"It's fine to be heavy and emotional, but you have to have levity": Carrie Underwood on the making of Cry Pretty

Today (September 14), US country superstar Carrie Underwood releases her sixth album Cry Pretty. It’s an important release in more ways than one for an artist who, across 12 years, five studio albums and one greatest hits collection, has now sold over 64 million records, racked up 26 No.1 singles, attained over 2.6 billion streams worldwide and won over 100 major music awards, including seven Grammys.

Not only is Cry Pretty Underwood’s first release outside of her original American Idol contract with Arista Nashville/Sony Music Nashville, it is also the first record she has co-produced [alongside David Garcia], and also features her highest number of co-writes to date.

In August as part of our Carrie Underwood cover feature, the star, plus UMG Nashville’s Cindy Mabe, Virgin EMI’s Ted Cockle and CAA’s Jeff Frasco, revealed all about the global ambitions at the heart of the campaign. Here, in an unread portion of our interview, Underwood takes us further into the making of Cry Pretty…

 

 

What was it about the song Cry Pretty that made it the perfect title for this new set of songs?
“Well, when stuff started coming together we had a relatively decent collection of songs and you start to think, ‘What is the title going to be? What is the concept going to be?’ It helps to have that in mind as you go forward and start looking for puzzle pieces for the rest of the album. I hadn’t recorded Cry Pretty at that point, but it was one that had always just been in the back of my head that we wrote last year, and it just seemed that the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to listen to that song. I pulled out the work tape that we had of it that was just on memos on my phone, and all of a sudden I saw the artwork in my head. I could see everything about it and how it would integrate into a tour. It seemed as though a big door just opened up.”

You co-wrote the title track with Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose and Lori McKenna. What was unique about the chemistry between you all?
“I’d written with Hillary before a lot, and I’d written a little bit with Lori, and I had just always been a fan of all three of them. Whenever I get demos in from them you can just tell it's them. When they get together and write they call themselves The Love Junkies. I found out that they were writing together and said, ‘I’d like to join in on that if possible – if you’ll have me!’ So we went over to Liz’s house and it was just easy. There’s obviously so many incredible male songwriters here in Nashville, and I wouldn’t take anything away from them if they’re writing for females, but there’s just something different if you’re writing with other females.”

Backsliding is another standout song – what inspired it?
“I love thinking of concepts and titles and I feel like I’m really good at humming stuff over tracks or just somebody playing guitar. That was a title that I had, and when you think of backsliding, it’s like somebody’s been on the straight and narrow and then they’re being sucked back into a world that was not good for them. David, my co-producer, just had this thing rolling, and me and Hillary were just singing over it and seeing where things would follow, and it just came out in a really cool place. The words ‘backsliding’ kind of came out in a cool spot.”

 

 

Love Wins, which you wrote with Brett James, seems like a plea for unity to a pretty divided nation...
“I mean, it’s to the world. I feel like there are so many of us that are all on different pages, and we’re all made different, and we’re all made to think and feel and see things in a different way. I feel as though we’ve almost missed the point a little bit and we’re all just supposed to be learning from each other. To me, what’s great about that song is that different people are going to get different things out of it. I feel like God has made us all to love and we just need to focus on that more than anything. When we all do see things differently, instead of being upset that other people don’t see things like you, we just need to talk about things – it sounds so easy, right? (laughs) We need to try to be positive and focus on love and focus on humans, because at the end of the day, that’s what we all are. We all could do a better job...”

Were there any challenges when it came to finishing the album? 
“When I went into the studio, I wasn’t done writing. I wasn’t done writing until quite late on. We could have been done, and everybody would have been happy, but I was like, ‘We’re missing one piece to the puzzle, and I don’t know what it is yet but I’ll know it when I hear it.’”

And what was the missing piece?
“It was Southbound. That was the last track that made it. Everybody was like, ‘We need up tempo! We need up tempo!’ You’ve got to think about the tour, you have to think about all these songs being translated into a tour. It’s fine if you have an album for everything to be a bit heavier, a bit more emotional, but you have to have those moments of levity.”

Subscribers can read the full Carrie Underwood feature here. Cry Pretty is out now.
[Photo: Randee St. Nicholas]



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