Carrie Underwood's 'Cry Pretty' Co-Producer David Garcia: 'Her Passion Is Just As Intense As When She Started'
Garcia and Underwood co-produced the entire LP -- the singer's first time going behind the boards
For her latest album, Carrie Underwood wanted to mix things up. The 35-year-old has spent the last 12 years writing and recording her own songs, but she decided it was time to step behind the boards and give producing a try as well.
With that change in focus came a change in collaborators: After making five albums under the guidance of studio vet Mark Bright, Underwood enlisted the help of David Garcia, who co-wrote Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha's smash crossover hit "Meant to Be."
"Our managers kind of hooked up a writing date," Garcia tells Billboard. "It just kind of turned into her calling me and saying, 'Hey, what would you think if we did this record together?' And I was like, 'Uh, yes, where do I sign?'"
Though the two had never worked together previously, they knew they were a match as soon as they got into the studio. They are the only credited producers on Cry Pretty, Underwood's sixth LP, and they ultimately co-wrote six of the 12 songs on the album. "I think what I'm excited about with this record is that it's just really diverse," he says. "There are some moments that vocally just sound super raw, and you really feel a lot of emotion when she sings."
Ahead of the album's Sept. 14 arrival, Billboard chatted with Garcia about how the two clicked and what Underwood is like as a producer.
With this album, are fans going to see sides of Carrie they haven't seen on previous albums?
I think so. I mean, Carrie is Carrie, it's always gonna be her -- it wasn't us doing anything that was outside of what she does. But we just allowed some of the twist and turns to happen. To hear emotionally what her voice can do sometimes is actually pretty powerful, so I think that there's gonna be some moments that her fans will really appreciate.
There are even moments where, even though she may not being singing as powerfully, you still feel something just as much as when she does. There's some songs where you're just listening to every word she says because of the way she performs the song. It’s almost like her communicating a song a little differently.
The way you're describing these moments made me think of the title track. Is "Cry Pretty" a good indication of the album as a whole?
We wanted you to feel like you were just sitting in the room with her while she sang that song. That is a little more of what we've got going on on the record. We're really just trying to make sure that when you press play, you feel something. And that song -- whatever that lyric is communicating -- it hits you the way it needs to hit you.
I can imagine you were pretty blown away watching her sing take after take in the studio.
100 percent. And what’s amazing about her is that she’s been doing it long enough that she has every right to sing things a couple of times and be like, "Okay cool, I'm done." But her work ethic is like she just started singing for the first time. She just loves to sing, and even in recording she would just be like, "I'm good, I wanna sing some more." Her passion is just as intense as when she started. It's amazing.
What is Carrie like as a producer?
What’s great about this was we share the same instinct of going with what moves you right away, and if it's not moving you, just move on to something else. There were a lot of times where I'd be stressing out over one thing, and I'd look at her like, "What do you think about this?" And we would just bounce off of each other -- macro and micro kind of stuff. Other instances, I'd be like, "You like this or not?" And she'd flat out be like, "No." She's really good with being able to look at things from a 10,000-foot perspective, so to speak. And yes, when it comes to vocals she is really, really, really intense, and she wants to make sure it’s perfect and it's there.
Did you learn anything from working with her?
It made me realize how important certain things are to a vocalist, like really [getting] into the details of their performance. And it helped me listen in a different way, which I think is what you want to try to always do: have another set of ears.
When you initially went in the studio with her, did she express anything about what she was thinking for this album?
She did know early on what Cry Pretty meant for her, as far as being the title of the record. And I think, if anything, that was all of her vision. She knew that was a really important song for her in the scope of the record. And I always loved that song. I loved what it said, I loved how real and how raw it was, I loved everything about it. From day one, when she got a really rough work tape of it back, it always resonated with her. I totally understood that, and we just wanted to make sure we did it justice.