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GUY RAZ, HOST:

And if you're just joining us, this is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. And it's time now for music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOOD GIRL")

RAZ: This is the first single off country superstar Carrie Underwood's new album, "Blown Away."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOOD GIRL")

CARRIE UNDERWOOD: (Singing) Hey, good girl, with your head in the clouds...

RAZ: Since she burst onto the scene after winning "American Idol" in 2005, Carrie Underwood's gone on to become one of the most successful country artists in history. In fact, she's now tied with Reba McEntire for the female country artist with most number one hits. Not too bad for a girl from Checotah, Oklahoma. And unlike her previous records, on this one, Carrie Underwood wanted to go a bit darker.

UNDERWOOD: You know, to be able to explore that side and kind of have a little more drama, a little more ominous, you know, weather going on in the album, it's really nice.

RAZ: Speaking of weather, there are a lot of references to where you are from, Oklahoma, which, of course, has been in the news lately because, of course, the storms and tornadoes. In the song "Blown Away," which is the title track off the record, you sing: There's not enough wind in Oklahoma to rip the nails out of the past. What is that song about?

UNDERWOOD: The song is a story about a girl and her father who - the song describes him as a mean old mister. And you can kind of make that as bad, I guess, as you want it to be. You know, the daughter wishes that, you know, she can feel a storm coming, and she just wishes it would wash her past away, and in doing so, you know, take her father along. So it's a very, you know, just deep, dark story and so visual, this song is. You know, when you hear the words and you hear the music, you can just see it all happening in your head.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLOWN AWAY")

UNDERWOOD: (Singing) She locked herself in the cellar, listened to the screaming of the wind. Some people called it taking shelter. She called it sweet revenge.

RAZ: How often do you think - I grew up in the middle of Oklahoma, 100-plus miles from Oklahoma City, on a farm. I am now the biggest female artist in country music. I mean, it's crazy.

UNDERWOOD: Yeah. My life has been pretty nuts ever since I tried out for "American Idol," and I certainly never could have imagined any of this was ever possible.

RAZ: I mean, you sang as a kid. And, in fact, you almost got signed as a kid. But you were a good student, you graduated from high school as the salutatorian, and you went on to college having no interest in pursuing music. That wasn't what you were going to do.

UNDERWOOD: I mean, it definitely would have been awesome, but that's just not real, right? There's so many people in this world who are absolutely amazing - vocalists and writers and musicians - and they never get their shot, you know? So why would I be any more special?

RAZ: So what changed? When did you decide, you know what, I'm going to take a shot at music again, I'm going to try out for the show "American Idol?"

UNDERWOOD: I went home to visit my mom and dad. On the news, they just had shots of people sleeping outside in Cleveland getting ready to try out for "American Idol." And I went and got on a computer and saw where the auditions were going to be taking place, and then asked my mom how far St. Louis was from us because I had no idea. I'd never been to St. Louis before.

And she's like, yeah, it's about, you know, seven-hours-plus away. And I said, OK, never mind. And she said, why? And I said, because that's the closest place to us that they're holding "American Idol" auditions. Later on, I actually forgotten about it, and she came up to me and said, you know, if you want to go, I'll drive you.

RAZ: Wow.

UNDERWOOD: She actually kind of had to talk me into it because I was like, no, it's stupid. It's stupid. No, no, no, no. What are the chances? No.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RAZ: You eventually went to L.A. for "Idol." You had never been on an airplane.

UNDERWOOD: Yeah. I was 21 years old, and I'd never - we'd never gone anywhere. I'd never been on an airplane before. And then it was, all right, here's your ticket, and you're going alone to Los Angeles. And my mom, I remember before I left, she was like, now, don't do any drugs and don't go anywhere by yourself, because it just sounds so far away, and it sounds so scary, especially for, you know, I'm sure your baby daughter to be going off to this giant city all by herself.

RAZ: It was an incredible moment, that season, because Simon Cowell, long before you won, he looked at you and he said she's going to win.

