Carrie Underwood knew she needed to “just let loose.”
Reflecting on the day she started writing her new album, Denim & Rhinestones, Underwood set her sights on writing fun music that’s influenced by genres across the board. Her early intentions shine throughout the 12-track project, which debuted in June. Underwood previously shared that she “grew up listening to so many different kinds of music. I feel like that is extremely evident in this body of work.”
The “Ghost Story” songstress delved into Denim & Rhinestones, her upcoming tour with Jimmie Allen, her jaw-dropping Las Vegas Residency and more — even a ghost-hunting tale — during her iHeartRadio LIVE event on Thursday night (September 29).
The unique event, a partnership with Meta, was available to viewers with a Meta Quest 2 headset, who could watch the VR performance in Meta Horizon Worlds. It was also available on iHeartRadio’s Facebook, and across iHeartRadio Country stations and the iHeartRadio app. Underwood performed a setlist packed with some of her newest songs and previously-released fan favorites, and fielded a few questions during an exclusive Q&A with iHeartRadio’s Brooke Taylor during the show.
Denim & Rhinestones is Underwood’s first country album in four years. Though she’s kept busy with some singles and collaborations — including “If I Didn’t Love You” with Jason Aldean, “Stretchy Pants” and “Only Us,” a duet with Dan + Shay for the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack — Underwood hasn’t released a full-length country project since Cry Pretty in 2018. She released her holiday album, My Gift, in 2020 with a special edition in 2021, and My Savior, her debut gospel album last year. For Denim & Rhinestones, Underwood teamed up again with producer David Garcia. The pair also worked with one another on Cry Pretty and My Savior, and Underwood told iHeartRadio that “when we started writing, it was just a lot of magic.”
Underwood expertly blends genres of music into the songs on Denim & Rhinestones, all while staying true to her country core. When her album released, Underwood described “’throwback’ type songs,” though they still “sound so super fresh.” Speaking with iHeartRadio, Underwood said “the great thing about music right now is, it's so accessible and people just have so many favorites of all types, all genres.
“It's easier than ever now to just consume that music, whatever you're feeling for the day,” Underwood continued. “For me as an artist, being influenced by so many different kinds of artists and genres of music — they work their way in anyway, and I feel like it's just getting easier not to fight it — I love country music obviously. But I feel like every once in a while, if there's some other flavors that get in there, it just kind of expands on my brand of country music. …I mean that's all different parts of me. I feel like with this album, I was able to kind of explore more sides of myself — musically and as a writer — all in one album. …It's all random, but it all works together.”
Underwood — who promised an overall fun and “happy” feeling, in addition to the signature drama and good old-fashioned “cheatin’ songs” — showcased her undeniable brand of country music with powerful performances of “Hate My Heart,” “Velvet Heartbreak” — among the most cleverly-written lyrics on the project — “Ghost Story,” “Burn,” “Pink Champagne,” “Crazy Angels” and much more. Other songs in her setlist spanned her nearly two-decades-long career (earlier this year, she marked the 17th anniversary of her American Idol victory in 2005).
Now, Underwood is gearing up to kick off her 43-city tour, starting on October 15. It’ll be a change of pace from her previous two tours, one of which took place when her eldest son Isaiah, now 7, was six months old, and the other tool place when her youngest, Jacob, now 3, was only three months old. Underwood remembered getting on her tour bus, “in my full, you know, makeup and glitter and all that stuff,” and immediately going from superstar mode to parenting mode. “I felt like I was a zombie,” Underwood admitted to Taylor. “I look back and I'm like, ‘I don't know how I did it.’”
“My kids are in school now,” Underwood said, and explained that her tour comes “through town a lot, and that’s definitely by design.” She credited her “village” that it takes to help care for the kids, even when she’s working on her music or out on tour.
“The Denim & Rhinestones Tour” also includes singer-songwriter (and fellow American Idol alum) Jimmie Allen, and Underwood knew he’d be the perfect fit: “I definitely love his artistry. I think he has such an incredible voice and he’s got some great songs. Everybody likes him… He's just a really nice guy to be around. But then also, I feel like he loves Denim & Rhinestones almost as much as we do!” Underwood also noted that she embarks on her tours with the intention of “making the world a better place together,” by donating part of the proceeds to an organization. In this case, the tour will help the Tunnels to Towers Foundation, which Underwood explained helps veterans and their families.
Underwood’s upcoming tour comes after wrapping her 2022 shows at Resorts World Theatre for REFLECTION: The Las Vegas Residency, which is set to pick up again in 2023. Underwood previously said that “there’s so many elements of that that I’m gonna take with me as we plan and ultimately take the ‘Denim and Rhinestones Tour’ out on the road,” and has already shared Vegas-worthy performances.
Some of them include her stunning entrance to the stage when she joined Aldean to perform “If I Didn’t Love You at the ACM Awards, and her breathtaking aerial tricks during “Ghost Story” at the CMT Music Awards. Underwood quickly replied “Nah!,” when Taylor asked whether she ever gets scared during some of those performances. But the powerhouse artist explained: “I don't even know how high up, when we've been able to do some stuff in the air, I don't really have a concept of how high up I am, and it doesn't really bother me. I just like doing different kinds of things, and I'm like, ‘I'm young enough, I'm fit, let's do things that maybe other people might be too afraid to do.’ Let’s go!”
“Ghost Story,” which also got a theatrical music video, was the first track to debut from Underwood’s new album, and it’s a powerful revenge message: “The best part about it is, the best revenge on anybody is just to go out and live your life and be incredible, you know, just be the best ‘you’ that you can possibly be. And if there's somebody that can't handle that, and that's their problem.”
Beyond the song’s empowering message, Underwood shared her appreciation for ghost stories when speaking with Taylor during the iHeartRadio LIVE show. She remembered being in Scotland for her birthday one year, and was set on staying in a haunted castle. She remembered: “We went out ghost hunting afterwards. …It was just fun. It was fun running around in the dark and being silly.”
Underwood — who closed out her iHeartRadio LIVE show with her iconic revenge anthem, “Before He Cheats” — previously shared with iHeartRadio that she loved “Ghost Story” because it “was so cinematic… We like our revenge songs in country music, and I certainly do. This was kind of done in a way that it was a different kind of revenge song. She’s not doing anything to get back at him, but it’s like, he would’ve known he made a mistake by breaking up with her. She kind of haunts him. He sees her everywhere.”