Carly Pearce is having her Charles Dickens year. Like A Tale of Two Cities, it’s been the best of times—winning the 2020 CMA Award for Musical Event of the Year with Lee Brice for their #1 duet, “I Hope You’re Happy Now” (from Pearce’s eponymous 2020 album), and being nominated for three additional CMAs, including Song of the Year—and the worst of times—losing her champion and producer, busbee, while her marriage of 10 months ended in divorce.

Pearce—who in February released the open-diary EP 29 (Big Machine), a self-penned set of ruminations on the state of her life, to critical acclaim—has just landed three ACM Award nominations: Female Artist of the Year, Single of the Year and Music Event of the Year (the latter two for “I Hope You’re Happy Now”), another dizzying pendulum swing (in the right direction, fortunately).

The extremes she’s faced have helped Pearce become a woman to contend with. 

You’ve done it: Female Artist of the Year. I know you’ve worked hard for this.
My whole life! I left school to work at Dollywood and did three to five shows a day because one day, I wanted to be Female Artist of the Year. I hope that doesn’t sound awful, but it’s true—this means everything to me. I could barely take how happy I was when I got the call from [Big Machine Label Group chief] Scott Borchetta. Then watching CBS This Morning and hearing my friend Kelsea [Ballerini, who was co-hosting] say how, because she’d been nominated before, she was almost more excited about me being nominated. That ran right through me like electricity. But, yeah, the ACMs, after all that CMA love? It’s crazy.

At the CMAs, you were nominated with Luke Combs [and their fellow co-writers] for Song of the Year. Now 29 is gaining all kinds of acclaim. Do you think your writing is part of that, maybe as much as the singing?
I do. I take singing very seriously, and I’m so grateful to those Dollywood years for teaching me how to take care of my voice, making me aware that, if this is what you want to do, your vocal cords are everything. When I sing a song, it’s my truth; it’s something I believe in.

But my songwriting is also my voice. And when I write, I write for the women who’re like me, working a job, maybe not finding love, maybe thinking they found it but then finding out they were wrong. The artists I really love—Dolly, Loretta, Patty, Chapin—they told women about their lives, said the things we all struggle with but think it’s only us. To have people see you where you are in those shaky moments? That’s everything. I’m not saying I’m always doing that successfully, but I’m sure trying.

You’ve had a lot to work with.
You’re not kidding. Losing busbee, trying to figure out how to get back to a realer kind of country without him…my marriage blowing up in spite of how hard I tried—when I said, “I do,” I thought I was done. Life has a way of turning that you don’t see coming. You lose people you love. It hurts. I do think music helps you heal—pour all that into songs and you’d be amazed what happens.

“Next Girl” [from 29] feels like one of those great Patty Loveless singles; is that you looking out for your girls, a “girl code” sort of thing?
Girls should look after each other. You know, lean over and be real about whatever’s going on. “Next Girl” comes from the idea of doing the right thing, not letting one of your friends get played by a player. It’s a super-fun song—it was fun to write, to sing, even the video; we had a blast. 

29 moves through a lot of musical and emotional gears. 
It sure does. A lot had happened, which is why we put a record out so quickly. I had so much to say, so many places I wanted to go, and Scott and Allison [Jones, head of BMLG A&R] were so great about letting me. Here we’ve got this #1 song that’s winning awards, and I want to make a new record?

But “29,” “Shoulda Known Better,” “Messy,” “Day One”—they tackle how complicated life and love can be. And “Show Me Around” was the song I wrote for busbee. I still have some of his voice mails; I go back and listen to them… It all felt important for me to share. 


The kids are almighty. (8/2a)
Not your father's Columbia (8/2a)
Happier days are here again. (8/2a)
Look at the guns on these giants. (8/2a)
It's high time for Justice in the Academy. (8/2a)
From tender shoots to mighty oaks.
Let's do the numbers.
It is not the name of a Henry Miller novel.
Could be. Dunno.

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