Storyteller – Carrie’s Story Continued
By Denise Torenbeek
Ten years ago, on Oct. 18, 2005, Carrie Underwood‘s life was about to change dramatically, with the release of her debut single ‘Jesus, Take the Wheel’ from Some Hearts album after she had been crowned the Season 4 winner of American Idol.
Carrie has emerged from the promise of that introduction to become a true multi-faceted, multi-media superstar, spanning achievements in music, television, and film.
Since her last album Blown Away in 2012, Underwood has been on a three-year victory lap, releasing a greatest hits record, starring in NBC’s The Sound of Music and becoming a mother, welcoming her first child Isaiah in February.
Storyteller’s first single ‘Smoke Break’ borrows from a sound she’s perfected over the last decade, and is sure to sound great live when she begins her next tour. It’s an “anthem for every hardworking person,” she says. “We all wear many hats and are spread thin, so we can all relate to being tired and wanting to step away from the wheel we seem to be strapped to! This song is about having that moment to be able to escape from whatever it is that’s stressing you out and have some time for yourself.”
Underwood co-wrote the song with regular co-writers Hillary Lindsey and Chris DeStefano (the same trio wrote her last hit, the chart-topping “Little Toy Guns”) and said the idea was born out of frustration.
“We were writing and kept taking breaks to go outside because we were getting stuck on a song we were already working on. It was so beautiful outside, that we had a hard time focusing so we decided to write a song about taking breaks! ‘Smoke Break’ seemed like a great title, so we ran with it!”
‘Heartbeat’ will make any country-lover swoon. Teaming up with Sam Hunt for a nostalgic ballad about an electric summertime night spent with someone special, when the weather was warm enough for bare feet and fireflies.
With lyrics like, “Underneath the harvest moon/
Standing on your shoes in my bare feet/
Dancing to the rhythm of your heartbeat/
Yeah, we’re dancing to the rhythm of your heartbeat,” you can bet this will be a hit as a wedding song next year.
If there’s anyone who can belt out a fierce cheating song, it’s Carrie Underwood. She’s sung ‘Before He Cheats’ and ‘Two Black Cadillacs,’ and now she’s adding ‘Dirty Laundry’ to her no-good, done-me-wrong, low-down, two-timing track list.
She says it’s a “lipstick on the collar, kind of thing. It’s a take on a cheater in a familiar way with the lipstick and red wine and all these telltale signs that he was with another woman. It leaves clues on his dirty laundry, but it’s also like she airs it out for the whole world to see, metaphorically and literally,” she added. “It’s a woman fed up, but she does something about it, too.
Underwood’s women are unapologetically strong. When the singer and songwriter sings about a woman being cheated on, beaten up, doing it hard or raising kids alone, that woman won’t take it and turn the other cheek; they always fight back.
In keeping with that Nashville tradition of telling great stories and creating strong visuals, these songs on Storyteller run from a small town scandal to the woman who marries a man who beats her in ‘Church Bells’.
“Country has always done this really well and I’m a sucker for a good story, whether it’s mine, family or friends’ or something I have seen or heard,” Underwood says. “I try to be descriptive with my songs so people can imagine everything that happens.”
Those expecting this album to be a gushy, mommy record will be disappointed, but the lovely, sensitive ‘What I Never Knew I Always Wanted’ is Carrie’s heartfelt tribute to bub Isaiah and it is the last song on the album.
Underwood says that while she has more to write about, and is capable of relating to listeners in new ways, she’s still the same Carrie Underwood. Storyteller may be less dramatic than Blown Away, but it’s not without drama.
Lyrically, the song ‘Renegade Runaway’ can be read as Underwood’s defence of herself in light of concerns about motherhood, in which she finds a way to celebrate the apparent contradiction of being both a doting mother and a rebellious country star. Underwood makes this contradiction extremely clear with the song’s opening image of a woman: “an angel, so picturesque” who “looks like she walked right out of the wild, wild west.” Yet this woman isn’t as innocent as she seems; rather, she looks like “a devil in a satin dress.”
Mark Bright returned to produce parts of this fifth studio album. He’s been with her since her time on American Idol ended and is as responsible for her success as anyone aside from the singer herself, but Jay Joyce is the producer on the ‘Smoke Break’. He’s best known for work with Eric Church and Little Big Town, and produced six songs on Storyteller, with Bright producing five and Zach Crowell producing two tracks.
…read the full interview in Country Update – Issue 79