UNDERWOOD: Yeah, and that was scary actually. I mean, I - we still had a long way to go in the competition. It wasn't even - it's not like there were three or four of us left. There were several of us left, and he says that. And I thought, oh, gosh, every - all the other contestants are going hate me now. But, yeah, I guess he was right.

RAZ: I'm speaking with country singer Carrie Underwood. Her new record is called "Blown Away," and it's out May 1st. Carrie, on this record, you have a song called "Forever Changed." And it is a love song, but it's a complex love song. There is a story behind it.

UNDERWOOD: It is. I mean, the love song is mainly, you know, from the singer's point of view, from my point of view. I'm singing about the love I have for my mother and the love that she had in her life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FOREVER CHANGED")

UNDERWOOD: (Singing) She remembers the nights he'd come calling. His yellow silk tie, in love she saw him falling for her in the fire of July.

You know, the mother goes on, she gets married, she has a baby - me. And then, you know, at the end, she can't remember much. And one of the writers of the song, it was basically about his mom who had Alzheimer's and him watching her go through that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FOREVER CHANGED")

UNDERWOOD: (Singing) Forever changed, forever changed...

RAZ: It's such a beautiful song, but I've read that you don't think you could ever perform this, that you'd get too emotional.

UNDERWOOD: I just feel like I would be messing up the song if I did that. It's one that you listen to in a quiet moment, you know, in a quiet setting and where you can really dive into the words. So I just don't feel it's right in a giant arena setting.

RAZ: You've said that with this record, you wanted to change things up, that you felt like you needed to step away from the celebrity bubble and to have real things to write about, real things to sing about. Where did you feel you were that you wanted to step away from?

UNDERWOOD: Well, I mean, you just get so caught up in all the things that you're doing and in the way people treat you. And, you know, it's - this whole celebrity thing is a wonderful and strange thing. It can be so much fun, but it's just not reality.

RAZ: But because of your celebrity and because of the millions of people who listen to your music and buy your records, do you have to work really hard to remind yourself of where you come from and who you are in order not to become, you know, that thing that you fear?

UNDERWOOD: You know, my husband and I are still money conscious, and we still live well within our means. I was doing an interview, like, a week ago and somebody, like, was kind of laughing at me. And he said, the last time I talked to you, you were driving a Ford Escape. What do you drive now? And I said, Ford Escape.

RAZ: It was a good car, by the way.

UNDERWOOD: I know, and I've had it for a few years and I'll have it for a few more. Like, I just - I don't understand why people just automatically expected me to be driving a Porsche or something. I don't know.

RAZ: This record - and, in fact, a lot of your music - is about home. You even have a song about hometowns, and you sing: 'Cause when you're lost in this crazy world, you've got somewhere to go. Is that how you feel about your hometown, about Checotah, Oklahoma?

UNDERWOOD: It is. You know, my parents still live in Checotah, and that line about thank God for county lines that welcome you back in when you were dying to get out, that was me, you know? I'd sit around - and everyone does this. There's always nothing to do in your town, right? So when I was younger, I would just think, oh, my gosh, like, there's a whole world out there and I'm not seeing it. I'm here, you know, I can't wait to leave. And soon as I left, all I wanted to do was go home.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THANK GOD FOR HOMETOWNS")

UNDERWOOD: (Singing) Thank God for the county lines that welcome you back in when you were dying to get out.

RAZ: Well, Carrie Underwood, thank you so much for joining us.

UNDERWOOD: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

RAZ: That's country singer Carrie Underwood. Her new record is called "Blown Away," and it's out this Tuesday, May 1st.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THANK GOD FOR HOMETOWNS")

UNDERWOOD: (Singing) When you're lost out in this crazy world, you got somewhere to go and get found. Thank God for hometowns.

RAZ: I'm Guy Raz. And for Saturday, that is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Don't forget about our podcast. It's called WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Find it on iTunes or at npr.org/weekendatc. We're back tomorrow night with more news stories, music and Chris Colfer from "Glee." Until then, thanks for listening, and have a great night.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THANK GOD FOR HOMETOWNS")

UNDERWOOD: (Singing) ...get out. Thank God for church pews and all the faces that won't forget you. And when you're lost...

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