A Little Bit Pop, A Little Bit Country

Unlike the winners before her, current "American Idol" champ Carrie Underwood is gunning for success in not only the pop format, but the country arena too.

Unlike the winners before her, current "American Idol" champ Carrie Underwood is gunning for success in not only the pop format, but the country arena too. Thus, Arista Nashville, a division of RCA Label Group, is partnering with 19 Recordings and J Records in New York to work Underwood's debut, "Some Hearts," due this week.

Underwood has already scored with "Inside Your Heaven," this year's best-selling retail single. The song -- which has sold 434,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan -- topped the Billboard Hot 100 in July because of its strong sales. Now she will try to earn fans at country radio.

"It's a dual approach," says RCA Label Group chairman Joe Galante, who says his Nashville office will handle country radio promotion for Underwood's single "Jesus, Take the Wheel," as well as other marketing and promotion efforts in the country community. The J Records staff is working the album's title track to top 40 and AC radio as well as taking the record to retail.

Underwood is depending on both labels to shepherd her efforts. "They know what they're doing," she says. "I'm a country singer, but because of my exposure on 'American Idol,' I might tend to cross over naturally."

In recording the album with producers Mark Bright and Dann Huff, the Checotah, Okla., native says it was important to "keep things as country as possible." Her manager, Simon Fuller (who heads the 19 imprint) suggested she meet with Nashville writers. That turned into a weekend retreat that resulted in one of her co-writes, "I'm Not in Checotah Anymore," making it onto the record. She is buying a home in Nashville and looks forward to more co-writing opportunities. "Everybody seems to have their arms wide open to me, so that's been great," says Underwood.