So much can happen in a decade. Just ask Carrie Marie Underwood. It was January 18, 2005, when the fourth season of American Idol premiered and fans first heard the shy Oklahoma college student who Rolling Stone would later hail as “the female vocalist of her generation… of any genre.” In less than 10 years, Carrie Underwood has sold 64 million records worldwide, scored 18 #1 singles, and earned nearly 100 major accolades, including seven GRAMMY® Awards.
She now celebrates this first amazing chapter in her career with the 19 Recordings/Arista Nashville release of Greatest Hits: Decade #1, a 25-song collection that includes such radio staples as “Before He Cheats,” “All-American Girl,” “Cowboy Casanova,” “Blown Away,” “See You Again,” and her six-week #1 breakthrough hit “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”
Alongside the familiar favorites, Greatest Hits: Decade #1 includes two new songs: “Little Toy Guns” – written by Underwood, Chris DeStefano, and Hillary Lindsey – and the blockbuster debut single, “Something in the Water,” written by Underwood, Chris DeStefano, and Brett James.
“I don’t think it would be quite as exciting if I didn’t have something new for the album,” Carrie smiles, noting that fans will also find her previously unreleased, live version of “How Great Thou Art” with Vince Gill, a song they performed together for the ACM Presents: Girls’ Night Out concert and television special.
“‘How Great Thou Art’ kind of took on a life of its own,” Carrie shares. “I hear people all the time come up to me and tell me, ‘I love that, I look at it online all the time,’ so I thought it was important to make that available on an album.” Looking back, she adds, “That was a really amazing moment – I think for myself and for Vince – and we felt it.”
On Greatest Hits: Decade #1, she also offers a treat not usually found on such collections. Having emerged as a songwriter of considerable depth and substance – co-writing nine of her 18 #1 hits, all of which are included on this compilation – Underwood gives fans an audio peek behind the creative curtain by including the songwriting worktape versions of “So Small” and “Last Name,” both written in January 2007, and “Mama’s Song,” penned in February of 2009.
“I wanted to do something different with extras,” she says, “so we’re including three worktapes that were recorded the day we wrote the songs – which I think is pretty special. Part of what’s fun is we mess up all over them: I’m not perfectly on key because it’s the first time I’ve ever sung the song, people are talking or jumping in on things, and it’s just kind of an awesome mess, but I’m really excited for people to have another view to what we do and to share the experience of hearing those songs first come to life.”
As both a vocalist and a songwriter, Underwood has proven to be an extremely versatile talent, equally compelling on feisty, up-tempo numbers, as well as tender ballads. She’s also become a true multi-format superstar and an in-demand collaborator, scoring a #1 country hit in 2011 with friend Brad Paisley on the Greatest Hits: Decade #1 track, “Remind Me.” She partnered with Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler for one of the highest rated episodes of CMT Crossroads and performed with the incomparable Tony Bennett on the 2012 GRAMMY Awards, serving up the classic “It Had to Be You,” their collaboration from Bennett’s Duets II album. In 2013, she hit the stage with rock and roll royalty, joining the Rolling Stones for an in-concert guest performance and most recently teamed up with pal Miranda Lambert for their Platinum-certified smash, “Somethin’ Bad.”
Underwood also continues to be tapped for unique and extraordinary genre-spanning events, including the Veterans Day 2014 Concert for Valor, which aired live on HBO from the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; the mammoth Global Citizen Festival from New York’s Central Park; and performing alongside Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, Emmylou Harris, and Sheryl Crow in tribute to Linda Ronstadt at her 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. Also in 2014, Underwood began her second season as the voice of primetime television’s #1 program, Sunday Night Football, performing the opening theme, “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night.” And on December 1, 2014, she performed as part of a special surprise World AIDS Day concert in New York’s Times Square by personal invitation from U2’s Bono, appearing on a line-up with U2, Bruce Springsteen, Kanye West, and Chris Martin from Coldplay.
One of her most consistently high-profile gigs is co-hosting the CMA Awards with Brad Paisley, a yearly outing for which she’s earned praise for her comedic timing, as well as her engaging chemistry with Paisley. In 2014, they hosted for a seventh consecutive year.
Always interested in stepping out of her creative comfort zone, she’s appeared in the film Soul Surfer, guest starred on the hit TV series How I Met Your Mother, and took on the role of Maria von Trapp for NBC’s three-hour live TV event, The Sound of Music Live!, a 2013 holiday ratings blockbuster whose airings were seen by 44 million viewers. She’s also written music for film, earning a Golden Globe® nomination for Best Original Song for “There’s a Place for Us,” written with Hillary Lindsey and David Hodges for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Through it all, Underwood’s sheer talent, tremendous fan appeal, and explosive success have earned her a towering media presence: from gracing innumerable magazine covers to performing the national anthem at the 2010 Super Bowl, from performances on Saturday Night Live to welcoming Oprah Winfrey into her Nashville home for the third of her appearances on Winfrey’s shows.
