Many country fans are pinning a lot of hopes on Carly Pearce. The Big Machine recording artist, who releases her debut album Every Little Thing this Friday (October 13), has already hit the top ten on the Hot Country Songs chart with the set’s breakout title track, where it is currently sits at No. 9.
Throw in the fact that the song has a decidedly traditional sound to it, and there are many in the industry that are proclaiming Pearce as a torch-carrier for both her gender and the throwback style. No pressure, right?
“It’s very nerve-wracking,” Pearce tells Billboard with a laugh. But, she also states she’s been waiting for this opportunity for years. “I think that I know in my heart that I am making music that I would bet my life on. I know 100 percent that I want my career to lie in the country music world. I’m just trying to make the best music that I can. I’m just crossing my fingers and hope that it translates, and maybe I can be a light for other people that might have struggled.”
She knows a good deal about that struggle from her own pre-breakthrough experience. “I did live in Nashville for about eight years before anything happened,” she points out. “I was passed on a lot, and got told no a lot. But, here I am, so it can happen. It can turn around for anybody.”
Pearce had independently released “Every Little Thing,” and had watched as SiriusXM’s J.R. Schumann added the song to the playlist of the network’s The Highway channel. While she is quick to credit the radio executive for shining the spotlight on her, she admits she was none too pleased with his decision — at first.
“I remember that J.R. made me very angry the first time he told me that he was going to make me ‘The Highway Find’ with ‘Every Little Thing,'” she recalls, “because I thought there was no way that a ballad about heartbreak was going to break me. I was trying to get him to play another song. I remember him asking me ‘Are you ready for this song to change your life?’ I just rolled my eyes,” she recalls.
But, it was the exposure on The Highway that first made her feel that the time just might be right for her to break through musically. “I think I started to feel it when it first came out — before I had a record deal. With the sales, and the performance on the iTunes chart, it made me think, ‘OK, maybe people like it.’ As more and more people began to sing it back to me at shows, I think I thought it might be a song that translated to people,” she says happily.
Every Little Thing is very near to Pearce’s heart, as the newcomer had a hand in writing eight of the set’s 13 tracks. She feels that each song will let the listener in on who she is. “I think you only make your debut album once, and you only get that one chance to make a first impression. I wanted to name the album Every Little Thing, because these songs represent every aspect of me, as well as what has influenced me from a musical standpoint to the people on my life who have impacted me both negatively, as well as positively… I feel like you hear my personal story throughout the whole album.”
One track that she thinks might surprise listeners is the flirty feel of “Everybody Gonna Talk,” which she says is very different from the song listeners know her for. “I think it’s going to be nice for people to hear this album and find out that I’m not just this super-depressed heartbreak ballad singer. I do have fun, and I’m sassy. That was written about growing up around the south, where everybody has an opinion, and maybe somebody has an opinion about a guy that you date. But, you don’t really care. You’re just going to be a little bit bad and do it anyway.”
Then, on the other hand of the emotional and sound spectrum, she casts a deeply emotional feel on the inspiring “You Know Where to Find Me,” a song which she says she hopes many can relate to.
“This was the first song that I ever wrote with my producer, busbee. We had actually just met that day, and co-wrote it with Emily Shackleton, who wrote ‘Every Little Thing’ with us. I think the song is such a universal thing. When you feel lost, confused, or defeated, you have to find that constant. Maybe that’s within yourself, or finding that person who gets you, and can bring you back to center.”
And, for Pearce, that constant is music. After all, this is a woman from Taylor Mill, Kentucky, who made several trips to Nashville growing up, and became enchanted by the musical aura of the area. Some of those pilgrimages were for the annual CMA Music Festival — back when the event was called Fan Fair. You might have even stood in line with Pearce to meet some of your favorites.
“When I was eleven, I convinced the owner of [historic Nashville honky-tonk] Tootsie’s to let me sit in with the house band and sing ‘I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart’ when I was coming as a fan to see Fan Fair,” she remembers. “I remember going to the convention center, and standing in line – maybe even cutting line – so I could meet SHeDAISY, Billy Gilman, LeAnn Rimes, The Wilkinsons, and all those people that I loved so much.”
Flash forward to 2017, and she’s now humbled and honored to take her spot in the Country Music family. “This has absolutely been my dream since I was a little girl,” she says with pride. “It’s all I have ever wanted to do. Country music is where my heart feels the most understood in my life. Every dream I have ever had is coming true.”