Carrie Underwood is still generating hits from her six-million-selling debut, "Some Hearts," but she'll be front and center with a new effort this fall. Her sophomore album, "Carnival Ride," is due Oc

Carrie Underwood is still generating hits from her six-million-selling debut, "Some Hearts," but she'll be front and center with a new effort this fall. Her sophomore album, "Carnival Ride," is due Oct. 23 via 19 Recordings/Arista Nashville. First single "So Small" made Underwood the first female to debut in the Hot Country Songs top 20 in 43 years; it is No. 11 only four weeks after release.

"My favorite line on the whole album pretty much sums up everything that I've been through, and I think everybody could find something in this particular line: 'God put us here on this carnival ride/We close our eyes never knowing where it will take us next,'" Underwood tells Billboard of "Wheel of the World," which was penned by Hillary Lindsey, Chris Lindsey and Aimee Mayo. "It's beautiful and so true. We don't know what we're doing or where we're headed. We just kind of trust and hope that whatever ride we're on in life takes us where we need to go."

The pressure to follow up such as successful debut could creatively paralyze an artist, but Underwood has worked her way through it. "'Is there really anywhere to go but down?' There was that fear in my head,'" says Underwood, who was much more involved in the songwriting process this time around. "Then we started picking songs and I realized it was more [about] making an album for myself that I love and I know I have a huge hand in making. Whatever happens, it's icing on the cake."

Besides "So Small," new tracks include "Last Name," "Just a Dream" (about a soldier dying and the emotions his fiancé experiences as she comes to terms with the tragedy) and a remake of Randy Travis' "I Told You So."

Underwood probably won't undertake a full-blown tour until 2008. She's now a legitimate headliner, and plans for her next tour will find her either headlining or co-headlining with another artist.

"Given her track record, it's hard to believe Underwood would have any concerns about filling venues. But perhaps it's her Oklahoma naivete that prompts her to say, "I don't feel I'm ready to headline. What if nobody shows up? It would be absolutely horrifying if nobody showed up."

For more on Carrie Underwood's "Carnival Ride," see the Sept. 8 issue of Billboard, on newsstands and online today (Aug. 31) at Billboard.biz.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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