Carly Pearce Shares ‘Every Little Thing’
The morning of October 16 was a big one for Carly Pearce. Not only had the country singer-songwriter come to the TIDAL office straight from a performance on the Today Show, but she met her idol, Dolly Parton – and, to top it off, she was still riding on the high of her debut album release.
The LP, Every Little Thing, delivered on October 13 via Big Machine Records, was a milestone for Pearce, whose single of the same name landed her on the Billboard Hot Country chart’s Top 10. And despite some of her hesitance surrounding its release (“You have fear of, ‘Oh my gosh. Is it going to live up to the song, and are people going to embrace it?’”), Pearce’s 13-track project only furthered her position as a dynamic – and, not to mention, outspoken – force in country music today.
TIDAL sat down with the singer to talk about Every Little Thing, her long road of ups and downs – touring at 11, dropping out of high school to perform at Dollywood, picking up odd jobs to support her music career – and the deep love of country music that kept her relentlessly ambitious.
“With each step or setback in my career,” Pearce says, “there was still something in me that told me it was going to work out.” Looking ahead to a tour with her longtime friend, country singer-songwriter Brett Young, Pearce knows that, no matter how many twists and turns it takes to get her where she wants to be, her only direction is forward.
This morning was a pretty exciting morning for you, so I wanted to say congratulations. You performed on the Today Show, and you met Dolly Parton. Tell me about that.
Just getting the chance to perform on national television and having that opportunity to sing the song that’s just spearheading everything that’s happening to me and putting out the album titled after it on Friday. And Meeting Dolly… I used to sing at Dollywood in high school to perform at her theme parks. I don’t think anything could have of happened that tops it.
Right now is such an exciting time for you. Your debut album, Every Little Thing, was just released, and it seems like, all across the board, it’s being very well received. How do you feel about this attention that’s being placed on you right now?
It’s interesting because you put out a song, and the song ‘Every Little Thing’ is doing so well and it is so well received that, putting out an album, you have fear of, ‘Oh my gosh. Is it going to live up to the song and are people going to embrace it? Are they going to buy into me as an artist instead of just as a song?’
Just to see the way that it’s already being received is great, so I can kind of breathe because that’s a thing that I wondered and hoped. I don’t want to be just a song. I want to be known as a name in country music.
From what I’ve read, the intention behind Every Little Thing was to touch on every little thing about who you are. How do you approach this, and how do you choose what those songs are?
I try to make sure I capture all different kinds of moments, whether it’s where I come from in Kentucky, the sounds of what I grew up on, the influences that I have, the instrumentation that molded the artist that I am, songs about my hometown to where I am now in my life with the experiences I’ve had with heartbreak and loss and struggle and to the fun side of me and falling in love and having fun and figuring out and discovering who I am. I think that also there’s a timeless sense to what I do of the classic country sound of where I want to go and the artist I want to be.
What was your relationship with music as a kid?
My mom said that the only thing that would keep me from crying was country music, so it stems all the way back. I walked around as a 2-year-old with a Walkman on listening to country music. I was five years old telling my parents I wanted to sing at the Grand Ole Opry, eight years old singing in talent shows singing country music, 11 was touring in a bluegrass band, 16 doing Dollywood, 18 moving to Nashville. It’s just been a constant quest of country music.
For a while, you were picking up odd jobs like cleaning Airbnbs to support your music career. What was going through your head when you were trying to have this breakthrough moment and it wasn’t happening?
Sadness, fear… I definitely would be lying to you if I said there were moments when I didn’t know if I could handle it anymore. I also felt like, with each step or setback in my career, there was still something in me that told me it was going to work out. Even if it wasn’t directly getting from point A to point B, there was something that told me this wasn’t going to be forever.
I’ve always been somebody that doesn’t put pride in front of things. I’ll do whatever I have to do to make ends meet or get a paycheck or be able to get to the next gig or not have to have a 9 to 5 job that keeps me from writing songs in the day or playing shows at night, so Airbnb and nannying helped me do that. I just kept trying to remember that it was only going to be for a short period of time.
Why do you think now is the time? And do you look back and think, ‘I’m so happy that now this is working out and that it didn’t happen a few years ago?’
That’s the thing I’m most thankful for, that I didn’t get it when I thought I should have. I’ve had eight years in town watching as friends blow up and become country music stars, and I’ve had eight years of watching friends blow up and come right back down. I’ve been able to be a backup singer with Lucy Hill from Pretty Little Liars. I’ve been a duet partner with the Josh Abbott band. I’ve seen so many different scenarios happen.
Being on the sideline, being the back mic and not the front mic, having time to build my team, having time to grow up as a woman, having time to grow up as a performer. It is the right timing, but I’ve had eight years of behind the scenes grooming in my personal life as Carly but also as Carly Pearce to make the most of this moment. And it’s also a great time for female artists.
Country is a male dominated genre, and you’re the only female artist currently in the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot Country chart. In what way is it your responsibility to be more inclusive of female artists and represent that space in country music?
It’s such an honor to be the only female. I feel so proud to be representing females in the Top 10. I feel that it’s a wonderful time for females because the girls that came before me are so defined as artists and have such a lane in the way that I feel like Dolly, Reba McEntire, Faith Hill and Sarah Evans all had identities and lanes and a format and really were amazing and had something to say and were speaking to all the women. And even the males wanted to hear them too.
I think it’s our responsibility, and I don’t think that gender will be an issue if women continue to be 100% authentic to who they are. I used to think that being over the age of 22 was not to be celebrated, and I think now as a woman in her twenties and being OK with that and settling in with that and making music that identifies with so many people is how the women are going to get across the way Shania did. I think it’s an exciting time because people like Kelsea Ballerini and Maren Morris have given me the opportunity to even come through.
So, what’s next?
We just started touring a couple nights ago. The Brett Young Caliville tour. Obviously, Brett exploded onto the scene, but he and I have played a lot of writers’ rounds and house concerts together in Nashville for the last five years, so it’s a very big full circle moment for us. I just released the album, so that’s a big excitement. I’m touring the rest of the year and in the spring and continuing to hopefully have people not identify me as a song but as an artist.
I knew Brett for five years prior to either one of us having songs on the radio, and we were always one of each other’s first calls in Nashville when we were putting together writers’ rounds and we’re going to get to collaborate on the tour and sing a song together and it’s just been fun for me to watch him turn into a superstar and be selling out these shows and getting to be on stage instead of the way that we used to do shows, which was with no microphone in somebody’s living room with the kitchen chairs – literally. And just to watch what he’s doing and see his fans. I feel like we’re both similar artists in the sense that, if you’re coming to our shows, you’re coming to hear that songs.
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