Carrie UnderwoodSince she was crowned the winner of 'American Idol' in 2005, Carrie Underwood has been showered with armloads of trophies -- from the Grammys and the CMAs to the People's Choice Awards. She's also the first woman ever to win the Academy of Country Music's Entertainer of the Year twice. Her three CDs have sold just shy of 12.5 million copies and she's already scored 12 No. 1 smash hits ... this all in the short span of five years.

With her stunning powerhouse vocals, no one can say Carrie hasn't earned her awards and accolades. Yet it wasn't but a few years ago that some in country music felt she hadn't earned her way and paid her dues by playing bars like so many do to catch their lucky break ... given her overnight, Cinderella success story.

"There were a few undertones from people," Carrie tells USA Weekend. "Nobody ever came up to me and pointed his finger and said, 'You shouldn't be here.' But it was always, 'So and so said such and such.' But can you honestly imagine me spending 20 years singing in bars trying to make it? That doesn't fit me at all. And my family didn't have the money to pay for a demo. So what was I going to do? 'Idol' was the door God opened for me, and I took my chances."

Not that Carrie didn't play for small crowds before performing on the Idol stage. During her waitressing days at Sam & Ella's Chicken Palace in Tahlequah, Okla., Carrie recalls singing for "maybe 150 people ... and that was on a good night. They probably weren't even paying attention!"

When it comes to her private life and relationships, Carrie has always been determined to keep that part of her life to herself. And she has always been quite clear and up front with the men she's dated over the years, when it comes to the expectations of her singing career.

"This is how it's going to be," Carrie would tell the guys she dated. "You're not going to see me much, so you're going to have to love the phone, because that's the only contact we'll be able to have."

These days, when she talks about her fiance, Canadian hockey star Mike Fisher, Carrie goes all soft and dreamy. "Usually I get annoyed with people after four months, and their jokes aren't funny anymore, and their 'isms' start to bug me," she admits. "But everything he does is great ... I couldn't have dreamt him up any better."

Indeed, both Carrie and Mike seem to be on the same page, determined to maintain their separate careers, while at the same time desirous of finding ways to meet in the middle to focus on each other.

"We're both very independent people, so if we said, 'We're going to move in and be together 365 days a year,' we'd probably want to hurt each other," she quips.

"I definitely have no complaints," she says, going all soft and dreamy again. "Life seems really good right now. It makes my heart happy."

Carrie is in the midst of her Play On tour with opening acts, Sons of Sylvia and Craig Morgan.

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