Carly Pearce swears she’s not always depressed.
In fact, the country music singer is quite happy these days. Her first single, “Every Little Thing,” is currently sitting at number seven on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and in heavy rotation on the radio dial.
It’s a heartfelt ballad that relates the story of a breakup where she recalls every little thing — “the high, the hurt, the shine, the sting” — that her former love said, did and touched.
The song led to a record contract with Big Machine Label Group, which released her debut album last week.
The song is also unique in that it breaks the mold for first singles, particularly for women in country music, because it’s a ballad rather than an up-tempo toe-tapper.
Her second song, “If My Name Was Whiskey,” is also a slow number and tells of the trials of being involved with someone who’d rather be drinking than spending time with her.
“I am happy, I swear,” the 27-year-old said during a media whirlwind in New York City for the album release. “I think the most exciting thing for me about the album is that people are going to see I’m not depressed all the time. I’m not always sad and I don’t always have bad relationships. I like to have fun and I promise you, I’ve been in love.”
So she’s excited that her next release, “Hide the Wine,” is more upbeat. The song warns she needs to keep the chardonnay in the cabinet so she doesn’t wind up in the arms of an old flame.
Although Pearce has been singing her whole life, she admits that this overnight success is a bit overwhelming.
“It’s crazy. I feel like the last eight years have gone by so slow and the last eight months have been a tornado,” she said. “I dreamt of it, it was always the goal, but I can’t compute that’s what happened.”
Pearce, a Kentucky native, joined a bluegrass brand at age 11 and then left high school at 16 for a job performing at Dollywood. After moving to Nashville, she did a number of odd jobs — cleaning AirBnBs, nanny duty — as she continued to plug away at her dream of hitting the big time.
One of her closest friends in town is Brett Young, who has also found success on the country charts of late, and she’ll tour the country with him on his Caliville Tour for the rest of the year.
“We’ve known each other for around four years,” she said. “We were always one of the first calls for each other when we were putting together writers’ rounds or house concerts in Nashville. We literally have played the very songs you’re now hearing on the radio on kitchen stools at whoever’s house we were playing for tips.”
But that was before Sirius XM radio selected “Every Little Thing” as one of its Highway Finds and changed her life forever. “I put out that song independently and they are responsible for even giving me the opportunity to have people hear it,” she admitted.
And although it’s a ballad, Pearce was still able to make it a hit, something she attributes to the raw emotions in the song.
“If you look at our format, from Florida Georgia Line to Chris Stapleton to Maren Morris to Kelsea Ballerini, there’s a common thread — and I would put myself in there — they’re all creating music that is 100 percent authentic to them and carving out lanes for themselves as true artists. And I think when you are bold enough to do that, it makes a statement, whether you are able to have radio success or not.
“For me, I just told my story of heartbreak and that song is exactly the way I wanted it to sound, regardless if it was ever heard by anybody or on radio,” she added.
And although Bro Country continues to rule the airwaves, making it hard for women to break through, Pearce has managed to find success as the only solo female currently in the top 10 on the Billboard charts.
“I disagree that it can’t happen,” she said. “If it wasn’t me that had the song that is seemingly breaking through, it would be someone else. Yes, it’s reality that a lot of programmers don’t want to play women back to back and there are very few women on the charts, but they’re also allowing women like me who have a heartbreak ballad to be on the radio. It’s just a cycle we have to get through. We have to be willing and brave and bold enough to create the most authentic music we can and not give into the boys and let them know we’ll work as hard as them.”
Pearce’s hard work also paid off when it was announced earlier this week that she’ll be touring next year with Blake Shelton and Thomas Rhett.
This will also fulfill her love of playing in front of a live audience. “I love to write, but there’s nothing like being on stage,” she said. “Whether it’s seeing someone singing back the lyrics to your song or having a great time at your show, that’s the payoff for the hours you spend writing the songs.”
Although her style is distinct, Pearce cites everyone from Dolly Parton, Trisha Yearwood and Faith Hill as influences, along with Alison Krauss and Sonya Isaacs. “I would say the late Nineties/early Aughts women are the most influential for me because they had the real country tones and textures to their voices. They were all out at the same time cutting great songs along with people like Reba, Martina McBride and Sara Evans but they all had their own identity.”
Creating her own identity in fashion is also something new to Pearce who admits she buys most of her clothes online while traveling between shows.
“If I had to describe my style, it’s Western meets bohemian,” she said. “I’m really tall so you won’t see me in a pair of stilettos unless I have to go to an awards show or something like that. I have a huge bootie collection, I love Jeffrey Campbell booties, they’re my favorites. I love high-waisted jeans, different jackets and floral prints. I like a lot of darker colors and layering with jackets. I love leather and suede and burn-out velvet — the different kind of patterns and textures. I’m not a real girly-girl, but I have a little bit of an edge in how I dress.”
And now that she’s made her mark on the country charts, awards shows are definitely in her future. “I think I’ve only walked two red carpets — the first one I was totally in a daze since I’d just gotten my record deal and was freaking out. The second, I ordered the dress offline during my radio tour and my mom got me ready. I call it the evolution of the artist. If you look at a photo of me from January to now, I’ve evolved by figuring out my style and what exactly that is for me.”