2017 has been an outstanding year for Carly Pearce. A record deal, a number 1 song, an album and the kind of attention usually reserved for Nashville superstars. We were lucky enough to chat to her about it all recently.
Thanks for speaking to us – 2017 must have been beyond your wildest dreams?
That’s a great way of putting it! Absolutely. Getting a record deal, putting out the album, a gold number 1 single – that’s all happened this year. My home town, in Kentucky, have even given me my own day now, so every December 13th will be known as ‘Carly Pearce Day’! It’s crazy!
Are you enjoying it and taking it in or does everything seem like a roller-coaster right now?
I’m trying to take it in the best I can, it is absolutely a roller-coaster, you’re right, but I think over the Christmas holidays I’m going to try an decompress and understand what’s happened this year!
Not to add any stress or pressure to you right now, but when can we expect to see you over here in the UK?
There are no set plans as of right now, but I do know that I am supposed to be coming sometime next year. Brett Young, who I have been touring with, and so many of my friends have told me how great it is playing in the UK and I was supposed to be coming over for the C2C Festival, but I got offered the opening slot on the Blake Shelton tour and you don’t turn that down!! I am coming in 2018 though, I promise!
The song that started this all off was ‘Every Little Thing’. Was that written about one specific relationship or is it an amalgam of feelings?
Oh, it was definitely written about ONE relationship and ONE guy who broke my heart! It’s crazy how it all happened, my producer, busbee, and I knew we wanted to write a haunting ballad and I’m a huge fan of Alison Krauss – just her relationship with those haunting melodies – I love that so much. This particular relationship has probably ended about two years before we wrote ‘Every Little Thing’, but I knew I needed to write about it and put one last nail in the coffin, so to speak. So we pulled Emily Shackleton in, I told her all about it and we wrote the song in 45 minutes!! That and ‘If My Name was Whiskey’ was one of the fastest co-writes I’ve ever done.
Does the guy concerned know it’s about him?
(laughing) I would say by now he does, yes! I’ve not spoken to him in years – he’s a Country music fan, so I’m fine with being his little nightmare every time he gets in the car and turns the radio on!!
When you were 16 years old, you dropped out of school and went to sing at Dollywood. That must have taken some guts!?
Yeah, or just stupidity! (more laughter) I have always loved Country music, as weird as it sounds I’ve always felt my destiny has been to sing Country music. I was a very good student, very regimented. I wasn’t running from anything, so they trusted me. So I moved and ended up doing six shows a day, 5 days a week! I was home-schooling, so I could finish high school at the same time and my mum moved with me, which meant both of us had to have a period of time away from my dad. I was in Pigeon Forge (the town where Dollywood is based) for two years, one year at Dollywood and a year at a Country show in the town.
And What did those two years teach you about yourself?
I think it taught me a lot of things. It taught me how to put on a show every day and even if it was my fifth show of the day it was somebody in the audience’s first. I had no understudy, so I couldn’t play hookey or be sick ever. I had to learn how to sing sick. I missed my senior prom, had to live apart from my family. I learned sacrifice, I learned scheduling and all those things that really stand you in good stead for later life.
You then moved to Nashville in 2009 and got a development deal with Sony that didn’t work out.
I got the deal with Sony in 2012 and it was totally the wrong thing for me. I was 22 and letting everyone else tell me who I was and what I should be. I would sit through meetings and instinctively know that this wasn’t the kind of music I wanted to make. My A&R person got fired then I got let go and that turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. Every single percentage of what I am putting out right now is what I’ve always wanted to do.
How are Big Machine different then, what is it about them that is letting you flourish as an artist?
What is so unique and special about my situation is that Scott Borchetta (head of Big Machine Records) and the rest of the label view me as a partner. It’s collaborative – he respects me and respects what I want to do. Scott has always said that the reason he was drawn to me is because of what I’ve been able to do on my own. I genuinely feel like I work with the best people in the business and have the best record deal imaginable! In the end if you don’t have a team behind you that really believes in you it’s not going to work, no matter how talented you are.
We really love your album and would like to ask you about some of the songs.
Go right ahead!
When you are in a relationship are you always the colour or are you sometimes the lines? (A reference to the chorus of ‘Color’) (American spelling!)
Ummm. I think you can be both, there are ebbs and flows in all relationships. I think that what makes a beautiful relationship is when you can intertwine and be both lines and colour and be whatever the person who you are with needs you to be.
There are lots of clever, modern-themed lyrics on the album.
Thank you, that means a lot. I’m trying to look out at the world through the eyes of a 20-something whilst backing that with a sort of timeless Country sound.
‘Catch Fire’ seems to have a Sheryl Crow type sound – was she one of your influences?
I loved the late 90’s and early 2000’s women. People like Trisha Yearwood, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Alison Krauss, but I also love strong women. Sheryl Crow was so unapologetically herself, so was Shania. ‘Catch Fire’ reminds me a little bit of Shania – you know, the way she came out in the leopard-skin outfit and showed her belly and everyone was like, what?! ‘Catch Fire’ is very bold – stating what this girl wants. If the boys can talk about wanting a girl, why can’t we talk about wanting a guy in the same way?
You didn’t write ‘I Need a Ride Home’, but it feels like a very personal song.
Oh my. ‘Ride Home’ is a great example of why I love Country. The women I loved, Trisha, Shania, Martina, and Reba – they all built careers on songs they didn’t write. I wrote 8 of the 13 on the album, but this one cried out to me. The tattoo on my arm is for my grandfather, as is the feather in my logo – I was such a home girl with a love for my family and I got to tell Hillary Lindsey that story and we both cried and I said that I felt she had written my song in ‘I Need a Ride Home’. We all take our family for granted and as teenagers we hate our parents and want to runaway and grow up, but then you reach that point where you think, wait a minute, it wasn’t so bad!
‘Hide the Wine’ is your new single. How’s that being received?
It’s a good departure from ‘Every Little Thing’. When I was on my radio tour and playing live, ‘Hide the Wine’ was the standout, best received song. I think that it’s a fun, bold statement from a female singer, to talk about alcohol in that way. I think a lot of females my age have had that kind of experience with both alcohol and men! It’s fun and I love red wine too. ‘Every Little Thing’ has pushed me to be brave. It’s funny that I’ve been called a rule breaker, because all I did was release a ballad as a female artist for my debut single! Kelsea Ballerini is a little younger than me and Maren Morris isn’t as Country as me so there’s a free area or realm for me to be exactly what I want to be, which is a sort of new version of someone like Faith Hill or Trisha Yearwood – that’s where I see myself. A real woman, in my late 20’s whose heart is well and truly in Country music and I feel like ‘Hide the Wine’ shows that.
Thank you for speaking to us – what are your plans for Christmas?
(laughing) Christmas is going to involve yoga pants and no make-up!! I’ll be spending time with my family and trying to take it all in.