Play On

Album: Play On (2009)
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  • This is the title track of Country music artist Carrie Underwood's third studio album. The American Idol champ wrote this together with Natalie Hemby, and her frequent collaborator, Luke Laird.
  • CMT news asked Underwood why the lines, "Cause you're going to make mistakes/It's always worth the sacrifice/Even when you're wrong/Play on," are so important to the message of this song. She replied: "If something seems bad, instead of hiding under the covers and not facing things, we can make things worse than they already are. You have to keep going. You have to keep playing the game. You have to keep doing what you do. And, yeah, it is worth the sacrifice even if you have all these doubts in your head. You just gotta keep playing." Underwood added: "Don't do things you think are wrong! (laughs) I don't want people to lose all their money, like gamble it away or something. It's just all about keeping going. Keep playing your song, keep doing your life things when stuff is bad. When it rains on you, just keep going, even if you think you shouldn't."

    CMT News went on to ask if the song's message was something she needed to remind herself the day she wrote that? Underwood replied: "Yeah, it's a very therapeutic song to sing. And I feel like it would be a song that people could listen to and feel inspired to be a little happier about life."
  • CMT News asked Underwood when she heard the song played back the first time, what was going through her mind? She replied: "I thought it would be a great album title. (laughs) I don't know what people would think about it, and it may never be a single or anything, but it was definitely a message that was poignant. Yeah, it's just fun to sing."
  • In recording Play On, Underwood again re-united with producer Mark Bright, who produced Carnival Ride and seven tracks on Some Hearts. "Over the summer, we spent more time with arrangements, and Carrie experimented more than ever with vocal textures," Bright told Reuters. "What came out on the other side is extraordinary. I think we got it right."

    Underwood said she trusts Bright, and that makes recording a more comfortable process. "I've known him now for five years," she told Reuters. "I've worked with him on every album, and I trust him and he trusts me. I'm comfortable with him now - whereas in the beginning it was like, 'Oh, my gosh. This guy is a big-time producer. What if I do bad?' I was really afraid to mess up. Now I'm not afraid to screw up. I can screw up royally when I'm in the studio and it's OK. I trust him."
  • Underwood told AOL's The Boot that she hopes this anthem about perseverance in the face of adversity will encourage people who are going through a hard time. "Whenever stuff goes wrong, you've just got to get up in the morning and you've got to play on, finish your song, finish what you started, even when things don't look good," said Underwood. "I've been really lucky in my life to where things really haven't gone wrong that often, but we all have our days... It makes me feel really great when somebody who has been there comes up to me and says, 'I love this song,' which has already happened and I'm so excited to hear more stories like that. It's a really cool inspirational song."
  • Luke Laird told The Boot that this song was written almost as an afterthought at the end of a writing session. He explained: "Natalie Hemby and I got together with Carrie sometime between January and March last year, to write for her new album. Carrie had pretty much blocked out three months to write for this album, and she probably wrote over 60 songs during that period.

    This was the first time Natalie and Carrie had met, and 'Play On' was actually the second song we wrote that day. When we finished writing the first song, Carrie went downstairs to get a drink and I told Natalie, 'I'll bet she's going to want to write another song.' Because when Carrie comes in to write, she's ready to work all day.

    We didn't have any ideas, but when Carrie went downstairs, I started playing a drum loop I had on my laptop, and I had my electric guitar there that day. So I started playing these chords, kind of fun stuff, and Carrie came back in and was listening to me ... and then she just started singing, 'Play on ... ' And I thought, wow, that's kind of cool and motivational ... but just a little bit different way of saying it. So we actually started on the chorus of this song. And from there, it was just like a stream of consciousness.

    Once we got the concept - play on, keep on when you're up against adversity - then we had fun trying to think of all these cool, different images. Once Carrie started singing, 'Play on ... ' it just sounded so cool. Of course, anything that Carrie sings sounds good -- she could sing the phone book! But I thought this song had a good message and there was some cool different images. And it was really smooth. Nobody was like, "Oh, no! Let's do it this way!" It just flowed really smooth, and all of us started throwing all these lines in, and it really came together like a gift.

    For a long time after we wrote it, it didn't sound like this song was even in the running, though. From what I heard, it was one of the last songs Carrie brought up to put on the album. She said she'd listened to it again, and thought it might be cool. And next thing I know, I get a call. I was out working in L.A., and they tell me, "Carrie's cutting 'Play On!'" And I was shocked. I called Natalie, and she just started crying. And I was so happy, too, because it was the first song that Natalie and I had written together. We had been friends for so long, and we write tons of songs together. And then a few weeks later, we found out it was going to be the title of her album, which made it extra cool, because it was the first song I'd ever written that's been the title track of an album!"

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