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Patricia Molette Professor Grace Schwanda MUS 110 – Appreciation of World & Western Music 9, December 2013 Musical Heritage Paper I choose Carrie Underwood for my musical heritage paper. I am a huge fan of her work and enjoyed reading her biography. Her musical heritage began very similar as mine did growing up and we both had our roots planted in country music since before we were born. The backgrounds of our families and their love of country music helped to shape us into the music lovers and listeners we are today. Carrie Underwood was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, on March 10, 1983, she is only five years younger than me, and probably why we both love the same singers and listen too much of the same music. Although she was born in Muskogee, Carrie attended school in Checotah where her family lived, which was a small farm town. Her parents Stephen and Carole Underwood had two older daughters, Shanna and Stephanie and Carrie was the youngest of the three girls. Her father Stephen worked as a paper mill operator for 30 years at Georgia-Pacific and Carole is now a retired teacher from an elementary school. Growing up in a small town and living on a farm was the life of Carrie Underwood for many years. Her love of country music and singing was born in that sleepy little farm town. It was apparent from the beginning that she was going to be a singer. Her parents still have photos of her singing into hair brushes as a child or anything she could get her hands on to pretend it

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was a microphone. Her family and her parents provided her with a stable background and both were supportive in her early days when she would go out of her way to do whatever she could to get on stage. Whether it was singing in the church choir or singing at festivals around town, she was always trying to sing, wherever and whenever she could. Carrie attended Free Will Baptist Church in Checotah with her parents, and she started singing for the church when she was only three years old. Her faith is still very strong to this day and she believes that “God bestows everyone with a particular talent and then presents them with opportunities to use those talents.” (pg 4) Her faith is something that I can definitely relate to, having believed the same thing myself growing up. Church was a great start for the singer but eventually she looked outside Checotah to perform music as she got older. She traveled to other towns to perform in festivals, car shows, races, and opened for some other bands as well. She always maintained a desire to follow her dreams and make a career out of singing. Carrie graduated from Checotah High School and decided to pursue a degree in mass communications at North-Eastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and joined the Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority. Carrie left the University just three credits shy of graduating to compete on American Idol, she was 23 at that time. She eventually went back and graduated with a bachelor degree in mass communication with an emphasis in journalism. When Carrie saw an add for the American Idol auditions and realized it was an 8 hour trip to St. Louis, Missouri to try out, she decided it was too far for her to go just to be turned away. Her mother offered to drive her there and her first reaction was no, but then she changed her mind and decided to go. Luckily for her, she belted out the Martina Mcbride song “Phones are ringing all over town” written by David

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Mackechnie, Kin Vassy, and Marc Beeson. McBride just happened to be her favorite singer! The second song she sang was another by McBride, “Independence Day”, and the third and final round she choose “ I can’t make you love me,” written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin. She was liked enough by the judges to be sent on to the competition. Carrie was on her way to Hollywood and it was her first time to ever be in an airplane. Of the thousands that auditioned for Idol, only 193 got to go to Hollywood, and she was one of them. Carrie made her way out of the 193, down to the final 12 contestants. She managed to stay on board every week. During her weeks on American Idol she choose many of my favorite songs, all the while I was home rooting for her. Although the judges were not always nice, on March 22nd, she gained the lead when she broke out of the norm and took a risk singing an 80’s rock song “Alone” by Heart, where she was able to wow the judges. Simon Cowell made the statement “Carrie, you’re not just the girl to beat you’re the person to beat.” (pg 13) Very unlike Cowell who spoke his honest feelings all the time, which were usually not very nice. Underwood finally beat out her last competitor Bo Bice and she was declared the winner of American Idol season four. With tears running down her face she declared it the best night of her life. Rushed into the studio after her win, stardom was almost overnight. With 30 million viewers watching the final episode of season four of American Idol, she already had a fan base set up and they were anxiously awaiting the arrival of more music from the singer. Carrie soon made history on the Billboard magazine charts. “Inside Your Heaven” went straight to the tops of the 100 charts by June of 2005, which was the very first time a country singer made it to number one on this chart. This song also sold 170,000 copies in its first week, and became the bestselling song of 2005. (pg 21)

