Why Did Carrie Underwood Leave Arista Nashville?

What prompted the best-selling female country artist of the past decade to leave the only label she has ever known?

When news came that Carrie Underwood wouldn’t be releasing a fifth single off of Storyteller despite announcing she was ‘taking a break’ to be with her family, fans were surprised as the performance of “Choctaw County Affair” during Storyteller Tour was always a highlight of the powerful show. Some of the same fans were a bit upset that her song with Keith Urban (“The Fighter”) was killing any chance that a fifth Storyteller single would come out. But now we know the REAL reason there wasn’t going to be a fifth single. Carrie Underwood was working on leaving the only record label she ever has known.

Why leave now after twelve years with six Platinum and Multi-Platinum album releases and every radio single peaking at #1 or #2 (outside of the #3 slot for “Something In The Water”)? To make a clean, fresh break? To completely shake American Idol? Was there some sort of contract agreement that would’ve tied her to 19 Entertainment (the label she was actually signed to) if she remained with Arista Nashville and Sony Music? Those are all interesting questions and it’s pretty clear that working with some of her earliest supporters was also strong (UMG’s President Cindy Made was at Sony Nashville when Carrie made her first album Some Hearts in 2005).

The reality?

Carrie Underwood was ready to break out and to have a bit more control over the songs she records and releases (While still working with label partners and management). She has to have seen how country’s top stars of her era have all become owners of their careers and music. It was time for the clean break, to work with earliest supporters, to break free of the massive American Idol 360 deal she was still in through Storyteller. Capital is also the label she was originally trying to sign with when she was 14 around 1996. The pull to sign with UMG, the music businesses largest label group, also home to her friend Keith Urban, was strong. It’s a label with deeper country roots than Arista and Sony Nashville and as a fan of country music’s history and being a massive part of current history, Carrie Underwood is breaking free.

What does this mean? Will Carrie Underwood finally get the support that fans think she never got with Arista/Sony? Well, she always had the support. Nobody is going to win awards every year and despite perception that the label is behind another artist more so than Carrie, that’s just not true. The industry votes for that other artist in award shows and moving labels will not guarantee that anything changes on that front. What will likely change, though, is the kind of songs Carrie Underwood records. There will be a chance she records and releases (to radio) stuff that is more risky or more ‘country’ than her previous songs. Signing a worldwide record deal with Capitol and UMG will allow her more opportunities to breakout worldwide too.

While we wait for the first Carrie Underwood album to arrive — don’t expect a studio album until 2018 — we’re likely to get a single or two, just like Keith Urban had prior to the release of his latest album Ripcord. Also, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Carrie Underwood issues a Christmas album with Capitol. In fact, I’d bet even money that a Carrie Underwood Christmas album will be the first or second Capitol Records release she sends out.

What say you? What do you think. Will Carrie Underwood’s career break higher than it already has? Will her Billboard #2s become Billboard #1s? (though Mediabase Radio chart hits of the same songs are often #1s) Will Carrie become an international icon in pop music dominated countries?


  • Liam

    I don't think she will go even more country! Storyteller (al least the singles) was very country and didn't go well. I think she will back with her country-pop sound but more mainstream! She is the best at that. And Universal will give her all to be bigger than ever.

  • Craigin44

    At first I was kind of surprised that Carrie switched labels- she always spoke so well of her team and her love for her label and management... but as I thought about it more I thought of five things that Capitol could promise to give her that Arista was unable to: 1. #1 singles. She's the queen of #2 on Billboard. She has a never-ending streak of #1 on Mediabase but Arista hasn't been able to put her 100% on top on the Billboard Airplay chart. Dirty Laundry, Heartbeat, Smoke Break, Something in the Water, Little Toy Guns, Two Black Cadillacs, See You Again... its a long list of #'s 2/3 hits that either went #1 on Mediabase or on the main chart (which includes sales and streams). All of these should have been easy #1's. Capitol should be able to get those for her. 2. Pop hits- For the life of me why hasn't Carrie, in all her superstar status had a follow-up pop hit to Before He Cheats?! She had plenty of worthy contenders: Undo It, Blown Away, Good Girl, Something in the Water (AC), So Small, heck even Heartbeat, Church Bells and Dirty Laundry could have crossed over. But there was no effort towards this at all. A dance remix of Blown Away could have been huge during that era. It was her time but it was completely missed. I think Capitol could help with this. If they are smart, they will push The Fighter with Keith Urban to pop/HAC 3. ACM wins. Why does Miranda have more female wins than Carrie? Why hasn't Carrie won Entertainer of the Year? She's only the biggest thing to come out of Country music since Garth Brooks... makes no sense and her label and mgmt team should be doing better to get these awards for her. It can happen. 4. International stardom- Capitol is part of the Universal family who is known for their global music brand. I can see Carrie finding footing in Europe and Asia with the right songs. This can happen. 5. Diversification- Carrie's done a few TV and movie gigs and has a workout clothing line but she hasn't fully diversified her brand as she could. I think Capitol/Universal could provide that for her. A country music attraction at Universal Studios featuring her (Carrie's World)? Cameos and roles in movies/cartoons? Music syncs in movies and TV? Soundtrack features? Larger concert venue possibilities? Christmas specials?There seems to be alot that can be offered under the Universal umbrella. It will be fun to see this kind of stuff actually happen. Carrie is fully established in Country and they love her till death. Its time for her to take it to the next level (Reba/Dolly/Garth level) and to become a true ICON. I can see it happening with Universal. Looking forward to seeing how things play out!

  • Gabe

    "Nobody is going to win awards every year and despite perception that the label is behind another artist more so than Carrie, that’s just not true". Let's not get into this narrative because we all know that the label was not as supportive of her as they were of the other person but Carrie always came out on top in terms of sales (albums, singles and tour). Let's also not forget how I'm comin' over stopped smoke break from reaching no1 simply because her label 'pushed' Chris over her or how heartbeat only have 1 week instead of 3 weeks because her label wanted to play nice with other labels. Sometimes you have to take actions when people screw you over time after time...

    • Courtney Puzzo

      maybe after so many years at the label she felt she needed a new one to take her career to the next level Mariah Carey was signed to Columbia records for the first 12 years of her career from 1988 to 2000 moved to Virgin records for a short time then to Island Def Jam and finally to Epic in 2015 granted Mariah has sold 140,000,000 albums worldwide since her self titled 1990 debut prior to signing her first solo contract Mariah had been a back-up singer since she was 13 years old