During a quick run of arena shows up in Canada last week, Carrie Underwood got an unexpected surprise: an early taste of winter.
“There’s snow on the ground,” the 33-year-old country-music superstar told us via phone, with a disbelieving laugh, as she prepped for a concert in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. “I was not quite ready for that. ... I didn’t bring any heavy coats.”
Underwood will be back in warmer climes on Sunday when her “Storyteller” tour hits Charlotte on Sunday, her first visit here since a free show she gave outside of Bank of America Stadium last December.
This time, though – speaking of the weather – her fans should find themselves much more comfortable: Whereas her pre-Belk Bowl concert was presented in the rain, this weekend’s will be held in the Spectrum Center. And whereas last time she had to share the spotlight with the football game, this time she’ll be the center of attention in more ways than one, since her performance will be done in the round.
“It’s just been really cool for us to be able to do it that way,” said Underwood, who will be playing Charlotte precisely one year after the release of her gold-selling “Storyteller” album. “It’s been really wonderful to have all that energy coming at me from all angles.”
Here are four more fun facts we learned from the seven-time Grammy Award winner, who started the year by taking home Favorite Female Country Artist honors from the People’s Choice Awards and could end it by scoring her first-ever Entertainer of the Year title from next month’s CMA Awards.
1. She’s been rolling around the country in a baby-proofed tour bus. Underwood and her husband (NHL star Mike Fisher) have a 20-month-old son, Isaiah Michael, who is cutting his teeth – both literally and figuratively – on the road with mom this year. “It’s ‘Bring Your Baby to Work Day’ every day with me,” she said. “It’s been a challenge and sometimes it’s been stressful, but it’s been really great, too. ... He gets to be with me all day, and I get to be with him.”
If you were to climb onto her tour bus, you’d probably have to watch your step (“there are toys everywhere”). You’d also find a baby bath tub in the back of the shower and a crib to the rear of the vehicle, “about two feet from my bed. I won’t say he always manages to sleep there all night, but we’ve always started out there, at least.” As for the actual baby-proofing, Underwood said: “We had to put locking mechanisms on all the doors – which sometimes is really annoying, because if you try to open a drawer, you’re like, ‘Ugh, it’s locked,’ and then you have to get up and walk to the other side of the bus and press a button. But I couldn’t have him falling down the trash chute!”
2. She’s found a less-destructive, less-illegal way to deal with unfaithful lovers – metaphorically speaking. Her latest cheater-hating music video, “Dirty Laundry,” ditches the Louisville Slugger and the beat-up red pickup truck in favor of simple black-and-white visuals of emotional men and women (and lions, and snakes, and owls). “I love the kind of nonchalant-ness of the song,” said Underwood, who got it from Nashville hitmakers Zach Crowell, Ashley Gorley and Hillary Lindsey. “It’s so laid-back. It’s not like ‘Before He Cheats,’ where she’s taking some sort of aggressive payback kind of thing. It’s more like, ‘I’m over it.’ ”
The reason the singer keeps coming back to songs about infidelity has nothing to do with her hockey-player hubby, by the way: “It’s just, it’s universal. I’m sure at some point – even in short, young relationships – we’ve probably all experienced a little bit of that. ... And it’s country music, so we sing a lot of cheatin’ songs,” Underwood said, laughing. “It’s just the way it is, the way it always has been.”
3. She’s been bringing down the house at pretty much every tour stop by covering someone else’s song. And not just any cover, but a cover of one of the most iconic songs in country music history: “I Will Always Love You,” originally written and recorded in 1973 by Underwood’s idol, Dolly Parton. “Everybody in the world knows that song from one artist or another,” Underwood said, “so my biggest fear was that people would be like, ‘Oh my gosh, she thinks she’s Dolly,’ or, ‘She thinks she’s Whitney.’ ”
But if you’ve seen her simply beautiful/beautifully simple take on the classic ballad anywhere on YouTube, you know that she unequivocally makes the song her own (to use a cliche an “American Idol” might have said way back when). Plus, its inclusion midway through her set is somewhat strategic: “We just needed some space, I think, in the show,” Underwood said, “because everything’s very high-energy, and most of the songs that I do are uptempo, with lots of lights and lots of stuff happening. It was important to me to find a moment to be quiet.”
4. She’ll go eight days without having to do a show in late October/early November, but it won’t be leisure time. Underwood has had the dates blocked off on her schedule due to a longstanding annual commitment: co-host of the Nov. 2 Country Music Association Awards, which she’ll be emceeing for the ninth straight year with Brad Paisley (who she describes as being like “a big brother” to her).
In the past, the duo has peppered the ceremony with comedic sketches and parody songs that have skewered everything from Kanye and Kim to ObamaCare. This year, however, marks the 50th anniversary of the CMA Awards, meaning time will be at a premium as the producers try to pack in all the special guests and tributes. “There probably won’t be as much this year,” said Underwood – herself a nominee in four categories – of her famously funny banter with Paisley. “But we’ll see. ... I mean, there’s certain things going on in the world that you can’t really ignore – and I think people would be disappointed if we didn’t do anything.”
With Easton Corbin and The Swon Brothers.
When: 7 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Spectrum Center, 333 E. Trade St.
Details: 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com.