Carrie Underwood is one of the few women in country music who enjoys prominent radio airplay. Now, one of the biggest stars in music is using her success to shine a light on the abysmal lack of female and minority representation at country radio stations.
In a new interview on the Women Want To Hear Women podcast, Underwood speaks at length on various topics pertaining to women in country music. For starters, she addresses the rallying cry of tone-deaf radio programmers everywhere: "Women don't want to listen to other women."
"That's b.s.," Underwood says to host Elaina Smith. And for Carrie Underwood to almost curse, you know she's serious. While Underwood says nobody personally told her that exact phrase to her face, they've said things "in that vein." And she feels it all the time.
"Even when I was growing up, I wished there was more women on the radio," Underwood says. "And I had a lot more than there are today." And, she says, women being featured artists on male songs doesn't count. She recently helped Keith Urban snag another hit with "The Fighter" in that capacity.
Underwood says that makes it particularly difficult when she meets little girls who tell her they want to be a country music singer like her when they grow up.
"What do you tell them?" she asks. "How do you look at them and say, 'Just work hard sweetie and you can do that,' when that's not the case right now?"
Underwood also points out that it seems like new male artists constantly reach No. 1 status on the radio. Several of whom, she's never heard of. Not that she's begrudging their success -- she's just wondering why women don't get that same opportunity. "Every time I hear some strong, awesome, talented woman on the radio, I'm like, 'Heck yeah!'" she says.
Most of the new country songs getting radio play on the Top 40 country stations come from male singers and country superstars. Very few come from new female artists.
Doing Her Part
While Carrie Underwood says she doesn't know how to fix the problem with radio, she's certainly doing her part to empower female country singers. The "Cry Pretty" singer is taking two female acts -- Maddie & Tae and Runaway June -- out on the road with her for her upcoming tour.
"They've earned it, first and foremost," Underwood says. "I'm not throwing anybody a bone. They deserve to be there and they're going to put on a really great show."
As Smith notes, Underwood also frequently uses her performances on national television (like the ACM and CMA music awards shows) to uplift and highlight other female artists. It's a move that directly contradicts another narrative Underwood disdains -- pitting women artists against each other.
Case in point, her and Kelly Clarkson. Underwood said the pair are always very supportive of each other and part of a small club few people understand. "We came into this crazy awesome music world the same way," she says, referencing their American Idol roots. "We've always had a mutual respect for each other. The more I hang out with her, the more I like her."
Quit It With The Lists
Another thing Doré Smith and Underwood call toxic? The constant media lists about "who wore it better" or which of these are the best.
"They don't realize it's offensive," Underwood says. "That's why we got to tell them...I'm like, please don't put me on your 'top whatever' lists."
As for the way social media constantly objectifies female artists, Underwood says she's learned to ignore trolls and haters. But it took her a long time. "It's a very small percentage of people who post negative things," she says.
Underwood also covered several other topics, like her female-facing workout clothing brand and her decision to co-produce her new record.
Underwood plans to release new music soon. Her Cry Pretty Tour 360 launches in May 2019. The American Idol winner spent much of the past year in Nashville preparing new music. She has a brand new album, Cry Pretty, coming out Sept. 14.