents Stephen and Carole Underwood. The youngest of three siblings (her two older sisters are named Shanna and Stephanie), Carrie spent most of her childhood and youth in the rural town of Checotah, where her father Stephen worked in a sawmill while her mother Carole was a teacher at a local elementary school.
Carrie’s Vegetarian Beginnings
As she spent a lot of time helping her father Stephen in the farm, Carrie developed a dislike for eating beef or other meat products. She stated later on that this was because of how she loved animals, and by the age of thirteen Carrie stopped eating beef completely and became a vegetarian. This was quite of a challenge to her, as her entire family ate meat and sometimes got her into trouble when the meal was comprised of meat dishes.
Carrie related her experiences on being a vegetarian in an interview:
“I quit eating beef when I was about thirteen. I kind of phased everything out, so it took a few years actually. I do it because I really love animals and it just makes me sad. But it’s not something I like to preach to anyone. I mean, my family, they all eat meat and I don’t ever try to sway their opinions, but it’s hard sometimes, especially because I live in the South and I did grow up in a farming community. I’ve had people approach my parents and they’ll say, 'I hear your daughter is a vegetarian. What’s she doing? That’s how we make a living.' My mom’s just, 'Well, that’s her decision.' She used to get mad though. She’d cook dinner and I wouldn’t eat it.”
Singing at an Early Age
Even at a young age, Carrie already exhibited the potential of being a superstar singer, as shown by her love of singing. During her elementary years, Carrie loved to sing so much that she often joined local singing competitions (such as the Robbins Memorial Talent Show), performed in school events and sang at the First Free Will Baptist Church. Later in her youth, as she became popular in her hometown, Carrie also began to sing for local events such as the Old Settler’s Day and the Lion’s Club. In later interviews, Carrie described how her love for singing resulted in her friends and family referring to her as a ‘human jukebox.’
Discovery and Initial Disappointment
Eventually, Carrie’s talent became noticed by the media when one of her local admirers set her for a meeting with a Capitol Records manager in Nashville, Tennessee. By late 1996, at fourteen years old, Carrie was supposed to have been set to be on the spotlight as Capitol Records was getting ready to give her a contract but it was ultimately cancelled when the company’s management team got replaced.
Although initially disappointed, Carrie saw the incident as a ‘blessing in disguise,’ stating in an interview later on:
“I honestly think it's a lot better that nothing came out of it now, because I wouldn't have been ready then. Everything has a way of working out.”
An Extraordinary Student
During her high school years at Checotah High School, Carrie was not only among the top students in her class but she was also among the most active and popular. She actively involved herself in a lot of extracurricular activities such as cheerleading (Carrie was the school’s cheerleader) and playing basketball and softball. She was also into charity at a young age, and became an Honor Society member. Carrie’s brilliance and popularity earned her not only the admiration of both her teachers and students, but it also helped in getting her the salutatorian award when she graduated from high school in 2001.
Carrie later on stated in an interview how it was during her high school years that it became tough for her as a person due to the transition from youth to adulthood. In an interview made with her sometime later, when Carrie was asked what part of her youth was the toughest, she answered:
“It would be junior high maybe, because when you are little, everyone is your friend and you are everybody else’s friend. You don’t really know any better! But when you get older, things start getting a little weird. Boys start getting weird. Everybody starts growing up. You’re not really a kid anymore and you’re not an adult. Things are just different.”
It was also during Carrie’s high school years that she drew away from her interest in singing to pursue other avenues in her career in life. In fact, after she graduated from high school, Carrie decided to not continue pursuing her singing career and instead focus on her studies, stating in an interview:
“After high school, I pretty much gave up on the dream of singing. I had reached a point in my life where I had to be practical and prepare for my future in the 'real world'.”
With this decision, Carrie instead enrolled at Northeastern State University and took up a course in mass communication. During this time she took interest in journalism, and focused her time and efforts in studying the subject. As a college student, Carrie was highly praised by her professors and instructors for her amazing intellect, so much so that when she graduated in 2006 and earned her bachelor’s degree, Carrie finished with the magna cum laude award.
When Carrie was interviewed later on about how her degree in journalism helped her in her career, she said:
“It helps me when answering questions, especially on camera, because that’s what I’m used to. I know what the reporters are looking for and I also know when they’re trying to make me say something bad. They’ll ask me some hot button question, something to get myself in trouble!”
