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Carrie takes the wheel



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NASHVILLE -- Carrie Underwood has brought doughnuts, but nobody's eating them.

"I bought these for everybody," says the 22-year-old American Idol winner from Checotah, Okla., pointing to the box of Krispy Kremes. "Only two of them are gone, and I ate one of them."

Carrie Underwood is working hard to make good first impressions in Nashville, where she moved after winning American Idol in May.

She's doing a good job. Country radio stations have taken quickly to Jesus, Take the Wheel, the first single from her Some Hearts album, which arrives Tuesday. Jesus, Take the Wheel is inside the top 30 on Billboard's chart after only two weeks.

Though her American Idol crown immediately made her one of the most recognizable acts in country music, Underwood still comes across as wide-eyed, almost shy. In these days of badly behaved celebrities, she literally recoils at the notion someone might think poorly of her.

"If I called and said, 'I need ice water,' somebody would probably go get it," she says. "I don't ever do stuff like that."

Not even once, just to see if someone really would do it?

"No. That's weird.

"I want people to say, 'Carrie's easy to work with. She follows directions and she pays attention.' I want people to say that about me, so that years down the line, when some girl says, 'I grew up listening to Carrie Underwood,' somebody can say, 'Oh, she's great.'"

So far, that's what people are saying about her.

"I didn't know what to expect when I met her," says Hillary Lindsey, the Nashville songwriter who co-wrote Underwood's single and two other songs on Some Hearts. "I wondered, 'Is she going to be egotistical? I mean, she won American Idol, for crying out loud. But she was the total opposite. She's really sweet. There's no pretentiousness at all."

Dann Huff, who produced six tracks on Some Hearts, calls Underwood "a breath of fresh air."

"She doesn't seem to have an overt need to impress people," Huff says. "Which is funny, because you see her on TV, and she can really kick in the afterburners. But usually you equate that with a real neediness for acceptance. I get the impression that Carrie would be totally fine sitting in college studying for some history test."

Huff also is impressed by Underwood's voice. "Usually, with that range and that kind of pipes, emotionally you're limited to blasting. She also can deal with subtlety. That's what really tweaks my ear."

Underwood hopes to close on a three-bedroom brick and stucco house near Nashville in two weeks. Until then, she's living out of a hotel. She's not dating -- "There's no other anything," she says, "significant or otherwise" -- because her schedule hasn't left much time to maintain anything but business relationships.

"I keep talking like, 'I don't have any friends here! I don't know anybody!'" she says. "But I'm not being a very good friend right now, either. Every time anybody calls me, I'm on a video shoot or I'm in the studio.

"But it will all happen in due time. I'll have time for a personal life later. Right now, it's down to business."

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© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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