Carrie Underwood is reuniting with her 2019 Cry Pretty Tour 360 opening acts Maddie & Tae and Runaway June to bring comfort and joy into people’s homes through Cracker Barrel’s Sounds of the Season feature.
As part of the restaurant chain’s the Gift of Shared Traditions campaign, The virtual event finds the three acts performing holiday classics and original songs off their Christmas projects released in 2020, Underwood’s My Gift album and Maddie & Tae and Runaway June’s EPs We Need Christmas and When I Think About Christmas, respectively. Joining forces for Sounds of the Season was a bright spot in a year ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic that led to the mass shutdown of live events. The show is as much a cherished reunion among tour mates-turned-friends after they spent nearly a year on the road together on Underwood’s 2019 tour “I think that there’s a femininity in that in its own that makes it really special, really warm,” Runaway June’s Naomi Cooke describes to Sounds Like Nashville about the holiday show’s all-female lineup. “Then with Cracker Barrel involved, there’s this extra layer of family and comfort and grounding.” “It was fun getting to learn about each other’s traditions and it felt like a big old family reunion for us,” adds Maddie & Tae’s Maddie (Marlow) Font about the opportunity to “spread a little more extra joy with music” through the feature.
In addition to performing original songs such as Underwood’s “Sweet Baby Jesus,” Runaway June’s “Christmas on the Radio” and Maddie & Tae’s “Merry Married Christmas,” the artists also united for a series of collaborations on holiday classics. Font hints at an “absolutely stunning” collaboration with Underwood on a song they both have on their Christmas projects, “O Come All Ye Faithful,” that she cites as one of her favorite moments in the show. “It was something that both of us feel super passionate about,” she describes of the “faith-driven” performance. “Anytime you get to harmonize with the queen Carrie Underwood, I was just shaking. It was so fun.” Meanwhile, Runaway June’s soaring harmonies combine with Underwood’s on a powerhouse rendition of “O Holy Night” that Natalie Stovall calls “incredibly special.” “It was really powerful for me personally just being able to unify our voices in that way,” the expert fiddle player says.
In between performances, the three acts take a seat in Cracker Barrel’s famous rocking chairs to discuss Christmas memories and traditions that include Runaway June’s Jennifer Wayne decking her house in Christmas lights, and having to restrain herself from keeping them up all year, while Underwood gets lost in a winter wonderland as she and husband Mike Fisher and their two sons, one-year-old Jacob and five-year-old Isaiah, split time during the holiday season between both sides of the family in Underwood’s hometown of Checotah, Okla. and Fisher’s native Canada, both climates typically offering a white Christmas that invites their children to ice skate and build snowmen.
“It really did fill our cups and it made us so happy and we’re so thankful that they’re really leaning into the shared traditions and family time and how this year is going to feel different,” describes Taylor (Dye) Kerr of what it means to be a part of the festive show during a time when people may not be able to honor their usual traditions. “But there are so many sweet moments that you can find if you’re looking for it if you just have the perspective of that. So we’re really thankful that we get to dive into that.”
And though the holidays will look different for many families, Maddie & Tae and Runaway June hope that Sounds of the Season will offer a source of comfort in a time when many are seeking it. “We feel like we’re going to be able to spread a little bit of Christmas joy to everyone’s houses, and I think that that’s what Christmas is all about is spreading joy and hope and being with the ones you love,” Wayne narrates. “Even if you can’t be there physically in person, hopefully you can watch the special and feel like we’re bringing a little bit of home to everyone’s houses.”
“I hope that there’s some way that we can convey our hearts to them through the television screen. We’ve all had so much screen time that we’re trying to transcend that and convey an emotion and help bridge that gap,” Cooke elaborates, adding that there’s a “magical feeling” to Sounds of the Season. “I hope that they see the magic and see the love between us all and see the healing properties of music and what it means to be able to sing Christmas songs and what those songs are saying.”
“It means the world. It’s truly an honor to get to be a part of this, to remind people that if you can’t sit around the table with your family or you can’t eat that favorite dish or you can’t travel, there are still those moments that you can cherish and be thankful for your health or the fact that you have people to love and to miss. It’s definitely is a lot easier to say than do, but for us, even our traditions are going to look a tad different this year, and I think it’s just about leaning into that and trusting that this is temporary, this too shall pass, and one day everything will feel normal again,” Kerr assures. “But however you can find your silver lining this year and new traditions, have fun with it.”