Spending Her Spare Time For A Worthy Cause
Like with her high school years, Carrie became active in many extracurricular activities in college, more particularly in the area of philanthropy. She became a member of the Alpha Iota chapter of the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, worked during her spare time (Carrie never shied away from doing work at a pizzeria, a veterinary clinic, and even in a zoo, given her love of animals), and competed in beauty pageants (where she was crowned as Miss NSU in 2004). At two consecutive summers, Carrie performed for the Northeastern State University’s Downtown Country show in Tahlequah, and once became a page for the Oklahoma State Representative Bobby Frame.
Carrie was most active in philanthropic endeavors during her college years. She stated in an interview:
“I did most of my volunteer work when I was in college because I knew of more ways to get involved. In high school, we’d do things like there was a homeless shelter near our hometown and our church group decorated one of the rooms. In college, I was in a sorority and we did a lot of things, like pick up trash on the highway. I was also a hospice volunteer and I got that through the sorority. You go and take care of people that are really sick. They don’t want to be in the hospital anymore. It’s just kind of about making them comfortable. So, I’d go and sit with them. I had one couple that I was a volunteer for and we’d just, you know, watch soap operas for a couple hours!”
Winning the American Idol
Although Carrie had decided to let go of her singing career, she still did singing as a hobby. On some occasions, she would join singing contests in the university, but would not do so outside the school. In 2004, however, Carrie’s love for singing took her to a very wonderful opportunity that would change her life—she auditioned for that year’s “American Idol”, one of the most popular events in the United States.
From the first time she stepped in the auditioning room and faced the three judges Simon, Paula and Randy, Carrie rose to the ranks so much so that during the top 12 girls night, Simon Cowell (who was the most difficult to please among the judges) made a comment that she was going to be one of the favorites to win that competition. Simon’s statement did become a reality, and Carrie’s talents earned her the love of a fan base known as ‘Carrie’s Care Bears.’ During the final night, Carrie sang “Bless the Broken Road” with Rascal Flatts and went on to become that year’s American Idol, which not only brought her a recording contract that was worth at least a million dollars, but also a Ford Mustang and the privilege of using a private jet for a year.
Carrie’s Releases Debut Songs and Album
Right after winning American Idol, Carrie was suddenly thrust into the spotlight, receiving a lot of media attention for her spectacular performance at American Idol. In 2005, Carrie began her professional singing career and released her first single titled “Inside Your Heaven.” The song immediately topped the Billboard Hot 100, making Carrie the first country music artist to debut at the top spot since 2000, as well as the only solo country artist to top this famous music ranking. Not long afterwards, Carrie released her first album, “Some Hearts,” which also made the top spot at numerous charts such as the Billboard Top Country Albums and was second place at the Billboard 200 chart. Some Hearts became so well-received by both critics and fans alike that it became the bestselling album of all musical genres in 2006, the bestselling country album of 2006 and 2007, and the bestselling female country album from 2005 to 2007. The second single by Carrie in the album, entitled “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” also topped the charts for six consecutive weeks, and became one of the songs to which Carrie is well-known for today.
Carrie’s first album became so much of a hit that from 2005 to 2006, it brought numerous awards and nominations for Carrie, such as several Billboard Music Awards, Country Music Association Awards, American Music Awards, and CMT Awards to name a few. Her songs also made a huge impact on the popularity of country music, as her success ushered in a new era of interest in the genre that used to be overshadowed by pop and rock songs.
More Top-rating Albums and Songs
From 2007 onwards, Carrie’s career rose to the top further with the release of her second album, “Carnival Ride.” With Carrie being more involved in this album’s songwriting process, Carnival Ride immediately sold more than five hundred thousand copies during its week of release, and debuted at the top spots of both the Billboard 200 and Top Country Albums. The album’s singles such as “All-American Girl,” “Last Name,” “Just a Dream,” and “I Told You So” became equally successful and each had their own peaks at the top spots of various Billboard charts. Carrie won numerous awards this year, including several Grammy Awards, Billboard Music Awards and American Music Awards.
