Carrie Underwood Gets Candid With Howard in Her First-Ever Stern Show Interview

“American Idol” alum discusses her career, marriage, and rocking out with Axl Rose

May 5, 2023

She might have sold 85 million records, earned the respect of critics and her peers alike, and remains one of the biggest successes to come out of “American Idol,” but that doesn’t mean Carrie Underwood has ever taken her career for granted. “It’s an opportunity, you know? It doesn’t mean that everything’s going to work out,” the country star told Howard Wednesday about winning the fourth season of the singing competition show. “I’ve always felt like I had a lot to prove — I still feel like that.”

Making her Stern Show debut from SiriusXM’s new Miami studios, the singer talked about her life and career, including the monster success of her first album, “Some Hearts,” which garnered her three Grammy Awards in 2007 and the distinction of having the best-selling debut of any “American Idol” contestant.

“We kind of had on this album things with a little more pop flare, and things with more country flare,” she said of the genre-bending record. “We were trying to ease me into the music industry and, you know, I definitely knew I needed to sing country music … but once the more country songs did as well as they did it was like any doubters in my universe were like, ‘Oh, okay.’”

That didn’t mean the success of the record got to her head. “I just said I wanted to sell enough to be able to make a second album,” Underwood recalled of her thinking at the time. “We made a second album, and I was like, ‘I just want to do well enough to make another one,’ and it was like every step of the way was more than I ever could have deserved.”

The album’s first single was Christian-based, which could explain why the track “Before He Cheats” raised some eyebrows. “This one was one I feel like everybody was a little nervous about, me, my label people, … because it’s aggressive,” the artist admitted. “I just sang ‘Jesus Take the Wheel’ and now ‘she’s getting violent.’”

Though she has been cheated on in the past, imagery such as taking a “Louisville Slugger to both headlights” of her lover’s car is pure fiction. “That’s the fun thing about music,” Carrie noted. “You do get to sing about things, or write things, or make music videos or whatever about things that you wouldn’t actually do in your life, but it is fun to get into character and act like you would.”

To this day, the song strikes a chord at live shows. “I feel like immediately when it comes in, the whole audience just starts bumping,” Underwood revealed. “There’s this weird little like undulation thing that just starts happening and the crowd comes alive.”

Husband and former NHL star Mike Fisher Was a Groupie?

Romantically, Underwood has had far greater success with former NHL centre Mike Fisher, whom she’s been married to since 2010. The love connection was made via bassist Mark Childers, who was protective of the star when the retired player asked for an introduction at arguably the biggest stage in country music. “He wanted to meet Carrie behind stage at the Opry and I didn’t allow it,” the band member recalled. “He kept trying.”

“Persistence,” Underwood added with a laugh.

Finally meeting after Fisher drove from Ottawa, Ontario to Toronto to see Carrie perform, the relationship started as a slow burn. “We met in October and then we talked on the phone for a few months before we went out on our first date,” she remembered. “It was good, it kind of laid some foundation.”

Fisher hung up his skates in 2018 and, according to Carrie, is quite comfortable with her being in the spotlight. “He worked hard at what he did for 20 years and now our roles are different,” she said before remembering the days when both were juggling their careers with their family life. “He was playing, I was touring — it was craziness when we were both doing what we do.”

If that weren’t enough, Underwood offered even more evidence of her husband’s comfort. “Just YouTube ‘Mike Fisher hockey fights’ and then you’ll see why he’s secure in his masculinity,” she joked. “He’s not afraid to throw down.”

Carrie the Metalhead Has Rocked out With Axl

She might be predominantly known for her country roots, but Underwood is also a certified metal head with a penchant for hard rock icons Guns N’ Roses. “I’ve been a fan since almost birth,” she told Howard before singing the praises of frontman W. Axl Rose. “His voice is something that just cut through the air to me … he didn’t sound like everybody else and sometimes it wasn’t pretty [because] that’s not what the song was meant for. He was willing to, you know, get into the song and do what the song needed.

Having covered several of G N’ R songs over the years, the star was understandably nervous when she met the band and especially Axl backstage at a show once. “I was like, ‘I’m not worthy to breathe the oxygen,’” she remembered. “They took me back to his dressing room and I just got to chat with him … we talked for a minute about the show, about touring, and stuff like that.”

 After establishing a connection, Underwood reached out to the singer to duet with her on a couple of his songs at the 2022 Stagecoach Festival. “I wrote an email and sent it and just explained why, because it does sound unexpected,” she said in reference to her country background.

Performing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Paradise City” together, the two gelled so well that they linked up later that year with Guns N’ Roses and again earlier this year for Underwood’s “Denim & Rhinestones” tour.

“We have fun,” the star said after Howard admitted he loved watching her emulate Axl’s iconic dance moves when they collaborate. “When I’m onstage by myself that’s one thing, but then when there’s somebody else you get to play off of it’s just a different energy, it’s a different vibe.”

‘Blown Away’

Carrie kicked off a trio of live performances for Howard with “Blown Away,” the title track from her fourth studio album. “This is one we kind of fiddled around with a little bit for this past tour,” the singer told Howard. “We kind of went acoustic in the beginning and then gave it some more umph towards the end, and I feel like it’s just a cool, different arrangement that I haven’t done too many places.”

The rendition lived up to its name. “Wow, what a powerful song,” Howard remarked after Carrie belted out the last note.

‘She Don’t Know’

For her next song, Underwood picked “She Don’t Know” off 2022’s “Denim & Rhinestones.” “It’s another good story song and I feel like it’s very country in its music and storyline,” she said of its premise of a woman being cheated on. “I have a problem with weak songs. I’m not good at being vulnerable or being like, ‘You did me wrong and I just stay where I’m at.’”

The artist went on to explain her fondness for revenge songs. “A lot of times in these over the top, ‘Blown Away’ type songs, it’s like this person’s been pushed to the limit but then she does something about it, and I love that,” she revealed. “I need the character to have a backbone.”

‘Mama, I’m Coming Home’

In addition to Guns N’ Roses, Carrie also grew up an Ozzy Osbourne fan, so it was fitting that she chose his power ballad “Mama, I’m Coming Home” to close things out. “I very much remember being a teenager kind of discovering my own musical tastes and my mom being very much against me listening to Ozzy,” she explained with a laugh. “I feel like you need to listen to some of these lyrics, because it’s not all darkness … there’s a lot of like love songs and things that are a lot more melodic and sweet.”

Underwood then praised the vocal prowess of her fellow singer, especially considering how long he’s been at it. “He’s got a thing, he sounds a certain way, and it is very distinguishable,” she marveled. “I don’t know what exactly the tricks are, because they wouldn’t have had all the plug-ins and stuff that we have now … but he’s always sounded the same.”

Before tackling the song for a live EP she did for Apple Music, the singer reached out to Ozzy’s wife and manager, Sharon Osbourne, for permission. It’s something she does anytime she covers another artist. “I want their blessing. I would never want somebody to be like, ‘Man, I don’t like her, so no,’” she revealed. “I just want to be respectful, and we had asked permission and Sharon was very sweet about it.”

Once again, Howard loved the performance, even asking Carrie and her band to break down the harmonies a cappella style. “I want to be able to do that!” he exclaimed. “Oh, that was good.”

Carrie’s Country, a new year-round channel from Carrie Underwood, launches in June 2023 on SiriusXM.

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