Something spiritual happens when you step into the theater of Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. Even if you’re not versed in country music, the venue still engulfs you in its majesty. The pew-style seating evokes a sense of community and that old-time religion. The six-foot circle of oak wood embedded center stage, cut from the Opry’s former Ryman Auditorium where the likes of Patsy Cline and Hank Williams performed, represents a deep-rooted tradition. The history, the legends, the giants. It’s enough to bring you to tears, just like it did Carrie Underwood.
We joined Underwood at the newly-renovated site, where she gave a group of beauty editors a tour, her first as the new face of Almay beauty. She apologized while standing in what is affectionately called, and hashtagged, #thecircle, overwhelmed with the magic of the moment. Celebrity aside, the American Idol alum-turned-Opry member didn’t shy away from a sincere moment; it was as though Underwood had only then realized that she belonged to the storied institution.
Earlier that morning, we cozied up to Underwood in her Hermitage Hotel suite where she shared her thoughts on the state of women in country music, dished on what it’s like backstage at the Opry, and told us about the first time she met living legend Loretta Lynn.
Angel: You won American Idol back in 2005, then went on to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry just three years later—such a huge accomplishment! What’s been one of your most memorable moments at the Opry since then?
Carrie: I’d never met Loretta before. I knew she was going to be here so I was excited. Somebody comes up behind me and smacks me on the rear, and I’m offended for a split second. I’m like “Who would dare walk up behind me and smack me on the bum?” I turn around, and I’m like “oh my gosh, it’s Loretta!” She didn’t really stop to say anything, she just smacked me on the rear!
A: We hear stories about how casual the atmosphere is backstage at the Opry. From an insider, what’s it really like?
C: It’s basically where people can just hang out, you know what I mean? Hang out around the artists. The artists feel comfortable… it’s really, really famous people surrounded by fans. It’s really relaxed. There’s no other venue like this, anywhere.
A: We saw you on the cover of Country Weekly with Reba McEntire and Miranda Lambert, where the glossy proclaimed 2014 the year of the woman. How do you feel about the state female artists in the genre?
C: For country music, I would really love to see more females doing really well. The ones who are out there—myself, Miranda, Reba, Taylor—are doing really well. I would just love to see more! It makes me a little sad when I do look at the charts and I see one female in the top 20. I really hope that this is the year of the woman, and I really hope that there are some really breakthrough, amazing female artists that people can hear. I hear them all the time! You can walk up and down Broadway [in downtown Nashville] and hear people singing, and think “They’re better than I am!” You know what I mean? You think “Wow, why aren’t you super famous right now?”
A: Which acts do you have your eye on?
C: I do love Lauren Alaina. I know a lot of people are into Kacey Musgraves and her writing style. Sarah Darling has such a sweet voice. There are a lot of females that are kind of waiting for their opportunity.
A: Who is one artist, from now or from the past, that you would like to share the stage with?
C: If I could go back in time—I’ve always been a huge fan and lover of Freddie Mercury. I would listen to him when I was a kid. He could do so many amazing things with his voice. People like that, who had incredible voices, I was always drawn to. I would want to try to do what they do [with their voices]. They were my teachers.
A: What would we find most surprising if we thumbed through your iPod?
C: When I work out, I like to listen to things that are really angry! I couldn’t do it on a daily basis, or driving in my car—I think that would be kind of weird. But when I’m working out, I love really hard rock music. Like Mudvayne.