by Alison Bonaguro
Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a 2-part interview. You can read part 1 here.
As Carrie Underwood was starting to wind down her 2020, but still on a high from the release of her highly-anticipated Christmas album My Gift, she sat down for a Zoom call to catch up with Nashville reporters on everything from the holiday traditions she treasures to the silver linings she found during this year of so much sorrow.
On keeping traditional music traditional: “I feel like the great thing about traditional Christmas carols is that it’s the familiarity that is so special. When I think about the Christmas songs that I grew up listening to, they were very straightforward. They were very simple. That’s what sticks with me still today. And those are always my favorite ones when somebody just does a beautiful production of ’O’ Holy Night’ or ’O Come All Ye Faithful.’ Whatever it is, it’s just simple and beautiful. That’s what resonates with me. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here. I love these songs the way they are. There’s a reason that they’ve stood the test of time and people still sing them today.”
On making an album full of joy in a year full of pain: “It was therapeutic in a way. You can’t be sad singing these songs. And getting to sing songs that I love — and just to sing in general — really was a gift. It was a blessing in 2020. So I hope people get that when they listen to it.”
On the silver lining of the endless quarantine: “Honestly, I think at the end of the day it’s getting to be home and getting to be in one place. Usually we’re so go, go, go. And there’s so much travel and there are so many shows and there’s just lots of reasons to go. Which I’m good at. I like to do what I do. And at the beginning of 2020, it was confusing. Like, ’Now how do we do this? I’ve never been in one place this long before.’ But then it was like, ’Wow, I’ve never been in one place this long before.’ I got to watch my children grow: my oldest son is going to be six in February, my youngest son is going to be two in January. That is time I cannot get back. Years from now, I feel like I’m going to look back on 2020 and be like, first, what a mess. But second, I got to spend that year at home, watching my boys grow up and I can’t get this time back.”
On the cows her husband bought her for Christmas: “My husband said, ’What would you like for Christmas?’ And I said, ’I would like cows.’ So he went and got me a couple cows. I love animals. Cows are probably my favorite animal. Because I grew up with them and I think they just have such personalities and I just can’t wait to really get to know ours. They’re doing good, they’re happy. My son named them Brownie and Oreo because one’s brown and one is black and white. I think our next animal is going to be donkeys. And I feel like we just keep getting more and more chickens.”
On her son Isaiah’s contribution to “Little Drummer Boy”: “It is such a special age, you know? He’s five, so there’s such an innocence. He can communicate with you and tell you how he’s feeling and tell you what he wants. And he doesn’t know numbers, he doesn’t know singles or albums or what any of that stuff is. He just knows that he’s singing and he’s being joyful and happy doing it. Which was such a joy for me to watch. Because there’s no motive behind any of it. I’m always gonna have that moment in time captured on this album. I think he liked hearing himself back. He went to school and told all his friends about it and they listened to it in class.”
On potential New Year’s resolutions for 2021: “I do make New Year’s resolutions. And a lot of times they are things like, I want to have a little more me time, I want to take better care of myself, breathe and be peaceful. I feel like a New Year’s resolution from last year would have been something like, ’Spend more time with your family.’ And then I kind of got that this year. But I don’t know. I think this year taught us to be grateful for what we have. I definitely would like to work more next year, but I’m not in control of that. So we’ll just do the best we can and keep moving forward with the circumstances that we are given, and be grateful for what we have.”
On her approach to tree trimming without any Pinterest goals: “Growing up, we had the same decorations every year. We had the same tree every year. And there was something so nice about the familiar, you know? Just having that comfort in knowing these are the same candle holders that mom always puts on the piano. And we always had the same stockings and by the time I was in my teens, they were gross looking. But I did not want any new ones. Anytime mom would ever suggest getting new ornaments or anything I was like, ’No! I love that 1980 ornament that one of your students — that you probably don’t even remember who it was — brought it to you.’ It was all I knew, and it made me sad when she wanted to change it. That’s what I want my boys to have. I want them to see their pictures from when they were little or that thing they made in kindergarten hanging on the tree. You know? It won’t be Pinterest worthy, but it’s definitely got a lot of heart.”
Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.