Carrie Underwood became a household name during her successful stint on “American Idol” before becoming a Grammy Award-winning powerhouse.
The crooner grew up in Oklahoma and joked on her “American Idol” audition that she had never been on a plane until she was accepted into the reality competition. Things have certainly changed for Underwood, who is one of the most successful country singers today and arguably the most successful “American Idol” alum. All of the singer’s albums have been commercial hits, including her debut album, which introduced her as America’s next country superstar.
Here’s a look into Underwood’s career, from an unknown singer to a country music superstar.
Underwood grew up in Oklahoma and graduated as salutatorian of her high school, according to Southern Living. Her mom was an elementary school teacher and her dad was a sawmill worker. Underwood told PBS Kids she did a lot of volunteer work in college and was in a sorority when she attended Northeastern State University. The future country music star pulled out of classes to audition for the reality show that then changed her life, Taste of Country reported.
‘American Idol’ audition
Underwood auditioned for Season 4 of “American Idol” in 2004, when she was 21 years old. Wearing a pink shirt and jeans, she sang Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” for judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.
Cowell said Underwood was “very good” while Jackson said she was “excellent.” The judges gave her the green light to move onto the next phase of the competition show.
Underwood said after her audition that she was excited to fly on a plane and was going to miss her animals. She also said she didn’t know what to expect from Hollywood except from what she’s seen on television.
“I’ve never been on a plane before and this country girl is going to Hollywood!” Underwood said. Her audition episode aired on TV in early 2005.
‘American Idol’ winner
As the fourth season progressed, Underwood became a clear favorite and received a substantial amount of votes each week from viewers, according to The New York Times. The pool of aspiring singers dwindled down to just Underwood and fellow contestant Bo Bice as final contenders vying for the title of “American Idol.” Underwood was eventually named the winner of the competition in 2005. She received a record contract and access to a private jet.
Underwood told the Associated Press at the time that it was “the best night” of her life after winning.
“This is the best night of my life. And it’s going to get better,” Underwood said.
She was correct and went on to release one successful album after another.
Life after ‘American Idol’
After “American Idol,” Underwood released her debut album “Some Hearts” later in 2005. Some of the popular singles on that album included “Jesus, Take The Wheel” and “Before He Cheats.” The album sold more than 7 million copies, making it the best-selling country album in the U.S., Forbes reported.
The album went on to win a number of awards including Album of the Year at the Country Music Awards and Billboard Music Awards in 2006. She also won Grammy Awards for Best New Artist in 2006 and Best Female Vocal Country Performance for “Jesus, Take The Wheel.” In 2007, she won Best Female Country Vocal Performance for “Before He Cheats.”
Underwood would go on to win four more Grammy Awards, bringing her to a total seven Grammys. She is also an 11-time Academy of Country Music Awards winner.
Following “Some Hearts,” Underwood released the album “Carnival Ride,” which included the hit singles “Last Name” and “I Told You So.” In 2009, Underwood released “Play On” followed by “Blown Away” in 2012 and “Storyteller” in 2015.
The Wall Street Journal reported in 2016 that Underwood sold more albums than any other “American Idol” star. She still has more albums to sale after she announced “Cry Pretty,” her next album, would be released on Sept. 14, 2018.
Underwood told Rolling Stone in 2014 the difference between her first album and her latest music.
“Basically time and confidence,” she said. “Now I have a lot more confidence in myself as an artist and a songwriter, and now we just have a lot more time to make sure everything is perfect and just the way I want it.”
Life outside music
Despite her success in music, Underwood has pursued different ventures.
The country star dabbled in acting when she appeared in the 2011 film “Soul Surfer,” based on the true story of surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm in 2003 following a shark attack.
Underwood played Hamilton’s friend in the film. The movie garnered some controversy after the words “Holy Bible” were removed from the cover of a Bible in one scene. Underwood told The Hollywood Reporter she was a fan of the movie’s faith-based message.
“To me the phrase ‘Soul Surfer’ is about finding your path, your walk with God – or your surf with God – and making the best of the ride,” she said. “In the end, that is the most important.”
She also starred in the 2013 live broadcast of “The Sound of Music” as main character Maria von Trapp.
Underwood has also been featured in a number of ads for products including Almay and Skechers. She also has a fitness line, Calia by Carrie Underwood, that is sold at Dick’s Sporting Goods.
When she is not busy being a successful singer and businesswoman, Underwood has a family that is also growing.
Underwood married former NHL player Mike Fisher in 2010 and so far have one child together. In August, Underwood announced she was pregnant with their second child.
Underwood has never shied away from her faith and often mentions it in her songs. She told Glamour magazine in 2012 that she was not worried people wouldn’t like her mentioning God in her songs.
“It wasn’t a worry to me at all,” she said “Country music is different. You have that Bible Belt-ness about it. I’m not the first person to sing about God, Jesus, faith [or] any of that, and I won’t be the last. And it won’t be the last for me, either. If you don’t like it, change the channel.”
She also revealed that she and her husband do as much as they can to implement faith in their lives.
“Every Wednesday, my husband and I have a study group with our friends,” she said. “I attend church. We try to devote time in the morning [and] say a prayer. I’m not a big reader, though. I have to feel it, hear it, touch it [and] be involved in it.”
Injury and return to spotlight
The singer was faced with hardship after she suffered a fall that left her needing stitches in her face.
In November 2017, the singer fell outside her Nashville home that left her with a broken wrist and roughly 40 stitches. She explained to the “Today” show that she tripped and fell while taking her dogs outside. She said she was rushed to the hospital.
Following the incident, she stayed out of the public eye for a few months but returned to the stage at the Academy of Country Music Awards in April. She posted few photos of her face for months until her appearance in April.
Since the fall, Underwood has been back in the spotlight and is ready to release her new album next month.
Fox News’ Hollie McKay and Jennifer Earl contributed to this report.