EXCLUSIVE: Erica McCall writes about performing with Carrie Underwood

The Indiana Fever forward writes about her experience singing on stage with Carrie Underwood in June

By Erica McCall, Special to High Post Hoops

“Hey superstar!” “What going on Big Time?” “Who are you performing with tonight?” These are just a few of the statements/questions I get asked once a week.

Most of the time I’m fairly confused when I’m approached with these introductions, but then I think for one second and it all comes back to me. Oh yeah, I performed with Carrie Underwood!

It’s been a little over two months since I had the opportunity to perform live in concert with Carrie Underwood to her song “The Champion,” and although a lot of the hype has died down, I still feel extremely honored and blessed to live out my dream.

Erica McCall had always dreamed about performing on stage in front of a huge crowd. She got to live out her dream while singing with Carrie Underwood in front thousands of people at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on June 16, 2019. Photo by Jessica Hoffman

The number one question I get asked since my performance is how did I get on stage with Carrie? Well, I won a contest. (Fever Vice President of Basketball Operations) Tamika Catchings, or Catch as I like to call her, presented the idea to me of trying out for a contest to sing live with Carrie during her concert in Indianapolis. If you ask anyone on my team who would most likely perform on stage with a celebrity, a majority would say me. I love to sing and dance at any opportunity I get: in the locker room, in the shower, before and after practice, during warmups, and you may even see me bust a move after one of my teammates hits a three. So when Catch asked me if I wanted to try out for the contest, naturally I jumped at the opportunity.

In preparing for my audition, I would practice rapping my part of the song multiple times a day, so when it came time to film my audition tape the words flowed naturally and I could really add my own style to the song.

After practicing for about two weeks I submitted my audition tape. Two days later, I found out I won and would perform in front of thousands of people. However, I didn’t have much time to fully digest the news because the concert was in two days. Thankfully, my mom already had her flight booked well in advance, in good faith that I would get selected. Moms know best!

The day of the performance, my mom and I went shopping all around town to find the perfect outfit. Luckily I didn’t have to be at the arena until 7:00 p.m. so I had some time to get prepared for my big night. After hours of shopping, I decided to go with a black leather jacket, ripped jeans, a bright Indiana Fever shirt to rep my team, red lipstick, and, of course, sparkly nail polish, because that’s what pop stars do.

Throughout the whole day, I wasn’t nervous. Even as I was watching Carrie sing, I still wasn’t as anxious as I thought I would be. Honestly watching her live got me super-hyped. She performed with so much energy and passion and it inspired me to do the same. A few minutes before it was my time to go on stage, I had time to practice with my earpiece and microphone. It was pretty nerve-racking because I couldn’t hear myself at all. Just Carrie and her band. (At that moment I knew exactly why Mariah Carey always has to fix her earpieces when she sings.)

Right before Carrie introduced me, she surprised my mom with a few emotional words, written by me, about how she inspires me every day and why she is my true “champion.” My mom has always encouraged me to pursue my dreams so this performance was in dedication to her. As I got in position to rise up on the stage, my nerves started to really kick in. I was just praying I wouldn’t forget the words. I had never rehearsed with Carrie, let alone met her, before hitting the stage for the big performance, so the pressure to do well was extremely high.

Indiana Fever forward Erica McCall performs the rap part of “The Champion” while on stage with Carrie Underwood during her concert at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on June 16, 2019. Photo by Jessica Hoffman

The moment they lifted me up on to the stage to begin rapping, my body felt super-weak. In my head, I thought I forgot a lyric but I just kept going anyways. A flashback of me forgetting the words to a Shakespeare play in high school quickly went through my head but then something clicked. All of sudden, I really started to get into the performance. I was jumping up and down, bobbing my head, and pointing to Carrie. It felt so natural. Although there were thousands of people in the crowd, it didn’t feel like it. I was up there just enjoying myself. I felt the energy from the crowd and that just propelled me further to perform with all the energy I had. After the performance was over, a few of the members from her band said I “killed it” and that I was one of the best contestants that had ever performed with her. As soon as it was all over, I wanted to go up on stage and do it again.

(I guess this is the time to admit here that I can’t actually rap. As a surprise to many, I did not come up with the words to the rap in the song. Those lyrics were written by Ludacris. I was just reciting his lyrics and added my own personality in how I performed them. So to the next person who wants to ask me to freestyle on the spot, don’t do it because I will fail miserably.)

Being on stage was an amazing experience, but my favorite part of it all was coming off the stage and receiving all the love and support from my coaches, teammates, and mom. Having them in the crowd meant the world to me and I’m so blessed that I got to experience it with them. After the concert was over my team and I got to meet Carrie and I received an autographed hat from her. She was very gracious and down to earth. She actually just had a newborn baby a couple of months before her tour started and had to get back on the bus to tend to her children. She is a true artist and I have tremendous respect for her and her craft.

Indiana Fever forward Erica McCall had an incredible experience singing on stage with Carrie Underwood on June 16, 2019, including getting her photo taken alongside her. Photo courtesy of Erica McCall

Fast forward to today: many people still come up to me and tell me how surprised they were at how comfortable I was on stage. However, I can say that performing is something that has come naturally to me. Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved to sing and dance in front of my family. In fact, every Christmas, my family has a talent show and every year I perform a song of an R&B diva. Not to toot my own horn, but my performance is highly anticipated and I am undefeated since the tradition has started. Performing in front of thousands of people is something I have always dreamed about. I love the energy of a large crowd but mostly I just love to make people smile and laugh. In my next career, after basketball is all said and done, I hope I can pursue something that entertains others. I would love to have my own TV show or potentially get into sports broadcasting; just something where my voice or personality can make people smile.

Erica McCall loved having her Indiana Fever teammates and coaches at her show to cheer her on while she sang on stage with Carrie Underwood on June 16, 2019. Photo courtesy of Erica McCall

Performing with Carrie Underwood was a dream come true and although I appreciate the experience and compliments that come with it, a piece of me still feels unsatisfied. I’m a third-year WNBA player who is still trying to figure out her way in a tough league. As much as I enjoyed the high praise for my rapping I wish that praise was coming from me performing well after a big game. I had players from the around the league, that I didn’t even think knew my name, come up and tell me how well I did on stage. Although pleasantly surprised by their kindness, I wish the circumstances were different. I have dreamed of singing in front of thousands of people, but I also have dreamed of being a WNBA champion and an All-Star.

The reality is, I’m still struggling to fulfill my basketball dreams and that’s a tough pill to swallow. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not working every day to achieve them. If anything, performing with Carrie motivated me more to work harder at basketball so that one day I will hear people congratulate me on a great game performance and championship season.

When I go back and actually think of the lyrics to Carrie’s song, “The Champion” I get so inspired. One verse says, “I am invincible, unbreakable, unstoppable, unshakeable. They knock me down, I get up again. I am the Champion.” These words truly describe the way I live my life. No matter what, I’m always going to chase after my dreams. Through the adversity and pain, it’s all worth it when you are victorious in the end. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to perform with Carrie Underwood. Before the performance, I thought I was just going to rap and leave the stage but unbeknownst to me, I would actually inspire myself and others in ways I could never imagine. I can’t wait to see what life brings next. And now that everyone knows I’m always down to perform live, don’t be shocked if you see me on tour with Beyoncé.

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