The first country American Idol, Carrie Underwood grew up in the small town of Checotah, OK, and began singing with her church at the tender age of three. Throughout her childhood, she also performed at functions for the Lion's Club and Old Settlers Day, and eventually at festivals in several states. Along with developing her singing, Underwood learned to play guitar and piano. She graduated from high school as her class salutatorian and majored in mass communication at Northeastern State College with an eye on a career in broadcast journalism, but continued her singing career throughout her studies. As a senior just a few credits short of her degree, Underwood heard about the auditions for the 2005 season of American Idol. She tried out for the show at the St. Louis, MO, auditions, and her innocent charm and pure, pretty voice ended up winning her not only a place among the 12 finalists, but the title of 2005's American Idol.
Underwood's debut single, Inside Your Heaven, was released that summer, and along with appearing on the American Idols Live! tour, and picking up endorsement deals with Hershey's and Skechers, she began recording her debut album in Nashville. Some Hearts was released late that fall and was a smash hit, selling over 300,000 copies in its first week and eventually going triple platinum. The album's lead single, "Jesus, Take the Wheel," was also a big success, topping Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart for six weeks. Acclaim for the album and single spilled over into 2006, when Some Hearts re-entered Billboard's Top Ten after Underwood's appearance on the 2006 American Idol finale and "Jesus, Take the Wheel" won Single Record of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards (where she also won Top Female Vocalist), a Dove Award from the Gospel Music Association, and Breakthrough Video and Best Female Video at the CMT Awards, making her the only double winner at the event.