For the first time in 13 years, Carrie Underwood will not be hosting the CMA Awards. No series of fabulous outfits, no witty repartee with a simpatico co-host, no awkwardness if she wins while standing in the wings. Just chill and see if she takes home the one CMA trophy that has eluded her — the prestigious entertainer of the year.
Underwood, one of country’s most decorated stars, is stepping aside as Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker co-host Wednesday’s festivities.
“I have such great memories hosting the CMA Awards for 12 years,” Underwood said via e-mail. “But it will be nice just to relax and enjoy the show this year.”
As a finalist for best female vocalist as well as top entertainer, maybe the former “American Idol” champ can add to her trophy cases, which feature more than 170 prizes, including seven Grammys and nine CMA accolades.
“I definitely have a lot of them on display in a special area in our house,” said the 37-year-old Oklahoma native, who lives in Nashville with husband Mike Fisher, a former NHL player, and their two young sons. “I am proud of those accomplishments, and it makes me smile when I see things that remind me how fortunate I am to have had that kind of support throughout my career.”
Even though she won’t be in the spotlight during country music’s big televised hoedown for a change, Underwood is slated to headline Twin Cities Summer Jam 2021. She was scheduled to appear at the three-day outdoor fest in Shakopee in July, which was postponed because of COVID-19. The full lineup for next year — which includes Underwood and Zac Brown Band — will be announced Friday, with tickets going on sale Nov. 20 at tcsummerjam.com.
In an e-mail interview, Underwood talked about returning to the road in 2021, the state of women in country music as well as her new holiday album, “Sunday Night Football” and hockey.
Q: Fans were disappointed that they didn’t get to experience you in concert this year at Twin Cities Summer Jam. For you, what’s the difference between performing outdoors at a festival when you might not be able to use your full arena production vs. performing your grand arena spectacles?
A: It’s thrilling to perform in front of a huge crowd on a giant outdoor stage under the stars. It’s an amazing communal experience and I’m looking forward to being able to do that again. If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s how to do things in a different way, and I know as an industry, we will continue to adapt. At the end of the day, it’s about the music and connecting with the audience.
Q: Twin Cities Summer Jam features country, rock and pop. Last year, Rascal Flatts and REO Speedwagon were on the same night, Pitbull and Tim McGraw on the same night, as well as your pals Aerosmith on a third night. How do you feel about sharing a bill with other genres?
A: Anyone that knows me knows I love all genres, as a fan and as a performer. I love sharing the bill — and the stage, if I’m really lucky — with all kinds of artists.
Q: What are your touring plans for 2021?
A: Like everyone, looking forward to being able to get back out there with our fans. We just have to continue to be vigilant and to find ways to do it in a way that is going to be safe for everyone.
Q: What have you done during the pandemic with your family that you typically don’t get to do when you’re on tour?
A: I’ve stayed busy recording my first Christmas album, “My Gift,” my Christmas TV special, and with other projects like my Calia line and fitness app, fit52, but it’s been nice to be at home with Mike and the boys during this time. We’ve spent a lot of time outdoors, making memories and the most of our time together.
Q: What was it like to record a holiday album during quarantine?
A: We began planning for this album last fall after I finished my Cry Pretty Tour 360, but finished the writing and all of the recording process remotely. We wrote over Zoom and I recorded virtually in Nashville with my producer, Greg Wells, and our amazing orchestra in Los Angeles. It wasn’t what any of us envisioned, but we made it all work and I’m so proud of the album.
Q: Your son Isaiah sang on “Little Drummer Boy” on “My Gift.” As a kid, do you think he’ll want to make music or play hockey or both? When does/did he start skating and trying to play hockey? Here in Minnesota, the State of Hockey, some kids seem to start as young as 2 or 3.
A: Even though he’s only 5, he’s already showing interest in so many things — I think he will be a man of many gifts. It was such a special day in the studio when we recorded “Little Drummer Boy.” I loved his commitment and enthusiasm and that experience is something I’ll always treasure.
Q: Your last non-holiday album, “Cry Pretty,” came out in 2018. What are the plans for your next album?
A: We’ve got a lot of irons in the fire and I look forward to sharing more on that front soon.
Q: Why aren’t there more women artists’ songs being played on country radio? How can that be changed? How can you help to change that?
A: All any of us can do is to do the work and to do our best to lift each other up, which is what I try to do. We have to continue to shine a spotlight on female artists, writers, producers and musicians.
Q: What has “Sunday Night Football” meant to you?
A: Being the voice of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” for eight seasons is one of the favorite things I get to do.
Q: How long did it take to record the opening video and the spots for each week this year? When did you record all that?
A: We usually spend one day recording the song and another shooting the opening. It’s an amazing team and we always have a great time. Like everything else, this year was a little different in terms of production, but in spite of everything, they still created one of the most creative and exciting openings we’ve done.
Q: You’ve appeared on CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother,” in the film “Soul Surfer” and, of course, on NBC’s “The Sound of Music Live” in 2013. What are your acting plans?
A: Nothing planned right now, but I never say never!