She was up till 5 a.m. filming the video for her latest single, “Mama’s Song,” but even a lack of sleep couldn’t steal Carrie Underwood‘s happy as she arrives for a photo shoot later that morning. The secret to her bliss? New husband Mike Fisher, who played her beau in the video despite having to hop a plane that same morning for a friend’s wedding. “Mike doesn’t want to be in the spotlight, but he agreed to do it,” she says. “At this point in my life, it would be weird to have a ‘rent-a-husband’ and be snuggling up to some guy I don’t know.” And after all, when real life is this good, how can fantasy compare?
In the five years since she won American Idol, Underwood, 27, has grown from a shy college grad who favored pajama bottoms as fashion into a confident star who not only scores hit after hit, but who’s won big at love as well. After a year of highs including a spectacular July wedding, she gives thanks for the many joys in her life, a list topped by-no surprise-her main man.
“If you have 999 pieces of a beautiful puzzle, it can look great; but if there’s one piece missing, you know it. Mike’s my piece-he’s a few pieces,” Underwood says. “And he complements me. He’s a people person and I’m not-I get nervous around people. I’m a wallflower. He’s thoughtful and knows how to talk to people and make them feel special. I’m trying to pick up on that a little bit. He makes me a better person.” Plus, she says, “he likes to shop! There’s this rugged side, but we can also shop together and watch Idol and The Bachelorette together!”
“Being married is knowing somebody’s there,” she says. “Whether I have the best day or if something bad happens, he’s the first person I call.” It also means making a home together. “He sleeps in my bedroom now,” she says. “Before, he had his own stuff in his own room. Not a lot else has changed, except I call him my husband. Which is strange, but nice!” And while she’s eager to see Mike as a dad, “right now, it wouldn’t be fair to either us or the kid. It’s not like, ‘Biological clock! Gotta have them now!’ I’ve got plenty of time. I just want to enjoy being married.”
“I always and forever will seek my parents’ approval on things because I respect them so much,” she says. “They were both very poor growing up, and seeing them work hard and save their money, I learned from their actions. We never had credit cards. If you needed a car, you saved up. On Idol we had a small clothes budget, and I wouldn’t go over it. I was like, ‘If I spend all my money on clothes and get kicked off the show, I can’t pay rent!’ ”
“Mike is such a strong person, and he talks about his faith openly. He doesn’t go around making people feel bad, but when he’s asked, he’s honest. That’s how I want to be. There was an awards show last year where I was nominated for a lot but didn’t take home anything. It could have hurt my spirit, but Mike was like, ‘Look what you get to do for a living. Learn from this-God has something else in store.’ And it was like, ‘Wow. There is something else. God’s got your back.’ So my family had a celebratory night, and we all danced and were happy for everything we have. It’s a lonely life focusing on things you don’t have. I don’t want any part of that.”
MY DOG ACE
“When I went on my honeymoon, it was the worst thing ever being away from Ace for two weeks! That’s the longest ever. Great honeymoon, but it was horrible without him. I was e-mailing my sister, ‘Send me pictures!’ I missed him like crazy. He goes everywhere with me. Animals are no-strings-attached love.”
“Without Idol, I’d probably be singing in church on Sunday and karaoke on Wednesday nights. You learn so much in such a short time. You get thicker skin and you sink or swim. I think I’m still swimming.”
SEEING THE WORLD
“The first time I was on a plane was going to Hollywood on Idol, and the first time my mom was on a plane was when she came to see me there. I took my mom and my sisters to Italy last summer. We never thought we’d be doing that, so you got to do it up big. We were in first class, and when they came by like, ‘Would you like champagne?’ my sister freaked out. It was like a funny movie scene. Getting to spend time together was really cool.”
“The [two ACM] Entertainer of the Year awards were dang cool. It’s such a magical moment. But I see people who have come before me-Dolly and Loretta and Tammy and Patsy-and I don’t know if I see myself like that. Maybe to somebody, someday, I will be. You never know! That would be awesome. But take the stage and the lights away, even if I’m singing in the shower washing my hair, I’ll be happy. There’s nothing better.”