In 2008, Carrie was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, a country music stage concert where all of the genre’s biggest stars get to play on. She was also named into Forbes Magazine’s Top Celebrity 100 list for her earnings of over nine million dollars, making her one of the most successful music artists that year. She sang the song “Ever Ever After” for the film “Enchanted” by Walt Disney Pictures, and did her rendition of the Christmas song “Do You Hear What I Hear?” which earned her praise from critics. Carrie also participated in that year’s Idol Gives Back event and sang the George Michael classic, “Praying For Time.”
The following year, in 2009, Carrie released her third album titled “Play On,” which debuted at the top spot of the Billboard 200 and Top Country Albums charts, and became the second top selling release of the year by a female artist. Like her preceding albums, Play On became a huge success, with its singles such as “Cowboy Casanova,” “Temporary Home,” “Undo It,” and “Mama’s Home” becoming both critical and financial successes. Carrie’s nationwide “Play On tour” began the following year and was well-received all throughout the country; at the conclusion of the tour, statistics showed that Carrie played to over a million fans and thus became the top-ranked female country touring artist of 2011.
Founding the Checotah Animal, Town, and School Foundation
This year, Carrie also founded the Checotah Animal, Town and School Foundation as a means of reaching out to the community by supporting general causes, needs and services that would directly make an impact in that community. Since its inception, the Checotah Animal, Town and School Foundation has grown through the support of people everywhere ranging from Carrie’s fans to politicians. Carrie stated in an interview about her foundation:
“My hometown is extremely supportive of me and I feel blessed to be able to create something as a way of giving back; to say thank you.”
The Success Goes On
From 2009 to 2011, Carrie’s fame soared to heights she had never imagined. As a female country artist, it was truly remarkable how her genre of music has appealed to the international community. She was also among the most successful American Idol winners, evidenced by how her career just rose upward. And compared to many modern country artists who were criticized for how their songs eventually gravitate towards pop sounds, Carrie has managed to keep her music to the country genre.
When she was interviewed regarding this, Carrie simply stated:
“I grew up listening to everything. I have such a love for music, but I don't want to make the same album over and over again. I love that I can sing a song like "Blown Away" and then turn around and sing a song like "Cupid's Got a Shotgun." One has this amazing country story line with the music that fits the song. I'm not gonna try to make it something that it's not. I'm not gonna think, 'I need to "countrify" this by adding more fiddles and steel guitar.' We do creatively what the song wants. And "Cupid's Got a Shotgun"—you couldn't get more country than that… I've never been one for doing remixes. Then I've gotta decide which version am I gonna be tonight: country Carrie or pop Carrie? I'd rather just make country music that anybody can get into no matter what they listen to.”
But aside from her singing career, Carrie also proved herself to be a good actor, when she was cast in the hit television series “How I Met Your Mother” in 2010, where she played a medical sales representative named Tiffany. Carrie’s first acting role earned her praise from critics and was even significant in making that particular episode she guested in the highest rated episode for the show’s fifth season.
In 2011, Carrie made her film debut by appearing in the movie Soul Surfer, in which she played Sarah Hill, a church youth leader that helped the main character Bethany Hamilton to overcome the issues that she encountered after the incident with the shark. This same year, Carrie made a donation amounting to over one hundred forty thousand dollars to the charitable organization ‘Save the Children,’ which was inspired by a line in the lyrics of one her songs in the Play On album entitled “Change.”
Carrie’s “Blown Away” Album and Global Tour
2012 was yet another year of success for Carrie who released her fourth album titled “Blown Away.” This album, which had songs set from darker storyline compared to Carrie’s previous albums, continued to bring Carrie success as it debuted number one at the Billboard 200 chart, the Country Albums chart and the Digital Albums chart. The album’s singles, “Blown Away,” “Good Girl,” “Two Black Cadillacs” and “See You Again” earned both the praises of critics and fans alike, and stayed at the top ranks of various music charts all over the country. The success of Carrie’s Blown Away album earned her recognition from various music institutions.
It was also in this year that Carrie began her global tour, beginning at the Royal Alberta Hall in London. A massive success, the tickets that were sold for Carrie’s concert were all bought within ninety minutes of its release. Carrie’s next stop was at the Sydney Opera House in Australia, which earned her the title of the bestselling female country touring artist of 2012. When Carrie was interviewed regarding the reception of her country music in Australia, she said:
“Australia was definitely open to it, they have Keith Urban and they were really open to us. I wasn't too worried about Australia, but I was about going to the U.K. I pictured just a lot of British people in the audience singing my song back to me—and it was hard for me to envision. But it was really great. Everywhere we went there were fans waiting outside. I was pleasantly surprised at the reception.”
