You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How Carrie Underwood Got Over Her Lyrical Shyness, With Help From a Label President

One reason Underwood switched teams to sign with Universal: a chance to reunite with Cindy Mabe, one of the first and still favorite execs she worked with coming out of "American Idol."

When Carrie Underwood left her longtime home at Sony Nashville last year to sign with Universal Music Group Nashville’s Capitol imprint, it wasn’t due to faltering chart positions, as is typical for country artists who jump ship. Rather, with Underwood, who consistently charts No. 1’s at radio, the move had more to do with her desire to get the old band back together — in this case, reuniting with Cindy Mabe, president of Universal Music Group Nashville, who worked with Underwood at Sony when her smash debut came out hot on the heels of an “American Idol” win.

“We sold a lot of records together, but I moved to Capitol right after that first project,” Mabe says. “And she was the hardest one for me to walk away from, because I knew there was more depth to get to. Fast-forward to where we are now, I never thought that Carrie would ever leave Sony, frankly; her catalog’s there and she’s had so much success. This has completely renewed my energy and creativity, and we’re ready to push each other to accomplish everything we can together.”

It’s hard to imagine someone who’s sold as many records as Underwood not getting to call her own shots, previously.

“She wasn’t suppressed,” says Mabe. “But through the platform of ‘Idol’ she was appointed a manager, appointed a record label, and appointed almost every decision in her life. So when her contract came to an end, this was the first chance to really make her own decisions.”

“I was lucky I got to work with some insanely incredible people at Sony from the get-go,” Underwood says. “And even though, after ‘Idol,’ it was kind of like, ‘This is your record label’” — like it or not — “it ended up being a wonderful thing. Cindy was somebody I loved working with early on in my career, and we were all devastated when she left [Sony]. Now, I’m working with new people, but also … I don’t want to say old people, because that’s not a good word, but people that I’ve loved in the past as well. So it felt like home.”

Even more key than the label change was the decision to make a more revelatory record, as heard in the new “Cry Pretty.” “You know, she’s introverted,” says Mabe. “She has not always laid her cards on the table and vocalized things. She’s been this amazing vocalist and a storyteller who’s taken you on rides, but they haven’t necessarily been very personal journeys for her. And I feel like the game-changer is this record.”

How so? “There’s some really sexy stuff on here that she’s never really done or said before,” offers Mabe. “And there are some really personal moments that have this compassion spoken only as a mother can really speak.”

Given Underwood’s desire to work with female execs, managers and co-writers as much as she does, and book an all-female tour, is the singer a stealth uber-feminist? “I see two Carrie Underwoods, for sure,” Mabe says. “On one hand, she feels the weight of the world on her sometimes — from a standpoint of making sure that she’s there to represent women. Now, she will never say that, but I absolutely believe that, especially when you look at the few and far between that are actually on the radio. I can tell you from personal conversations how important it is that she gives back to the next group of females behind her. And this is such a woman’s record. But she’s also a real competitor — not just versus females. So that’s the other side of Carrie Underwood. Carrie wants to represent for just being great, not being the greatest woman.”

More Music

  • Britney Spears

    Britney Spears' Fans Demand Release of Pop Star from Psychiatric Facility

    A group of protesters gathered outside City Hall in West Hollywood on Monday afternoon (April 22) to demand the release of pop star Britney Spears from a psychiatric facility. Carrying “Free Britney” signs and chanting “Hands off, Britney” and “Justice for Britney” about a dozen fans took to the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and [...]

  • Arista Records Names Danny Cooper Senior

    Arista Records Names Danny Cooper Senior VP of Promotion

    Danny Cooper has been named senior vice president of promotion at Arista Records, it was announced today by John Boulos, the label’s executive VP of promotion. In this role, Cooper will work closely with Boulos in all areas of promotion across genres, and oversee Arista’s promotion staff throughout the U.S. He is based in Los [...]

  • Mandatory Credit: Brian J Ritchie/Hotsauce, Editorial

    Lizzo Reveals Summer-Fall Tour Dates

    Hot on the heels of her Nice Life/Atlantic Records debut album “Cuz I Love You” (which got a rave review in Variety last week) and her two Coachella performances, Lizzo has announced dates for a huge North American tour, billed “Cuz I Love You Too.” Produced by Live Nation, the tour begins July 18 in Portland, [...]

  • Delta Air Lines celebrates Grammy Weekend

    Halsey, Jonas Brothers, Zedd to Headline iHeartMedia Wango Tango Concert

    Jonas Brothers, Halsey, 5 Seconds of Summer, Zedd, Ally Brooke (with special guest Tyga), Ava Max, Fletcher and Tomorrow X Together will perform at iHeartMedia’s annual Wango Tango concert at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Los Angeles (formerly StubHub Center) on June 1. Freeform will broadcast a 90-minute television special on Friday, June 7 [...]

  • Nick Jonas, Joe Jonas, Kevin JonasJonas

    Jonas Brothers Set Their First Album in a Decade for June

    Coming 10 years almost to the week after their previous studio album, the Jonas Brothers’ “Happiness Begins” has been set for a June 7 release. A date for their full-length comeback has been eagerly anticipated by fans ever since the near-surprise March 1 release of “Sucker,” a single that has just reached No. 1 on [...]

  • Prince Memoir, ‘The Beautiful Ones,’ to

    Prince Memoir, ‘The Beautiful Ones,’ to Be Released in October

    The memoir Prince was working on at the time of his death is coming out Oct. 29, according to the Associated Press. Publisher Random House confirmed Monday that “The Beautiful Ones” will combine Prince’s unfinished manuscript with rare photos, scrapbooks and lyrics. Announced just weeks before his 2016 death, the 288-page book, issued in partnership [...]

  • TV Review: ‘Motown 60: A Grammy

    TV Review: ‘Motown 60: A Grammy Celebration’

    If nothing else, CBS’ “Motown 60: A Grammy Celebration” special alerted America to the continued vitality of Smokey Robinson as a contemporary performer. Ten months from turning 80, the singer’s performances were focused and controlled as he weaved his sultry vocals through classics he wrote — the ballads “The Tracks of My Tears” and “Ooh Baby Baby,” chief among them. Producers [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content