For Grand Ole Opry members past and present, the opportunity to play onstage at the 90-year-old Opry's former home, the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville, is always special. The holiday season, when the Opry moves from the Opry House to the Ryman for a few weeks, makes the occasion even more heartwarming, as does the first performance of a song in an artist's career. So Carrie Underwood, an Opry member since 2008, was firing on all emotional cylinders during her Opry visit last month, taking the opportunity to mark the Opry debut of her current single "Heartbeat," the second release from her Storyteller LP.
Underwood took the stage looking classically elegant and sporting a new, shorter hairstyle (which she showed off from her Ryman dressing room via Instagram, as country icon Hank Williams looked on from behind). And her performance was nothing short of intense, often singing with her eyes closed and reaching for the rafters with every line.
Zach Crowell, who co-wrote "Heartbeat" with Underwood and Ashley Gorley, also produced the track for Storyteller, as well as the groundbreaking debut Montevallo for Sam Hunt, who appears on the studio version of "Heartbeat."
"I was lucky enough to write with Carrie about a year ago. I did a little demo and we all loved it," Crowell tells Rolling Stone Country. "It's a slow, kinda sexy thing; it's a little bit more my comfort zone."
The first-ever country artist to appear on the Opry after being crowned the winner of American Idol in 2005, Carrie Underwood will keep the songs (and stories) flowing as the Oklahoma native launches her Storyteller Tour on January 30th in Jacksonville, Florida. Featuring an in-the-round setting, the trek includes opening acts Easton Corbin and the Swon Brothers.