When Carrie Underwood was booked to perform on the CBS special, "ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute to the Troops", she told the producers she wanted to sing "See You Again," her 2013 single that would have provided an emotional touchstone to what was already going to be an emotionally-charged show. But Underwood had a plan – a secret plan.
"I wanted to write a song for this event," Underwood told The Hollywood Reporter. "I kept it to myself because you never know how things are going to turn out. If I told everybody I wanted to write a song and I had writer's block, that would be terrible.” The country superstar had no reason to worry.
"I had a writing date with some amazing songwriter friends of mine. I tossed out the idea that we should try and chase something for a few minutes and see if it snowballs and becomes something we love. We played around on guitar. I started mumbling gibberish and humming tunes. None of it made sense. If someone walked in and saw what we were doing it would have looked ridiculous. We started humming and the words popped out and the song really wrote itself. You just have to be able to make sense of it all and put it in some kind of order."
The result was a song titled "Keep Us Safe" and the producers quickly agreed this was the song Underwood should perform in the special. "I felt like we had something special and not just for this particular event," says Underwood. "We wanted to keep it where whatever you're dealing with, it can make you feel better. I think we accomplished what we wanted to do."
When Underwood performed the song in a rehearsal for the ACM special, there were only a couple of hundred people in the MGM Grand Arena. It was a remarkable first for her. "It was the first time I sang it out loud, outside of our little writing area. The crowd was really responsive. They were loud. It was cool to debut it in front of a lot of people. Normally I sing a new song a thousand times in the studio before I go out and sing it in front of people. I was finding my own way through it, too."
The live version of "Keep Us Safe" will go on sale tonight at midnight on digital platforms. Proceeds from the single will go to the Academy of Country Music's charity arm, Lifting Lives.
"This song really makes me happy,” Underwood told THR. "It’s an overflow of emotion when you find a song that connects on a personal level. I get emotional on a lot of my songs."
This story first appeared on THR.com