For years, Carrie Underwood has been inspiring women all over the country, but perhaps no one more than her current Cry Pretty Tour 360 opening act, Runaway June. The trio, made up of Hannah Mulholland, Naomi Cooke and Jennifer Wayne, has spent the last several months watching Underwood balance the demands of a massive tour, promoting her latest Cry Pretty album, and being a wife to Mike Fisher and mother to sons Isaiah and Jacob, proving to the threesome that with a little bit of effort, it is indeed possible to have both a family and a career.
"Carrie has never been handed a damn thing," Cooke told PEOPLE. "She has an incredible work ethic and she is an extremely smart businesswoman. For us to be able to see her out there with her husband and children gives us hope because we all want families and we don't want to give up our careers."
"This is a very difficult job to do, so being able to see her and Mike do it the way they do shows us that it can be done," she added. "We don't have to have one or another. We can have it all."
Runaway June just scored their first Top 5 single with "Buy My Own Drinks," from their freshman Blue Roses album, marking the first time a female trio has accomplished that feat since the Dixie Chicks in 2003 with "Travelin' Soldier." But Runaway June isn't at all ready to rest on their laurels.
"It's really a rough industry," Mulholland noted. "I feel like you are never really safe in the music business. You always have to be pushing to work really hard and to show up on time and play good music. You can never just take a breath and say you 'made it.' We spent four or five years pounding the pavement.
"There were a lot of early mornings," she continued, "where we thought we weren't getting anywhere … and then you look back and you realize that we had to do every single one of those things to get where we are right now."
Still, the fact that Runaway June have achieved something no one else has done in 16 years is something the women don't take lightly.
"To even be mentioned in the same sentence as the Dixie Chicks is pretty heavy," said Cooke. "We were really absorbing music and becoming artists at the time when the Chicks were on top of the world. I think all of us have really been inspired a lot by their music. I think that's unavoidable. But the comparisons? Well, we are very different."
"The Chicks were like Natalie and the sisters," she explained. "With us, we are very individual and we have individual styles and we have individual hobbies … even sonically we sound different. But we love the Chicks. They are like an untouchable thing."
The Cry Pretty Tour 360, which also includes Maddie & Tae, continues this weekend with a show in Runaway June's hometown of Nashville, at the Bridgestone Arena, on Friday, Sept. 27. Find tour dates at their official website.
Photo Credit: Getty images / Tommaso Boddi