Carly Pearce embodies the truth of modern ladies in today’s upside-down world. Having mined two No. 1s from love’s twisted aftermath with the platinum-certified Every Little Thing and I Hope You’re Happy Now with Lee Brice, the 2019 CMA Awards nominee returns with the looking-out-for-your-sister Next Girl.
Having spent the quarantine thinking about where she wanted her music to go, a daunting proposition given the passing of her long-time producer, Michael James Ryan – known professionally as busbee – [who died from glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer in 2019], the brunette found her thoughts returning to the music that captured her heart as a teenager moving to Dollywood to chase her country music dream. Dolly! Loretta! Patty! Pam! The Chicks! Crafting a hybrid country sound that pulled hard from the roots and polished up the modern sheen of today’s Nashville, Pearce reached out to Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, white hot producer/songwriters who share her passion for the kind of country that made Music City’s girl singers rock.
Your current single Next Girl is a cautionary tale and hushed warning to younger woman being swept off her feet by a ladies’ man. Was it based on a true story?
Yeah, absolutely. We’ve all encountered this dude. It’s definitely something I’ve gone through, my girlfriends have gone through [and] it’s what I’m seeing many country music fans have gone through. I feel like I want to be everybody’s big sister in this song – whether you’re older than me or not – and just be like, “he’s gonna tell you that you’re the greatest thing that’s ever lived. He’s gonna do this whole thing and then he’s gonna go, ‘Bye!’ You’re gonna think it’s you, [but] you have to get out of there.”
Your breakthrough success, self-titled album was released on Valentine’s Day earlier this year. Of the album, you said that the spirit of this album is that you found myself through ‘falling in love.’ Now that you’re in a different stage of life – has the album taken on a new meaning for you? Have you had to rethink who you are?
As artists, it’s almost like albums are yearbooks. You go back and look at your yearbook photo from 10th grade, and you go, “Oh my God, why was I wearing that shirt? I thought that was so cool [but] how much better are my clothes now?!” But that’s still a piece of who you are. There are songs that on that album I don’t identify with anymore, but it was a moment in time. Everything is a lesson. I did close the chapter on that album – that is why we moved on to new music, and it was the best decision for me. I will always look back at that album as a moment in time where my world was about to get rocked in every way. But, when your world crumbles, those are the moments where you can really take charge and grow. Those are the biggest defining moments.
I look back and I go, “You thought you knew yourself, [but] you had no idea what was coming” – and that’s life. I’m learning more at 30 [years old], and I’m so grateful for this year, this music and this time that I’ve had with myself, being off the road, to process everything that’s gone on with me – from losing my producer to what has happened in my personal life – and discovering new music has been so healing. You have to take care of your head and heart – and I feel like I’ve had time to do that – and that’s why I’m feeling so empowered with this new music and direction I’m going in.
Considering there are songs off that album that you don’t identify with anymore, how do you now sing those songs when there’s a different meaning or emotion behind them?
Some of the songs on the album – totally not with the guy I wrote them about anymore – but there’s still an emotion that I was in love and I was celebrating love with that. And I think you have to tap into those emotions and be in the moment. We all go through different feelings and stages of life. I’m an actress once those songs come out and I’m like the emote-r [or] communicator for them. So, you have to tap into the emotion, but not let it overcome you. It’s like a yearbook – it doesn’t affect you anymore.
There’s a saying, in country music especially, that you have to suffer in order to tap into those raw emotions be a good songwriter, do you believe this is a very apt statement?
I think you have to. You have to live, and we are promised to suffer in this life. I think some of the best country songs are [about] pain. Three Chords and The Truth [by country artist, Sara Evans] – pain. My debut single [Every Little Thing] that changed my entire life – pain. What I feel like I’m known for most – pain [laughs]. It’s honesty. We all suffer.
What are your favourite songs to cry to?
Oh, I have so many! You Don’t Even Know Who I Am – Patty Loveless; Walkaway Joe – Trisha Yearwood [feat. Don Henley]; Tryin’ To Get Over You – Vince Gill; The Dance – Garth Brooks. There’s a few. I Told You So – Randy Travis.
In contrast, what are your favourite songs that put you in a good mood?
Ooh, let’s see … I Hope – Garry Barrett – I love that song! Wild One – Faith Hill; Born to Fly – Sara Evans; Wide Open Spaces – The Chicks [formally known as The Dixie Chicks]. Probably some Beyonce and *NSYNC in there – I love I Want You Back [and] if I’m going newer *NSYNC, I’m going Bye Bye Bye. No Strings Attached – yes, yes, yes, I saw that concert [laughs]. It was great. I loved it!
Speaking of feel good songs, you turned 30 earlier this year. For many people, that’s a milestone year where they evaluate what they want from their lives, which it sounds like you are doing with the empowering music direction you’re heading down. Did you celebrate?
No. I need a redo of my 30th. It was in quarantine and couldn’t do anything [but] so far, 30 is pretty great, so I feel like I’ve had a party just with all the things that have happened with music with me. I’ll have my party one day [where, if I could do anything, I would] take my girlfriends to Napa or Cabo. Margaritas or wine, and my girlfriends, definitely.
Before you got your big break with the independent release of your debut single, Every Little Thing which lead your signing with Big Machine Records – one of your part-time jobs to help make ends meet was cleaning Airbnbs. Considering bathrooms often have the most amazing acoustics, where you able to sing and work at the same time?
I could. I would bring a little speaker and I would clean and sing while I was cleaning trying to dream of, literally, a Cinderella story. Not even kidding. And people are nasty, so I had to take myself somewhere else while I was cleaning [laughs]. Cleaning those Airbnbs was a pivotal moment for me. It’s become a part of my story. I took that job because I could make my own schedule with the company that I worked for, so that I could write songs and still play shows.
And finally, last year you performed to Aussie fans at CMC Rocks Queensland in Ipswich. Will you return, how was your time down under, and what were your impressions of Australia?
I will be back whenever I can. You buy into artists and not just singles that are on the radio, and I loved that! I stayed in Brisbane so I got to walk around the city, and y’all’s coffee is a lot stronger than ours. I drank it like it was American coffee so I was like a rocket ship fire the whole time I was there! [laughs].
Give Next Girl a spin below, and keep up to date with Carly Pearce on her Facebook page here.
For more in-depth interviews on CountryTown, check out here.