Carrie Marie Underwood (born March 10, 1983 in Checotah, Oklahoma) is an American country singer-songwriter who won the fourth season of American Idol. She also is a three-time Grammy Award-winning singer. She is the first Idol winner to sweep all three major music awards (Billboard, American Music, and Grammy Award) in one single season. Since her sweep, she has become a multi-platinum selling recording artist. Her debut album, Some Hearts, was certified seven times platinum and is the fastest selling debut country album in Nielsen SoundScan history. Some Hearts yielded five number one hits on the country charts in the United States and Canada: “Inside Your Heaven,” “Jesus, Take the Wheel”, “Don’t Forget to Remember Me”, “Wasted,” and her biggest hit to date, “Before He Cheats.” Underwood scored another Top 10 Billboard hit with her charity single, “I’ll Stand by You.” Some Hearts sold a total of 7 million RIAA-certified copies as of February 2008. In addition to being the best selling album by an American Idol contestant in the United States to date, it is also the best-selling solo female debut album in country music history.
Her second album, Carnival Ride, was released on October 23, 2007. It has so far sold over 2 million copies and has produced two number one country hits, “So Small.” and “All-American Girl”. The album’s third single, “Last Name” is currently climbing the charts. Underwood’s Christmas single, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” peaked at #2 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts.
Aside from her vocals, Underwood’s success is attributed to what many fans recognize as her wholesome image. In general, many of her songs also present inspirational and uplifting themes and messages. To date, Underwood has sold over 11 million copies worldwide in the last two years.
Carrie Marie Underwood was born to Stephen and Carole Underwood in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and was raised on her parents’ farm in rural Checotah, Oklahoma. She has two older sisters, Shanna (born 1970) and Stephanie Underwood Shelton (born 1973). Underwood had performed at Robbins Memorial Talent Show in her childhood. As a young child, she sang in church, and for Old Settler’s Day and Lion’s Club, local events in Checotah. In 1996, when Underwood was 13, her manager at the time tried to get her a recording contract at Capitol Records. However, due to management changes at Capitol, it never materialized.
Underwood graduated from Checotah High School in 2001 as salutatorian. After high school, she attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. She graduated magna cum laude in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and an emphasis in journalism. Underwood is a member of the Alpha Iota chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority. For two years during the summer, she performed in Northeastern’s Downtown Country show in Tahlequah. She also competed in numerous beauty pageants at the university and was selected as Miss NSU runner-up in 2004.
In the summer of 2004, Underwood auditioned for American Idol in St. Louis. During the top eleven finalists’ performance on the March 22, 2005 Idol episode, Underwood sang a rendition of the number one 80’s rock hit “Alone” by Heart and judge Simon Cowell predicted that Underwood would not only win the competition, but would outsell all previous Idol winners. Underwood was the second winner never to have been voted in the bottom three (the first being Kelly Clarkson). While on the show, Underwood gained a loyal fan base known as “Carrie’s Care Bears”. Coincidentally, she was in the same sorority (Sigma Sigma Sigma) as Linda Denham, the creator of the original Care Bears franchise.
On May 25, 2005, Underwood was crowned the winner of the fourth season of American Idol, beating out Bo Bice.
Underwood appeared on the sixth season of American Idol, where she sang her single “Wasted” on March 8. This was her fourth time performing on the show since winning the competition in 2005. Underwood also performed at the Idol Gives Back concert singing her new song, “I’ll Stand By You”, (a cover of the Pretenders hit) along with Kelly Clarkson, Rascal Flatts, and others. Underwood sang the same song at American Idol’s season finale on May 23, 2007. She also sang “Praying For Time”, a former number one for George Michael, at the 2008 American Idol Gives Back mini-marathon.