This is not the same exact Carrie Underwood you know and love. I mean, sitting in her manager's Nashville office sporting a vintage concert T-shirt and rolled-up jeans, she's still the same sunny picture. (Sidebar: It's hard to believe that less than a year ago the seven-time Grammy-winning, multiplatinum-selling entertainer had more than 40 stitches in her face due to a freak accident.) You'll really notice the difference — a little more introspective, a bit more open, even more confident — when you listen to her new album, Cry Pretty, which she says is "much more me" than the last five.
For this one, Carrie took the reins as a coproducer for the first time: "I had time and space and creative license in a way I haven't before. I got to do the dirty work." While her personal life remains rock-solid (she and her husband of eight years, hockey player Mike Fisher, are the proud parents of Isaiah, 3), she admits that her past year was an emotional roller coaster. She mined those lessons for song material — and talks to us a little about them here.
Your new album is titled Cry Pretty, so what moves you to tears?
I get teary in church a lot because I'm moved by the message — but I never remember to bring tissues! [Laughs] Rarely do I cry out of frustration. I cry happy tears maybe more than I cry sad tears.
You've said recently that you feel stronger than ever — why?
A lot happened in 2017 during my "off year." I love it when people say, "You took a year off." I'm like, "You know, I had this shoot and this thing, and I was writing this and doing that." There was always so much to do, but it was also a very soul-searching year for me.
What prompted that soul-searching?
There were some personal things that happened. And I had the accident and all of that to get through ... and just life. Life is full of ups and downs, and I might have had a few more downs than ups last year.
Did having a facial injury shake your confidence?
Any time someone gets injured, it looks pretty bad in the beginning, and you're like, "What is this going to wind up like?" You just don't know. It was also a perception thing, because I look at myself [now] and I see it quite a bit, but other people are like, "I wouldn't have even noticed." Nobody else looks at you as much as you think they do. Nobody notices as much as you think they will, so that's been nice to learn.
There were so many rumors online — that you'd had plastic surgery, that it was a publicity stunt. Did that bother you?
I'm on some magazine every other week for something crazy. It's a little sad, because the truth is just as interesting I wish I'd gotten some awesome plastic surgery to make this [scar] look better. But I try not to worry too much about it. My mom will be like, "Did you see they are saying this about you?" And I'll be like, "Mama, I don't care. I'm just trying to raise my son and live my life."
Do you want a big family?
I'm 35, so we may have missed our chance to have a big family. We always talk about adoption and about doing it when our child or children are a little older. In the meantime, we're lucky to be a part of organizations that help kids, because our focus right now in our lives is helping as many kids as possible.
What advice do you have for young women to encourage them to be more confident?
The first thing I would tell them is that we're all insecure; that's just called being human. I feel like the most important thing to realize is that even people who seem to be super confident have insecurities that they are dealing with. Honestly, you just do the best you can. Don't worry about things you can't change.
If you could go back to that girl who took her first plane ride when she was trying out for American Idol, what would you tell her?
I don't know if I'd tell her much of anything, because I would want everything to turn out exactly how it has. Every lesson that I've learned was an important one and led me to where I am — and I like where I am now.
Do you think country music is ready for a Time's Up moment for women to get their due?
This is a conversation the industry has been having for a while now. I see so many amazingly talented women who make me go, "Why isn't she kicking button the radio?" Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris, and Lauren Alaina have finally gotten some great radio success, so it's starting to get better. But we need to keep the conversation going so there will be more room created for women.
You've accomplished so much already. What is on your bucket list for the next 10 years?
I'm hoping I'm still lucky enough to be making music. I love going on the road and putting together shows I'm proud of, but I don't know where I'll be in 10 years. I don't know where I'll be next week. By the grace of God, I'm just lucky enough to live another day, and that's good by me.
This article originally ran in the September 2018 issue of Redbook.
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