It’s hard to believe that a decade ago, Underwood was a small-town girl from Checotah, Oklahoma, who had never even been on an airplane until her American Idol experience. After winning the FOX talent competition, she immediately made music history as the first country music artist ever to debut at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, doing so with her first single, “Inside Your Heaven.” When her album, Some Hearts, was released in November of 2005, it debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and #2 on the all-genre Billboard 200 sales chart. Some Hearts – which also included the singles “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” “Don’t Forget to Remember Me,” “Wasted,” and “Before He Cheats” – went on to become the best-selling album of 2006 in all genres and a sales juggernaut, now RIAA-certified 7x-Platinum.
That was only the beginning. Underwood’s 2007 sophomore album, Carnival Ride, was her first to debut at #1 on both the Billboard 200 and Top Country Albums charts. Now triple-Platinum, the album spawned the hits “So Small,” “All-American Girl,” “Last Name,” “Just a Dream,” and “I Told You So” – Carrie’s solo version of the Randy Travis classic that’s featured on Greatest Hits: Decade #1 in a special 2009 release that featured Carrie and Randy together.
Travis was pivotal in another career highlight when he surprised her on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in March of 2008 with an invitation to become the Opry’s newest member – a longtime dream of Underwood’s that was realized less than two months later when she was formally inducted by her fellow Oklahoman, Opry member Garth Brooks.
She followed Carnival Ride with 2009’s Play On, which again debuted at #1 on both the Billboard 200 and Top Country Albums charts. “Cowboy Casanova,” “Mama’s Song,” “Undo It,” and “Temporary Home” kept Underwood’s winning streak going at country radio, and the album was certified double-Platinum.
Her fourth album, Blown Away, released in May of 2012 and debuted at the top of the all-genre Billboard 200, Top Country Albums, and Digital Albums sales charts and launched yet another volley of #1 hits that included “Good Girl,” “Blown Away,” “Two Black Cadillacs,” and “See You Again.”
“I love all kinds of music,” Carrie says, “and I feel like you can listen to my albums and find different influences in different songs – and I really feel proud that you don’t know what you’ll get from one of my songs. Will it be some giant ballad? Will it be something that makes you cry, or something angry, or something sweet? You just don’t know, and I’m proud of that,” Carrie smiles, “I love that.”
Over the past decade, Carrie Underwood has blossomed from a shy young woman with an incredible voice to a seasoned, superstar headliner, selling-out arenas across the U.S. and Canada – and becoming an in-demand ticket in Europe and Australia, as well. Recognized as Pollstar’s top female country touring artist for her headlining tours in 2008, 2010, and 2012, Underwood documented her most recent outing with the 2013 DVD release, The Blown Away Tour: LIVE, while Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum celebrated Underwood that same year, hosting the special Blown Away Tour exhibition.
Indeed, her Blown Away Tour reflected another key element of Carrie’s life and career: her commitment to charity – and to lending her time and support where she can make a difference. Beginning with the first show, $1 from each ticket sold on the North American tour was allotted to support Red Cross disaster relief, resulting in a $1 million donation at the close of the tour. Another key initiative came much earlier, with the 2009 launch of her ongoing C.A.T.S. Foundation, created to help meet a variety of needs and services in her hometown area. More recently, appearing on the Academy of Country Music’s 2014 military tribute ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute to the Troops, she was inspired to co-write and perform the song “Keep Us Safe,” which debuted during the broadcast, with proceeds from the digital single benefiting ACM Lifting Lives®, the charitable arm of the Academy. Her support of the military also brought her to the Persian Gulf for a 2006 USO tour to Iraq and Kuwait, and she further journeyed overseas in 2007 and 2009, making humanitarian trips to Africa as part of American Idol’s “Idol Gives Back” poverty relief initiatives. In 2013, the T.J. Martell Foundation for Leukemia, Cancer and AIDS Research recognized Carrie with its Artist Achievement Award, and the Country Radio Broadcasters also celebrated her heart for charity, presenting her with its 2014 Artist Humanitarian Award.
Among her many honors, she’s the recipient of seven GRAMMYs, eight American Music Awards, five Country Music Association Awards (three as Female Vocalist of the Year), 11 Academy of Country Music Awards – including being the first woman to win back-to-back ACM Entertainer of the Year awards – and in April of 2014 was named to the TIME 100: TIME magazine’s ranking of the 100 most influential people in the world.
“I can’t believe it’s been a decade since I auditioned for American Idol,” Carrie admits. “So much has happened since then. In some ways it feels like it was a million years ago; in some ways it feels like it was just yesterday.”
Now, the release of Greatest Hits: Decade #1 spotlights the incredible voice and the songs that have served as touchstones in the first chapter of an extraordinary career.
“I remember as a kid just being so excited whenever someone would come out with a greatest hits because it was all my favorites in one little package. I’m honored that I’ve had that much love and support over the past 10 years that I get to have one.
“I’m blessed,” Carrie says, “and I’m so happy that I still get to do what I love.”