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Although Carrie was considered to be a county singer from the start, her first single wasn’t even played on the country radio. She enjoyed many different genres, but went straight to working on her country tunes and stayed true to her roots not long after her first single was released always staying at the top of the charts. My grandmother was a big fan of country music singers especially those who were women, and had she still been alive when Carrie came out, most of her music would have probably went straight to the top of her charts also, as it did mine, along with the rest of the world. Staying true to her roots, Carrie’s second single “Jesus Take the Wheel” rose to the top of the country music charts, and she became an instant country music star. Soon she started working on endorsements, which granted her immediate money. Carrie signed with Hershey’s chocolate and Skechers shoes right away and then about a year later she became part of the “Got Milk” campaign. Eventually she gained even more endorsement opportunities, the major one, was being the face for Glaceau’s Vitamin Water, and they sponsored her first headline tour. Carrie received a new red Ford Mustang, one million dollars and a recording contract all thanks to American Idol and the “Pop Tarts Presents American Idols Live! Tour 2005”. Carrie Underwood had many obligations to fulfill from her Idol win, she was introduced to many people in the business, and established many contacts through this overnight stardom. She was set up with a song plugger, who picked songs that Carrie would most likely be interested in singing, and then would pitch them to her in an effort to get her to choose songs and get them recorded. She only chose one song from her first album to co-write. Being new to the business, she never had the chance then to write any songs for that debut album. Eventually she wanted to meet songwriters, get to know them, so they would have a better idea of what she wanted to sing and have them write her songs. She met with producers who directed the entire

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album, and engineers who control all of the instrumentals that are on the session as well as the vocals. Many of her songs would have lead guitar, piano, drums, bass guitar, rhythm guitar, many include a mandolin, steel guitar, banjo, or fiddle, especially in country music. After all the fuss of figuring what direction the album was going to go and finding the perfect instruments to go along with the vocals, Underwood would have a mixing engineer, and then a master engineer. The master engineer viewed the album as a whole instead of fixating on the smaller pieces of the music. The record label decided to first release “Jesus Take the Wheel” as her second single before they put out her first album in November of 2005. As she was making her music and doing endorsements, she was also busy singing at festivals, and giving interviews, she performed at the CMA Music Fest, then on to her Grand Old Opry debut. Carrie was a very busy overnight star at this point. She was invited to sing the national anthem before game four of the National Basketball Association’s finals at the Palace of Auburn Hills, in Michigan. Before July of 2006 she had sang for many different sporting events including; NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 and at the 77th Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Pennsylvania. A young star very busy in the spotlight indeed, Carrie was off and running to radio stations, and meeting deejays who would be playing her music. Idol had made the appearances very easy for Carrie and she had no trouble getting these deejays and radio stations to play her songs. She pushed on and searched for a booking company to sign with to book a major concert tour. She ended up signing with one of the largest booking agencies in the world, Creative Artists Agency. This agency put Carrie out on the fair and festival circuit, where she would be performing in front of huge groups of country music fans. She was scheduled to do as many as 40 solo performance’s before they joined her with Kenny Chesney on his “The Road and the

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Radio� tour. Kenny was one of the biggest country music singers at this time and Carrie had even seen him in concert when she was younger. This was major for the new singer. She was working with one of her idols in country music. The doors were then opened for her to work with many other country music stars including; Dierks Bentley, Gretchen Wilson, Big & Rich, and on to tour with yet another star, being Brad Paisley. By the end of the year 2006, Carrie had done over 150 shows, ending the year by headlining a USO tour during the Christmas holiday season, performing for U.S. troops in Kuwait and Iraq. (pg 45) Before long her singles were going double platinum. She was receiving Grammy nominees and winning awards for album of the year, top female vocalist, along with many other awards and trophies. She does benefits for St. Judes and donates to humane societies. She has found many ways to use her stardom to benefit many different organizations. I absolutely love that about Carrie. She has a great heart, a love for people, and animals. She uses her fame to help the unfortunate and that is probably another reason why America loves her. After being so busy with her success in Idol and working on another album, she finally gets to a place where she felt the need to plant her feet firmly on the ground in her very own residence. Even though she is still very busy working on another album, she was able to purchase her first home and establish her residence in Nashville as her primary residence. She began working on writing her own songs, many songs on her second album were written by her or with help from her. Her journey into the unknown also made her a recognizable force in the songwriting industry. This was definitely a smart and bold move on her behalf, but none the less she excelled and broke barriers she never dreamt possible. She put her heart, her soul, and her everything into her career. She loved what she did and it definitely shows.

