Carrie Marie Underwood (born March 10, 1983) is an American singer and songwriter. She rose to fame as the winner of the fourth season of American Idol, in 2005. Her debut album, Some Hearts, was released in 2005. Bolstered by the huge crossover success of the singles "Jesus, Take the Wheel" and "Before He Cheats" it became the best-selling solo female debut album in country music history, the fastest-selling debut country album in Nielsen SoundScan history and the best-selling country album of the last 14 years. Underwood won three Grammy Awards for the album, including Best New Artist.
Her second album Carnival Ride followed in 2007. It had one of the biggest ever opening weeks by a female artist and earned Underwood two Grammy Awards. Her next album, 2009's Play On, was a commercial success led by the single "Cowboy Casanova". Underwood's fourth album, Blown Away (2012), earned her a Grammy Award and was that year's second best-selling release by a female artist. Her first compilation album (2014) was a chart and sales success and earned her a Grammy Award. Her fifth album, Storyteller (2015), made her the only country artist to have all first five studio albums reach either numbers one or two on the Billboard 200.
One of the most successful artists in any musical genre, Underwood has sold more than 65 million records worldwide. Recognized by Billboard as Country Music's reigning Queen and by Rolling Stone as "the female vocalist of her generation of any genre", she was listed by Time as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2014. Underwood is the top country artist of all-time on the RIAA's Digital Singles ranking and the highest certified country album artist to debut in the 21st century. She is the only solo country artist in the 2000s to have a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100, the only country artist to debut at number one on the Hot 100, and the woman with most number-one hits in the history of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, with fifteen. She is the most successful American Idol winner, per Forbes. Billboard named Some Hearts the number-one country album of the 2000s and her as top female artist on their 'Best Country Artists of the 2000s' list. She has been inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grand Ole Opry, Oklahoma Hall of Fame, and Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. She has received numerous awards and accolades, including seven Grammy Awards, 10 Billboard Music Awards, 14 ACM Awards, 12 American Music Awards, 8 CMA Awards, and a Guinness World Record.
Underwood was born March 10, 1983, in Muskogee, Oklahoma, to Carole (Shatswell) and Steve Underwood, She has two older sisters, Shanna and Stephanie, and was raised on her parents' farm in the nearby rural town of Checotah. Her father worked in a paper mill while her mother taught elementary school. Extremely hyperactive, she was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at age five and was prescribed Ritalin and Dexedrine, medicines she still takes as an adult. During her childhood, Underwood performed at Robbins Memorial Talent Show, and sang at her local church, First Free Will Baptist Church. She later sang for local events in Checotah, including Old Settler's Day and the Lion's Club.
A local admirer arranged for her to go to Nashville when she was 14 to audition for Capitol Records. In 1996, Capitol Records was preparing a contract for Underwood but canceled it when company management changed. Underwood said of the event, "I honestly think it's a lot better that nothing came out of it now, because I wouldn't have been ready then. Everything has a way of working out." While at Checotah High School, she was an Honor Society member, a cheerleader, and played basketball and softball. Underwood graduated from Checotah High School in 2001 as salutatorian. She chose not to pursue singing after graduation. She said, "After high school, I pretty much gave up on the dream of singing. I had reached a point in my life where I had to be practical and prepare for my future in the 'real world'". She attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, graduating magna cum laude in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in mass communication and an emphasis in journalism. She spent part of one of her summers as a page for Oklahoma State Representative Bobby Frame. She also waited tables at a pizzeria, worked at a zoo, and at a veterinary clinic. Underwood is an alumna of the Alpha Iota chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority.
For two years during the summer, she performed in Northeastern State University's Downtown Country show in Tahlequah. She competed in numerous beauty pageants at the university and was selected as Miss NSU runner-up in 2004.
In the summer of 2004, Underwood auditioned for American Idol in St. Louis, Missouri, singing Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me". After she sang "Could've Been" by Tiffany on the top 12 girls night, judge Simon Cowell commented that she would be one of the favorites to win the competition. During the top 11 finalists' performance on the March 22, 2005, Idol episode, Underwood sang a rendition of the number-one 1980s rock hit "Alone", made famous by Heart, and Cowell predicted that Underwood would not only win the competition, but she would also outsell all previous Idol winners. One of the show's producers later said she dominated the voting, winning every week handily. She gained a fan base known as "Carrie's Care Bears" during the course of the show. During the final, she sang with Rascal Flatts on "Bless the Broken Road." On May 25, 2005, Underwood became the season four winner. Her winnings included a recording contract worth at least a million dollars, use of a private jet for a year, and a Ford Mustang convertible.