Carrie Underwood talks music, sports and ‘Idol’

Singer Carrie Underwood performs at Nissan Stadium as part of the 2016 CMA Music Festival on June 10, 2016 in downtown Nashville, Tenn. Photo Credit: Tribune News Service

By George Varga | Tribune News Service

Exactly how ready is Carrie Underwood for some football?

“I’m very ready!” said the country music vocal star, seven-time Grammy Award recipient and 2005 “American Idol” winner.

She’s also very involved.

The National Football League’s new “Sunday Night Football” theme song features Underwood belting out a revamped version of “Somethin’ Bad,” her chart-topping 2014 hit with Miranda Lambert. It replaces “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night,” the Underwood-sung theme the NFL had used since 2013.

To kick off the new theme song, Underwood filmed a playful video that teams her with such gridiron stars as Russell Wilson, Eli Manning, Von Miller and Clay Matthews.

“It’s been so cool, just to be a part of the NFL, getting to know some people behind the scenes and hanging out with some of the players,” Underwood said.

Underwood, 33, spoke by phone from a tour stop in Seattle. Here are excerpts from that conversation.

Q: How involved with athletics were you growing up, and how much did that inspire your decision for your CALIA fitness brand and the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation to give $500,000 to the Sports Matter initiative, which supports girls’ youth sports teams across the country?

A: I grew up playing softball and basketball and was a cheerleader briefly, but softball was the longest-running sport in my youth. We played from T-ball onward, and I grew up loving the whole team aspect. There’s so many life lessons that can be learned through sports.

Q: Oklahoma doesn’t have an NFL team, so what NFL team did you grow up rooting for?

A: We basically got two teams (on TV). We didn’t have cable or satellite, so on local channels we’d get one of two games, either Kansas City of Dallas, because they were closest to us. I definitely grew up a Dallas fan.

Q: You are up for a 2016 Country Music Association nomination as Entertainer of the Year. I ask this question with my tongue partly in my cheek, but haven’t you been pretty entertaining prior to this year?

A: (laughs) I hope so! I definitely hope so. But it’s been really great to be nominated, for sure.

Q: You’ll be co-hosting the CMA’s on Nov. 2 for the ninth consecutive year with Brad Paisley. After nearly a decade, how hard is it for you and Brad to surprise each other on stage or, for that matter, to crack each other up?

A: Hopefully, there’s no surprises. We don’t want surprised; we want things to go really smoothly. And, hopefully, we’ll be able to run through our script many, many times and feel comfortable. We have a lot of fun and a lot of meetings to prepare for everything. We crack each other up and stress each other out, and everything in between, because a lot of time goes into planning.

Q: Your son, Isaiah, is 19 months old. Do you sing to him?

A: Inadvertently. I don’t feel like I try to do it on purpose. But I kind of sing all the time, and I don’t even realize I’m doing it. He’s definitely been exposed!

Q: How did the idea for your “Storytellers” tour-in-the-round originate?

A: When we were working on the (2015) “Stoytellers” album, we started thinking: ‘What can we do with these songs?’ We thought of doing something in the round, and worked it out from there.

Q: Some of your “Storytellers” concerts include your versions of Alabama’s “Mountain Music,” the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Fishin’ in the Dark” and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” Did you hear those songs growing up?

A: Oh, yeah, I definitely heard all those growing up, and many, many more. I think it’s important to sometimes pay homage to the incredible artists and storytellers who have come before and contributed so much. That’s one thing country music has always done so well.

Q: Have there been any unexpected things for you doing concerts in the round?

A: I don’t think so. The biggest surprise is just how easy this show is on my end. There’s a lot of moving parts, production-wise, and I do a lot of wardrobe changes, but the show flies by every night. This is the funnest tour _ sorry, that’s not even a word! _ the most fun tour I’ve ever done.

Q: “American Idol” is now history. Are you surprised the show is gone, or do you think it ran its course?

A: It was on for 15 years. and I feel like that’s incredible in today’s world, or in any decade of television. Fifteen years is a long time to be on TV. It was definitely bittersweet to see it go, but I understand why. There are so many different kinds of talent shows on TV now.

Q: Watching your rise on “American Idol” was like watching a Cinderella story. How did it feel to you?

A: Like a Cinderella story! I mean, I grew up in an Oklahoma town of 3,500 people. I’d never been on a plane before and was flying to L.A. by myself! I thought I had no chance of winning. I still don’t know why, but people _ for some reason _ voted for me, and it’s been crazy. It was like, in one day, my life completely changed.