Carrie used the opportunity of her global tour to showcase her support for the American Red Cross by donating a dollar for every ticket that was sold on the Blown Away Tour. The following year, she donated one million dollars from the proceeds of the tour to the relief efforts for the victims of the Oklahoma tornado.
It was also announced this year that Carrie was going to star in the live broadcast of the popular Broadway musical “The Sound of Music,” in the role of Maria von Trapp. Her casting was met with positive responses, with the president of Rodgers & Hammerstein saying:
“To have a star like Carrie Underwood perform Maria in ‘The Sound of Music’—and in such a very special and unique production, is exciting beyond words... Part of the magic of Rodgers and Hammerstein is how their work has adapted itself to so many different incarnations, and I am certain the fresh spirit Underwood brings to her own songs will transition into exciting versions of the classic songs we all know and love.”
Carrie’s Comments on the Same-Sex Marriage Controversy
Carrie came into quite a controversy in 2012 regarding her stance on the issue of same-sex marriage, which she said was fine for her. This caused some outrage from a good number of her Christian supporters, who firmly asserted that same-sex marriage should not be allowed in the United States. Carrie stated in the interview about the issue:
“As a married person myself, I don't know what it's like to be told I can't marry somebody I love, and want to marry. I can't imagine how that must feel. I definitely think we should all have the right to love, and love publicly, the people that we want to love. Our church is gay friendly. Above all, God wanted us to love others. It's not about setting rules, or 'everyone has to be like me'. No. We're all different. That's what makes us special. We have to love each other and get on with each other. It's not up to me to judge anybody.”
Knowing Her Priorities: Carrie’s Personal and Family Life
With all of Carrie’s public and career successes, she has never forgotten to put focus on the most important part of her life—her personal and family life. A devoted Christian, Carrie never forgets to give all the glory to God, whom she believes is the reason why she has received all these blessings. Carrie was married to Mike Fisher on July 10, 2010 at the Ritz-Carlton Lodge, of which the event was attended by more than two hundred fifty people comprised of very famous artists and celebrities like Tim McGraw, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and the National Hockey League Players. Carrie and Mike met each other way back in late 2008 at one of her concerts and started dating until their engagement in 2009.
In 2011, Carrie and Mike faced a particular controversy following Mike’s move to the Nashville Predators. A local radio station stated that it would ban the playing of Carrie’s songs, causing Carrie’s fans to make a threat to never tune in to the radio station. Even though the station later on commented that the statement they made was intended to be a joke (as they never really played country songs in the first place), Mike later on answered by saying that he and Carrie were disappointed by the negativity produced by the station.
Today, Carrie’s career continues to flourish and reach heights that she has never even imagined when she started. And yet, in the midst of all her successes, Carrie never forgets what is truly important in her life – God, who made her success possible, and her family and friends, who stood with her and enabled her to face all the challenges that she encountered in her career. She is, and will ever stay a powerful inspiration of how one can rise up to success when they are willing to believe in it and wait on God to bring the right opportunity.
