by Alison Bonaguro
Editor’s note: This is part 1 of a 2-part interview.
This year has been, well, a lot. But leave it to Carrie Underwood to make the most of it in every single way.
On Wednesday (Dec. 9) afternoon, before she said goodbye to 2020, I had a chance to catch up with Underwood about the year she’s had — the year we’ve all had — and what she’s hoping the new year will bring.
First, we talked about 2020. A year that is finally and blessedly almost over. But also one that brought us Underwood’s first Christmas album My Gift, and all the joy in her heart about how it felt to have such a faithful project to work on during the Covid-19 pandemic. Then we talked about 2021, and all the cautious optimism she has about being on the other side of the quarantine.
CMT.com: When you reflect on 2020 in its entirety — not just the pandemic, but all of it — you did so much. You celebrated your son Jacob’s first birthday, you sang “Spinning Bottles” at the CRS luncheon at the Ryman, then there were the devastating Nashville tornadoes in March, then you released your New York Times bestseller Find Your Path. And then the quarantine started. So have you had some kind mantra that kept you centered during this roller coaster of a year?
Underwood: I mean, I don’t know if it’s necessarily a mantra. But I think making the album was very good for my heart. Because I was like, “Wow. I still get to do this. I’m not doing it in front of people, but I still get to go in a studio. I still get to do what I love, which is sing. I get to sing these incredible songs.” And you know, I did get to go and make the (HBO) special, and it was just beautiful. It was beautiful to be on a stage. I didn’t have an audience in front of me, but it was just beautiful to be on stage. And it was so good for my heart.
So I think that we had what we wanted to do, and we kept moving forward, even if it was in a different kind of way. It was like, “Wow, you know, we can overcome obstacles and we can figure out how to keep doing what we love. Even though we’re dealt some really not-so-great cards.” And I think that was such a great realization that a) I still get to sing and nobody can take that away from me and b) we can keep moving forward with the blessing of being able to sing these songs that I love. I’m a faithful person. I love being able to sing songs about Jesus in the middle of everything, because it was just like my soul just got to feel at home and continue to worship and be grateful.
When you do get to get back on a stage with a real live audience — fingers crossed that’s sometime next summer — do you think it will be like riding a bike?
Well, I’m lucky that I’ve kind of had some moments on stage even sans audience. I got to play the Opry, I got to do the ACMs, and even though there was no one in the audience, in my head there was. In my head, I was back on stage and back on tour and envisioning the faces I saw all last year. And hopefully, that’s exactly what it’ll be like. It’ll be like, “Oh wow. You are real.” So we cross our fingers and hope that we all get to get back out and do what we love.
Not just for us and not just the fans, but even for the people who work in the industry. Everybody just wants to get back to work. We have no idea what’s gonna happen, but people are itching to get back out. And hopefully, we will all be able to do that.
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Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.