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Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert + Eric Church Discuss Staying the Course at 2020 CRS

"I always feel like it's so important to run your own race,” says Underwood.

Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert + Eric Church Discuss Staying the Course at 2020 CRS
Carrie Underwood; Photo credit: Country Radio Seminar / Kayla Schoen

2020 Country Radio Seminar drew in some of the biggest names in country music for the three-day event highlighting the genre’s best and brightest talent through artist showcases, interviews and more. Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Eric Church were among those who sat down for in-depth conversations about their careers, inspiration and insight that can be applied to life beyond the music industry. Here’s how this trio of respected artists have stayed the course in their careers and life.   

Miranda Lambert and Cindy Watts; Photo credit: Country Radio Seminar / Kayla Schoen

“I’m most proud of the honesty.” – Miranda Lambert

Moderated by AMG manager of corporate communications and former award-winning Tennessean country music and celebrities reporter Cindy Watts, the end of an elaborate conversation with the modern superstar ended with a thoughtful reflection on her expansive career. Lambert confidently stated that she believes that staying true to her core identity, whether it’s her music or banding, is the key to her fan loyalty and career longevity. “I’m most proud of the honesty,” she says looking back on her music catalogue. “I’ve never strayed away from exactly who I am and at times that’s not been helpful business wise and at times it’s been everything business wise. But for me to just be who I am, it’s all I know to do.”

“Marion, my manager, and I [were] saying ‘if it’s a maybe, it’s a no,’ and we live by that, and I feel like that’s why we have had success,” she continues about her business acumen that centers around ingenuity. “It may not be top of the charts, may not be the most money, it may not be the most followers, but it’s real and it’s truth.”

Carrie Underwood; Photo credit: Country Radio Seminar / Kayla Schoen

“It’s so important to run your own race.” – Carrie Underwood

Sitting down with radio programmer Beverlee Brannigan and executive director of CRS RJ Curtis, the often shy and reserved superstar opened up about a range of topics including her journey to American Idol to how she challenged herself as a vocalist and first-time producer on her platinum album, Cry Pretty. But interestingly enough, the trailblazer doesn’t view herself in such a role, rather keeping her nose to the grindstone and vision at the forefront in order to keep growing and making an impact in the genre.

“I don’t consider myself a leader, I always feel like it’s so important to run your own race,” she explains. “Maybe be aware of the people that are around you, but don’t look at anybody else too hard. Everybody’s guilty of it and I know I have been at times, but then I have to remind myself that I’m on my own trajectory and if I start looking at everybody else, I’m going to start doubting myself or it’s going to cloud what I want to do or what I should be doing. So I think it’s an important thing, whatever you do, to run your own race.”

Lon Helton and Eric Church; Photo credit: Country Radio Seminar / Kayla Schoen

“It’s got to be something that goes into a category that everybody else is not in.”– Eric Church

The Chief is known for his striking creativity that’s played a critical role in his success, which acted as the focus of his keynote address led by Country Countdown USA host Lon Helton. Throughout the 60-minute chat, the revered star, who traded his signature dark shades for eyeglasses and “Chief” badge necklace for a gray scarf, shed his persona of being country music’s signature “badass” for an honest look into why leading with his artistic vision is so important. For him, challenging himself to be as creative as possible is the lifeblood between him and his loyal fanbase, a tactic he carries into all aspects of his career, including his famous three-hour shows that feature a medley of cover songs selected on a whim each night.

“There have been some spectacular crashes and there have been some spectacular successes, but that spirit, the freedom of when you play music here,” he says pointing to his heart, “and not here,” he remarks, gesturing to his head, “it matters, and I believe people feel that. From the very beginning, I tried to write songs that way, I try to put myself in the most uncomfortable situations with recording – making it hard, making sure it’s left footed, make sure nobody’s just mailing it in. It’s always been something that I have pushed ourselves to chase. It’s just got to be memorable, it’s got to be different,” he asserts. “It’s got to be something that goes into a category that everybody else is not in.”   

Carrie Underwood with Beverlee Brannigan and RJ Curtis

“To watch them go from humble beginnings, work really hard and give us everything we ever needed…I want to teach that to our children.” – Carrie Underwood 

It’s no secret that the Grammy winning star is one of the hardest working acts in country music. Between her half dozen chart-topping albums, exercise brand Calia and working on her new novel, Find Your Path, Underwood was born with hard work in her blood, a noble trait of she attributes to her parents, Carole and Stephen Underwood. The “Mama’s Song” hitmaker recalled how her mother was at one point in a financial crisis that she managed to pull herself out of and eventually became a teacher, setting an example of strength and perseverance for Underwood and her two sisters.

“Above all, they were just super hard workers,” she says of her parents. “I feel like that’s something that’s so important that I know that they’ve passed to me. To see my mom who was on welfare say that ‘I don’t want this’ and put herself through college and she got her masters. To watch them go from humble beginnings, work really hard and give us everything we ever needed, we saw that example, and I want to build up that and teach that to our children.”

Miranda Lambert; Photo credit: Country Radio Seminar / Kayla Schoen

“I now know that the most important thing isn’t chasing something all the time, it’s living in it.” – Miranda Lambert

As the conversation drew to a close, the “Tin Man” singer reflected on what she’s learned in her more than decade in the music industry. Entering the business when she was 17, the now 36-year-old realizes the value of living in the moment. “I now know that the most important thing isn’t chasing something all the time, it’s living in it,” she describes of the notion that applies to her professional and personal life. “My legacy now is what my music is, what I live. It’s how many people I was good to and how many dogs I saved and how many people needed to hear ‘Virginia Bluebell’ at the time that it came,” she reflects, setting the stage for her future. “That’s how I’m going to chase this next decade is with more quality, not quantity.”