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Carrie Underwood lifting up women on new Cry Pretty Tour 360

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FILE - This April 7, 2019 file photo shows Carrie Underwood, center, performing "Southbound" at the 54th annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas. Underwood has picked opening acts Maddie & Tae and Runaway June to open for her arena tour that starts May 1 in Greensboro, N.C. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
FILE - This April 7, 2019 file photo shows Carrie Underwood, center, performing "Southbound" at the 54th annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas. Underwood has picked opening acts Maddie & Tae and Runaway June to open for her arena tour that starts May 1 in Greensboro, N.C. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — When Carrie Underwood was plotting out her upcoming Cry Pretty Tour 360, she realized she had selected an all-female lineup with opening acts Maddie & Tae and Runaway June.

But then she wondered: "Can we do that?"

And then told herself: "OK, we have to do this!"

In a genre that often only designates one or two slots to female acts for festivals or tours, Underwood's arena tour kicks off Wednesday in Greensboro, North Carolina, with six women behind the mic throughout the show. It's becoming a pattern for women in country music, as Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves all have had all-female or mostly-female tours recently.

"I feel like it's been a really great time for women to kind of come together and be like, 'Let's support each other. We're all in this together. Let's be all in this together,'" Underwood said.

After her No. 1 album "Cry Pretty" came out last year, Underwood is hitting the road again and playing in more than 50 cities through October. Sitting down in a Nashville rehearsal hall where they were practicing for the tour, Underwood blushed when her supporting acts recounted how her songs were intertwined with their own careers.

Naomi Cooke from Runaway June remembers always getting requests to cover "Before He Cheats" when she played at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, a downtown honky tonk. Taylor Dye of Maddie & Tae recalled that she often won local talent shows when she sang "Cowboy Casanova" or "Temporary Home."

Underwood will be returning to the center of the arenas for this tour, following her 2016 Storyteller Tour that also featured a center stage that allowed her to spread out. The seven-time Grammy winner is an energetic performer, typically sprinting around and singing from all sides of the stage and blowing away fans with her impressive vocal chops.

"I loved being able to see so much more of the audience and be able to connect so much with so many more people," Underwood said.

She's bringing the whole family on the road with her, including 4-year-old Isaiah, three-month old Jacob Bryan, and her husband, former NHL player Mike Fisher. "Somebody's got to watch the kids when I am onstage," Underwood said with a laugh.

The music industry isn't always supportive of working moms and Underwood has been blunt and honest about those pressures, posting on Instagram about her post-baby body or having to pump as she was getting ready for the Academy of Country Music Awards.

"(Isaiah) was 11 months old when we started the last tour," Underwood said. "So it was very much like: do a little makeup, make him dinner, come back and do my hair, then get him ready for bed. So it was worlds colliding, but it was great. I'm so lucky I get to take my kids to work with me and not everybody gets to do that."

The tour comes at an important time for both Maddie & Tae and Runaway June, who both have new albums coming this year.

"We've never performed our music in a lot of these cities," said Cooke of Runaway June (Hannah Mulholland and Jennifer Wayne round out the trio). "We literally couldn't have dreamed up a better platform for us to be releasing new music and playing new songs."

In a year when no women were nominated for entertainer of the year at the ACMs, Underwood — who has won that award twice — has a chance to prove that women deserve to be in that category again.

"It's gonna be a great show from start to finish. That's our main objective," Underwood said. "I want them to leave saying, 'That's the best show I've ever been to.'"

And Maddie Marlow, of Maddie and Tae, added: "Watch all these chicks sell out arenas."

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Online:

https://www.carrieunderwoodofficial.com/cry-pretty-tour/

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Follow Kristin M. Hall at www.twitter.com/kmhall

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