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Stardom always comes at a cost and Carrie was not exempt from scrutiny, nor was she exempt from rumors or the never ending paparazzi, but she has managed to keep her small town, all American girl reputation. She tries to live a life as normal as she can for being a super star and never lets the fame go to her head. She has been able to preserve the grace and honor of a small town girl. She is constantly thinking about what other people might say if she has a drink in her hand or when it comes to her dating life, and has managed to keep some of that private or from the public eye. She has also managed to keep some close relationships with friends and family who treat her like a normal human being and the Carrie they all loved and adored before her fame. Even bigger than keeping close relationships, her biggest accomplishment that might mean the most to her was her induction in the Grand Ole Opry. “Opry is the heart of country music, the church, the sacred place, the super-elite club, that says you love this music” (pg 122) according to Carrie. She has a special place for this particular award and shed quite a few tears when she received it. Garth Brooks was there to induct her as the Opry’s newest member and recalled how many tears he shed while receiving this award himself. For country music singers this is the icing on the cake. Carrie worked very hard to earn this spot with her hard work and dedication. Her willingness to push herself and take herself to the next level has been one of her greatest accomplishments. Going from the Grand Ole Opry to the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2009 was another fantastic advancement for the singer. After that she was on and running with her third album entitled Play On. Her song “Cowboy Casanova” climbed billboard charts just as all her songs before that one, but this song made the fifth-highest debut by a female artist on the chart, it

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also gave Underwood the distinction of being the first femal solo artis to have 10 top 10 hits on the country chart in the 21st century. (pg 129) Throughout her career, into her stardom, and up until now Carrie had grown and matured as a person and a singer. She is more confident within herself and it shines through in all of her performances. With her new found confidence, Underwood also made some waves in an acting career in 2010 as a guest on the television show How I Met Your Mother. During this same year she made an appearance on Sesame Street, and also landed her first movie role in Soul Surfer. This all around American girl is also all around talented to say the least. Her appearances on the big screen were probably a nice change of scenery for the artist but her passion is in her voice, her music, and her love of singing. She continues to excel and break records that she never thought possible. She continues to tour and make music. She is working on bringing her tours outside of the U.S. so the entire world can hear her tunes. I can’t help but root for her and just know that where ever she goes or whatever she does, that she will continue to break records worldwide and continue to push herself to levels that she has never thought possible. She will not only be our American Idol star but she will be an international star as well. She is excited to continue to put in work to keep making her dreams come true, to make her career soar to new heights, and to use her fame and fortune to benefit charities. I have no doubt that she will be around for many years to come, and continue to impress the world with her music. She is an excellent role model for young women around the world. Our American Idol and international superstar will surpass every other superstars alive today, all the while remaining our American girl.

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Carrie Underwood is a woman I can relate to, appreciate, adore, and love. Her musical heritage started before she was born, much like mine. Our families both had their roots in country music long before either of us had been born. Carrie has sang different genres of music, and I have listened to different genres of music but both of us stay true to our roots at the end of the day, and country music will always be a big part of my life as well as Carrie’s. Times are definitely changing but our hearts are planted in the love of the music that we listened to growing up. This love was inherited from our parents, and grandparents before that. Listening to music in the days when our grandparents did, was much different than how we listen to music now. I’m sure they had 8 tracks, old 45’s, and records. I started off listening to music on cassette tapes, and then cd’s. Now we listen to music on Ipods and Mp3’s. These are only devices though, the real listening is in the lyrics, guitars, drums, bass guitars, and other instruments used in the making of music. Learning the differences between what we hear and how we hear has been a hard road for me. This class has definitely shaped me into a better listener. I can hear and recognize many different things in my music that I never even heard before. I catch myself listening to the beat, trying to find the tempo, tapping to feel whether a song is in duple or triple meter, interested in the sounds I hear rather than the words. Even listening to Carrie Underwood’s music since this class I can feel many new things; I can count different bars, and know what instruments are involved in the making of this music. Much like Carrie, and her maturity in her music as time passes on, I am becoming a much more mature listener as the time passes. Many things have influenced my musical heritage; my parents, my friends, this class, country music in general, other genres of music, along with Miss. Underwood.

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I have many people that helped in the growth of my musical heritage and many singers that led me to be the listener I am today, but one of the greatest contributions to being a great listener was this class and the things I’ve learned and been able to apply to my listening perception skills. I am truly thankful for the experience of the work and guidance from my professor and the things I learned through the readings and lessons of this class, and also through the biography of Miss Underwood.

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Works Cited Hackett, Vernell. Carrie Underwood: A Biography. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2010. Print.


Patricia Molette - Professor Grace Schwanda

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