Discography (Albums and Singles)
- 2005: Some Hearts (Album)
- 2005: Inside Your Heaven
- 2005: Jesus, Take the Wheel
- 2005: Some Hearts
- 2006: Don’t Forget to Remember Me
- 2006: Before He Cheats
- 2007: Carnival Ride (Album)
- 2007: Wasted
- 2007: So Small
- 2008: All-American Girl
- 2008: Last Name
- 2008: Just a Dream
- 2009: Play On (Album)
- 2009: I Told You So (with Randy Travis)
- 2009: Cowboy Casanova
- 2009: Temporary Home
- 2010: Undo It
- 2010: Mama’s Song
- 2012: Blown Away (Album)
- 2012: Good Girl
- 2012: Blown Away
- 2012: Two Black Cadillacs
- 2013: See You Again
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Checotah Animal, Town and School Foundation
- ACM Lifting Lives
- American Red Cross
- Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes
- City of Hope
- Clothes Off Our Back
- Do it for Daron Campaign
- The Entertainment Industry Foundation
- Habitat for Humanity
- Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital
- Music for Relief
- Music Rising
- Project Clean Water
- Save the Children
- Stand Up To Cancer
- St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
- The Humane Society of the United States
- United Service Organization
- United Way
Awards and Achievements
- 2005: Received the Billboard Music Award for Top-Selling Hot 100 Song of the Year (Inside Your Heaven)
- 2005: Received the Billboard Music Award for Top-Selling Country Single of the Year (Inside Your Heaven)
- 2006: Received the Academy of Country Music Awards for Single Record of the Year (Jesus, Take the Wheel)
- 2006: Received the Academy of Country Music Award for Top New Female Vocalist of the Year
- 2006: Received the American Music Award for Favorite Breakthrough Artist
- 2006: Received the Billboard Music Award for Country Single Sales Artist of the Year
- 2006: Received the Billboard Music Award for Female Country Artist of the Year
- 2006: Received the Billboard Music Award for Country New Artist of the Year
- 2006: Received the Billboard Music Award for Female Billboard 200 Album Artist of the Year
- 2006: Received the Billboard Music Award for Country Album of the Year (Some Hearts)
- 2007: Received the Academy of Country Music Award for Female Vocalist of the Year
- 2007: Received the Academy of Country Music Award for Album of the Year (Some Hearts)
- 2007: Received the Academy of Country Music Award for Music Video of the Year (Before He Cheats)
- 2007: Received the American Music Award for Artist of the Year
- 2007: Received the American Music Award for Favorite Female Country Artist
- 2007: Received the Grammy Award for Best New Artist
- 2007: Received the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance (Jesus, Take the Wheel)
- 2007: Received the American Music Award for Favorite Country Album (Some Hearts)
- 2007: Received the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Female Artist
- 2007: Received the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Country Song (Before He Cheats)
- 2007: Received the Billboard Music Award for Country Album of the Year (Some Hearts)
- 2007: Received the Billboard Music Award for Female Country Artist of the Year
- 2007: Received the Billboard Music Award for Country Artist of the Year
- 2007: Received the Billboard Music Award for Female Billboard 200 Album Artist of the Year
- 2007: Received the Billboard Music Award for Country Albums Artist of the Year
- 2008: Received the Academy of Country Music Award for Female Vocalist of the Year
- 2008: Received the American Music Award for Favorite Country Album (Carnival Ride)
- 2008: Received the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance (Before He Cheats)
- 2008: Received the Billboard Music Award for Country Songs Artist of the Year
- 2009: Received the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Country Song (Last Name)
- 2009: Received the Academy of Country Music Award for Entertainer of the Year
- 2009: Received the Academy of Country Music Award for Female Vocalist of the Year
- 2009: Received the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance (Last Name)
- 2009: Received the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Female Artist
- 2009: Received the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Star Under 35
- 2009: Received the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Country Artist
- 2009: Received the Billboard Music Award for Top Female Country Artist of the Decade
- 2009: Received the Billboard Music Award for Top Country Album of the Decade (Some Hearts)
- 2010: Received the American Country Award for Artist of the Year
- 2010: Received the American Country Award for Female Artist of the Year
- 2010: Received the American Country Award for Female Single of the Year (Cowboy Casanova)
- 2010: Received the American Country Award for Female Music Video of the Year (Cowboy Casanova)
- 2010: Received the American Country Award for Album of the Year (Play On)
- 2010: Received the Academy of Country Music Award for Entertainer of the Year
- 2010: Received the Academy of Country Music Triple Crown Award
- 2010: Received the American Music Award for Favorite Country Album (Play On)
- 2010: Received the Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals (I Told You So)
- 2011: Received the American Country Award for Female Artist of the Year
- 2011: Received the American Country Award for Female Single of the Year (Mama’s Song)
- 2011: Received the American Country Award for Female Music Video of the Year (Mama’s Song)
- 2012: Received the American Country Award for Female Artist of the Year
- 2012: Received the American Country Award for Vocal Collaboration of the Year (Remind Me)
- 2012: Received the American Music Award for Favorite Country Album (Blown Away)
- 2013: Received the Grammy Award for Best Country Solo Performance (Blown Away)