If there was ever a perfect rags-to-riches story of a bright-eyed Southern belle with a powerhouse voice striking it big in Hollywood, then that would be country superstar, Carrie Underwood.
Underwood is one of the most successful artists in the business, but you can easily forget her start on American Idol, which she won in 2005. But with 6 Grammys, 16 Billboard awards, 11 Academy of Country Music awards, and 4 chart-topping albums under her belt, she has proven herself to be a true bonafide star.
As the typical story goes, the fame and success of Hollywood is infective, and can completely transform a person into someone else. But part of Underwood’s charm is her ability to remain herself–the same girl who grew up in rural Oklahoma–sweet and quiet with an unshakable faith and love for God.
After her big American Idol win many of her advisors were against Underwood releasing “Jesus Take The Wheel” as her first single. But in an interview with Esquire Magazine she recalled her experience of people telling her that coming out with a religious song would be risky. “And I was thinking, Really? I grew up in Oklahoma, I always had a close relationship with God. I never thought it was risky in the least. If anything, I thought it was the safest thing I could do.”
Despite all the naysayers, Underwood kept her determination and the single was released on her debut album, Some Hearts. It exploded on the radio airwaves and even won Single of the Year at the 2005 Grammy Awards. Critics praised the song, not only for its soul-touching lyrics and Underwood’s strong vocals, but also for her courage in choosing a religious song as her entry into the music world.
And that definitely was not the last. “Temporary Home”, co-written by Underwood, was the second single from her third studio album, Play On, and was also well-received by audiences. Inspired by Pastor Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life, the singer wanted to write a song that would give comfort and hope to those going through difficult times.
Underwood has also tried her hand at acting to help share another inspiring story. The singer had a part in the 2011 feature film, Soul Surfer, a biopic of champion surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm in a shark attack but overcame all odds to begin surfing again. Underwood played Sarah Hill, a youth leader that helps Hamilton through her tragedy.
The singer was especially pulled by this film since it was unlike other inspirational movies that just pegged God as a minor role in a character’s life. It actually brought God front and center as the true source of hope. Underwood stated, “I hope that it is very clear that the faith in this movie is more than an undertone, and that the reason Bethany got through everything was because of her faith in God.”
With both her singing and acting talents, Carrie Underwood has received numerous awards and has not only gained recognition in country music but also throughout the entire entertainment industry.
In 2012, Underwood was interviewed for Oprah’s Next Chapter, which gave viewers a glimpse inside her cabin retreat in Tennessee where she lives with her husband Mike Fisher, ice hockey player. Their love and devotion to God was more evident inside their home with plaques of Bible verses mounted on the wall and on top of kitchen counters. In the interview, they revealed that their faith had been the factor that connected them during their first meeting, and continues to remain the glue that holds them together now.
Despite a hectic schedule and nonstop concert tours, the couple makes it a priority to put God and their walk in faith a priority telling Oprah, “Every Wednesday, my husband and I have a study group with our friends. I attend church. We try to devote time in the morning, say a prayer.”
Fame and fortune has not fazed the country singer in the least, and every chance she gets, she makes it a point to return all praise and glory to God. Her strong convictions have also touched those who do not believe in God.
Underwood’s stunning rendition of “How Great Thou Art” for 2011 ACM’s Girls Night Out had drawn all the seasoned country stars to their feet, and has even garnered over 29 million views on Youtube, still counting. Not many live performances on Youtube is able draw in this many people, so what is it about Underwood’s performance that did? As one commentator has put it, “I’m not a very religious person but it was hard not to be moved by this. Her soul was in it and her voice was amazing.”
Underwood found tremendous success again with her most recent Grammy-nominated single, “Something in the Water.” Billboard gave it a 4 out 5 stars stating that “Carrie Underwood offers a message of faith in times of trouble,” and the single debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart.
With a belief that seems unshakable despite public opinion, her convictions have kept her grounded and has inspired many. “I’m not the first person to sing about God, Jesus, faith or any of that, and I won’t be the last.”