Video: ‘Inside Your Heaven’

updated 6/19/2005 6:22:38 PM ET 2005-06-19T22:22:38

Singing is something we have all at least tried at one time or another. There is a moment, though, when the finger of fate chooses one to be plucked from anonymity, and maybe for 15 minutes, 15 years or even a lifetime, they live that dream. And so it is for 22-year-old Carrie Underwood, the newest “American Idol.”

Carrie Underwood: “If you were to ask me what I would be when I grow up when I was little I would've been like, I want to be famous.”

It has been quite a ride for this country crooner. The farm girl from Oklahoma took her very first plane trip last fall toward the bright lights of Hollywood.

Hoda Kotb: “It's the moment you're on the stage, just you and Bo, they are about to make the huge announcement and you're standing there.”

Underwood: “I saw the card in Ryan's hand and I thought about peeking at it, and I looked over at it and I was like, no I'd better not, and the crowd started screaming and confetti started falling.”

And just like that, her life changed at warp speed. First it was Leno, then Ellen, and just this week, the “Today” show. Three weeks after the big win, she recorded and released her first single. Carrie Underwood became a bona fide star.

Kotb: “So do you have an agent, publicist, A PR person, blah blah blah, the whole entourage?”

Underwood: “Yeah.”

Kotb: “Look at you with your entourage.”

Underwood: “I have an entourage!”

Video: ‘Independence Day’ All of this hoopla is a world away from where Carrie came from. Carrie Underwood has small town roots. She was plucked from a little town in Oklahoma, a map dot really, about an hour's drive from Tulsa, called Checotah. It has one post office, one traffic light and it is known as the steer wrestling capital of the world.

For those of you who don't know, steer wrestling is when a cowboy jumps off of a horse onto a steer and, well, wrestles. It is part of the fabric of this town of 3,800, where, by the way, they are busting their buttons over Carrie.

Checotah resident: “She's the greatest singer I believe I ever heard. And I'd say she was more important right now than anything in Checotah.”

But there is no one more proud than the man we found sitting on his porch swing watching the traffic go by, Carrie’s grandfather, Carl, or as she calls him, Paw Paw.

Carl: “I really got tickled for her and then she got to go to Hollywood. That tickled me more than ever after that and she went to Hollywood because she kind of likes the spotlight.”

She is used to crowds, only they were more like crowds of 30 or so at Old Settlers day, the annual festival in town where Carrie got her start singing.

Underwood: “I really like the fact that I came from a small town because things are different in a small town. Oh, when I was a little girl, you know, I'd climb trees and catch frogs and go fishing and stuff like that.”

And, although Carrie loved singing at local festivals, she gave it up for a while. She moved away from home where she had lived with her mom and two sisters and went to college about an hour away at Northeastern State University.

While in her senior year of college she saw an ad on TV for “American Idol” auditions in St. Louis, eight hours away.

Underwood: “And I thought forget it. Maybe next year. That's a long way away and mom said, if you want to go, I'll take you.”

So off  they went and seven days and 7,000 contestants later, she was singing in St. Louis at the “American Idol” audition. And she kept singing and making the cut. The small town girl became more and more adored for her small town-ness. Meantime the folks in Oklahoma kept voting and voting -- including, of course, Carrie’s grandfather, Paw Paw, who still has a rotary dial phone.

Carl: “But the most I ever got to vote was 32 times.”

Kotb: “Well that's pretty good.”

Underwood: “Well that's good! I'm proud of him. Every vote counts.”

By the time the competition ended more than 500 million votes were cast, and presto, Carrie became a full fledged celebrity. The pinch me moments keep on coming. Last week with Dateline's cameras rolling, Carrie fulfilled another life long dream — singing at the Grand Ole Opry. It was her coming out party to the country world. The small town girl has officially made it big time.


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