"Um, where are we?" Carrie Underwood
asks no one in particular as she gazes out the window at a landscape of brown grass and nondescript office buildings. "No, seriously. Where are we? " she asks again.
The answer is Windsor, Ont. – a Canadian suburb just outside Detroit – but the country superstar can be forgiven the momentary confusion: Windsor is the whopping 82nd stop on her smash Blown Away tour, which has kept her on the road for the better part of eight months.
She did get a two-day reprieve for her 30th birthday on March 10, which she planned to celebrate at home in Nashville with her husband, NHL star Mike Fisher.
"I was like, 'I only have 48 hours. I want to do my laundry and go out to dinner,' " she recalls, cuddling up against the Canadian chill in a well-worn men's sweatshirt bearing Fisher's team logo, the Nashville Predators. "But Mike got the flu, so I ended up eating vegan pizza. By myself. I was like, 'I'm not mad at you. I do not want you going anywhere, because I know you feel awful. But I do expect a redo!' "
The rain check might need to wait a while. Still crisscrossing the U.S. by tour bus through the end of May, the diminutive 5'3" singer – in person her famous blonde mane appears almost bigger than she is – continues to reign as one of the most successful American Idol alums ever.
Her new single "Two Black Cadillacs" recently became her 17th No. 1 hit; she returned to her "alma mater," as she calls Idol, to perform on April 4; and she's up for two awards, including Album of the Year, at the Academy of Country Music Awards on April 7.
She rolls her eyes at her squeaky-clean image ("so boring!"), but she's still the kind of star next door who does her own makeup on tour and prizes her Harris Teeter "Very Important Customer" grocery discount card. ("I'm excited when they say, 'You saved $11.82 today!' ")
"She's the furthest thing from a diva there is," says her friend, singer Brad Paisley
. "Carrie doesn't take herself too seriously." As her star has risen, "she's more confident, and she understands she has to stay true to herself in order to maintain some sense of normalcy," says her lifelong friend Jordan Vandiver. "She's still a small-town girl, and that upbringing comes out."
Still, even Underwood is a little amazed when she looks back on her journey from Checotah, Okla., farm girl to six-time Grammy winner in just eight years. "So much has happened in my life; it's mind-boggling," she says. "It's been crazy and fun, and there's nothing about it that I regret. And I met the man I married."