The Borneo Post (Sabah)
Carly Pearce releases powerful revenge album
COUNTRY singer Carly Pearce remembers a phone call she had with one of her best friends last year during a strange and painful time shortly before she turned 30. Very few people knew it yet, but she was in the process of separating from her husband, fellow Nashville singer Michael Ray, whom she had wed several months prior. Pearce told her former bridesmaid, “I think I’m going to write a record and write a song called ‘29,’ about the year I got married and divorced.”
Her friend was skeptical. “She said, ‘You’re going to do what?!’” Pearce recalled in a recent interview from Nashville. “I just remember her being like, ‘I don’t know if you should do that.’”
It was a fair reaction – it can be risky to share your personal life if you’re in the public eye. But Pearce, one of Nashville’s breakout stars over the past several years, has always written candid songs. She didn’t see that changing anytime soon.
“I didn’t really know how to do anything except be honest,” Pearce said. “So I made the decision to say: ‘I unapologetically went through this and there’s no way to go around it. And I’m just going to share it with you.’ “
Pearce, who will perform Sunday at the Academy of Country Music Awards and is nominated for multiple trophies, released ‘29’ in February to critical acclaim. The collection of seven powerfully written songs includes her single ‘Next Girl,’ currently in the Top 25 on country radio, along with ‘90s country-inspired tracks that chronicle the spectrum of heartbreak.
The music has also made an impact on listeners in a way she never expected. She has received hundreds of messages from strangers who told her things such as ‘You made me feel like it’s OK to be in my 20s and go through a divorce’ or ‘You gave me the strength to file for divorce.’
“I carried so much shame in the beginning, and I feel like now, through telling my story, I’ve healed and I’m also helping other people to heal,” Pearce said. “My purpose has just grown so much.”
In that sense, ‘29’ serves as a unique type of revenge album – not in the ‘burn it all down’ kind of way, but rather showing that living well is the best revenge. “I certainly was not trying to be vengeful.
But I would be lying to you if I didn’t go, ‘Damn! Alright.’ You know, hold my head a little higher,” she laughed. Although
Pearce is careful to say that not all the songs mirror her real-life situation, listeners will inevitably read between the lines.
A Kentucky native, Pearce got her first big break as a singer in high school, when she landed a gig as a performer at Dollywood. She moved to Nashville several years later and connected with pop producer Busbee in 2015. Along with Emily Shackleton, they wrote the heartbreak ballad ‘Every Little Thing.’
When the song blew up on SiriusXM’s country station ‘The Highway’ and started selling thousands of copies a week, Big Machine Label Group founder Scott Borchetta offered Pearce a record deal. The ballad eventually went No. 1.
Pearce just celebrated her fourth anniversary with Big Machine and her second No. 1 hit. Her wistful duet with Lee Brice, ‘I Hope You’re Happy Now,’ hit the top of the country charts last summer. The two will perform it at the ACM Awards; producers announced Thursday that it already won musical event of the year. (It’s also nominated for single of the year.)
It was also the last song that Busbee, 43, produced before he died of brain cancer in September 2019. The music community was stunned by his death, and Pearce was devastated. As her good friend and closest collaborator, she couldn’t envision her music without him. Her new ballad ‘Show Me Around,’ also featured on ‘29,’ imagines a day when they’ll see each other again.
“It’s taken on its own little life of helping other people with dealing with loss, because all of us have dealt with so much loss, especially in this crazy year,” Pearce said. “I learned so much from him that I keep alive as I move forward.”
Right now, Pearce is trying to stay focused on the silver linings of a difficult year, such as her ACM nomination for female vocalist of the year.
Just being included in that highly competitive category “makes me feel like I’ve already won, because it’s really hard to get in there,” she said.
She’s also emotional about the mere idea of possibly resuming tours in the near future.
As much as her music may have helped her fans, the feeling was mutual.