It didn’t exactly take ten years for Carly Pearce to break through in Nashville, which insiders often refer to as a “ten-year town.” Actually, she’s a couple years ahead of schedule. The 27-year-old singer from Kentucky moved to Nashville at age 19 after a stint as a cast member at Dollywood. One developmental record label deal failed to pan out but Pearce kept on pushing and plugging away. This past year, though, she not only secured a contract with Big Machine Records but scored a Top 10 with her debut single, “Every Little Thing.” The album of the same title was released October 13.
At a time when female artists find it difficult to crack the charts, Pearce burst through with an alternately catchy and heartbreaking tune, delivering it with a distinct and powerful vocal. “I wrote the song after a heartbreak, and it was really done for therapy reasons,” she explains. “I wasn’t really sure that anybody would ever hear it. I never thought this would be the song that would break me as an artist.”
Listeners definitely gravitated to its real-life emotion. “The song is 100 percent my story,” Pearce says. “But we wanted to make it universal as well. I think it’s important that people can identify with a song. So many of the singers that I idolize, like Trisha Yearwood and Shania Twain, had songs that you could relate to.” Pearce wrote “Every Little Thing” with Emily Shackelton and the singularly-named busbee, who also produced Pearce’s album.
“Every Little Thing” spawned the album, which showcases Pearce’s exciting voice along with her songwriting chops. She had a hand in writing eight of the 13 cuts, including the popular “If My Name Was Whiskey,” “Color,” and others. “I think people will get to know me through this record,” Pearce says excitedly. “I’m so proud of the album as a whole.”
There was a time, however, when a full album seemed a dream that might never be fulfilled. Pearce has been planning this career path since her teen years in Kentucky, and wasted little time pursuing that goal. At the age of 11, she was singing with a bluegrass band. The keenly-focused youngster dropped out of school at age 16 to move to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., home of the Dollywood theme park, where she performed five times a week. “I convinced my parents to let me be home schooled,” she says. “Dollywood was a musical college, for sure. It was hard at times, but I learned a lot of great lessons.”
Pearce brought those lessons to Nashville in 2009. She performed at the famed Bluebird Cafe and sang backup for “Pretty Little Lies” star Lucy Hale. In 2016, she garnered considerable attention for her vocals on the Josh Abbott Band song, “Wasn’t That Drunk.” But it was “Every Little Thing,” first played on Sirius XM’s “The Highway” channel, that led to her signing with Big Machine Records.
Now, she has the album under her belt, a national tour with Brett Young, and around 50 performances on the venerable Grand Ole Opry, marking another career wish come true. “Oh my gosh, I’ve dreamed of playing the Opry my whole life,” Pearce says in an enthusiastic tone. “Even as a little girl, I would think what it would be like to be on the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry has always been so welcoming and the audiences there are so supportive. I love the Opry so much.”
Pearce stands as the model for perseverance and stick-to-it grit, even in light of losing her early developmental deal in 2012. She has admitted to periods of doubt, but never did she think about packing it all in and saying goodbye to Music City.
“Looking back, I’m so thankful now that I didn’t get all this right out of the gate,” Pearce candidly offers. “I might not have been mature enough to handle it. It will be a very busy year, for sure. But the opportunity to get to do this is just amazing.”