I had the chance recently to interview rising Country talent Carly Pearce for my radio show recently, and I introduced her as “Big Machine recording artist Carly Pearce.” It’s the truth, as the Kentucky native signed with the label earlier this year, and it’s also an introduction she doesn’t mind hearing again. And again!
“I don’t think that is ever going to sink in for me,” the songstress tells CMChat. “I’m always thinking….”What??”
Carly has been watching as her debut single for the label, “Every Little Thing,” continues to climb the airplay charts. She jokes that she has become a regular chart-watcher.
“It’s been very fun getting to sit back and become obsessed with the chart each week and watching it. My band has taught me how to check in on Sundays”
Music has long been something that she has been passionate about while growing up in Taylor Mill, KY. But, those growing up years at home ended for the singer when opportunity came knocking.
“At age sixteen, I saw an audition for the Country show at Dollywood. I asked my dad if I could quit high school, and he was crazy enough to let me do home-schooling. So, I moved away from home at age sixteen and started working at Dollywood. Music is all that I ever wanted to do, and I think that when it’s that way – at age sixteen, I had no plan of anything else. So, I jumped into it. It was my first job. I was singing every day, doing six shows a day, five days a week. It was so much fun. It was amazing to not have to sit in a classroom all of the time, doing what I love. I was surrounded with people who understood music and the love of singing and performing like I did.”
The single is one that is very personal to Pearce.
“I wrote that song about a guy who really broke my heart a few years ago. I wanted to take you on a journey of what it was that I dealt with through the process of trying to forget the person, but also not wanting to forget. It’s about that battle internally of wanting to forget someone who has hurt you, but still loving them. I never really thought that anyone was going to hear it. It’s been crazy, and has just reminded me of why the fans want to resonate with someone that is true. If I can be an example to someone going through that, I’m all for it.”
She self-released the song, which was picked up by SiriusXM The Highway. Word of her talent quickly spread around Nashville, and Scott Borchetta of Big Machine came to see her perform one night at the Ryman Auditorium. She found out about his coming just a few hours before she took to the stage.
“I remember thinking ‘This is intimidating.’ But, he’s the sweetest. I never knew how down to earth someone with that kind of power and success and clout could be. He and his wife are really super sweet, and awesome people to work for.”
Her first taste of nationwide exposure came as a result of collaborating with The Josh Abbott Band on the 2016 single “Wasn’t That Drunk.” She laughs when admitting that their friendship was very much new-school, totally influenced by technology before they met.
“I will forever be so grateful for that. Josh heard me sing in Nashville about four years ago. We never met, but we kept in touch online. He sent me this song, which I actually knew because some of my friends had written it. The first time I ever sang it live, I recorded my part separately. It was the first time I had ever met Josh or the band. I was jumping on the bus with them to go out on a two-week run. It was a case of ‘I hope we sound together. I hope I like you. I hope you like me. Let’s go live together on the bus!”
Talk to anyone in the business, and Pearce is constantly mentioned as one of the “New Faces To Watch.” That distinction is especially true when her name gets brought up at The Grand Ole Opry. Just like her record label affiliation, that’s music to her ears.
“That’s the best thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” she says beaming. “I’m obsessed with The Grand Ole Opry. If anybody follows me on social media, they know that I have always wanted to sing there. It’s such a part of the lane that I’m trying to form. I want to carry on the legacy that so many of my favorite artists and inspirations have done. I model myself on what Carrie Underwood has done for the Opry.”
She’s well on her way, having performed on the WSM Radio show’s historic stage thirty-seven times!
“I truly get nervous every time that I stand there. It gets easier for me to convey what it feels like on-stage, but it never ever doesn’t send a chill up my spine. I played one night with Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, and Trisha looks at me and says ‘It will never not be nerve-wracking.’ If Trisha Yearwood says that, I believe it.”
For those who have never been privileged to be backstage at the show, what’s the experience like? All that you have imagined – and then some, she says.
“Everybody is so nice. It truly is a family, from the security guards to the ushers, to the other artists, everybody is family. They get to know you. Each dressing room is a separate experience. It’s almost like a museum or a theme about the Opry. Each artist keeps their door open, and they do tours while we are getting ready. You can watch the show from the side. You can hear Bobby Osborne rehearsing ‘Rocky Top’ in his dressing room. It’s such a great experience. I don’t know how to put it into words. it’s just so surreal. It’s so inspiring to see a Bobby Osborne, Jeannie Seely, or a Connie Smith still taking it so serious. They are all pros, but they still feel the need to warm up, do their best, and put on that show, even though they have been on that stage hundreds of times.”
And, Pearce also counts herself blessed to have become friends with many of the artists from the show, such as the one who lives just down the street!
“Jeannie Seely is my neighbor, and she is so amazing. She and I both debuted on the Opry when we were twenty-five. It’s been great to hear all her stories, and get an inside glimpse from a female in the genre who is a legend, and to hear her stories about how things were when she started out. We’ve compared notes about radio tours, which are a little different now, but it’s fun to have someone that I can go down to her house, ride bikes with her, and she’s just a legend. I look up to her a lot. It’s an honor to hear her and pick her brain. She reminds me of my mom. She’s a spitfire. You can’t really pull a fast one on her. She’s quick.”