Carly Pearce Talks About Her Acclaimed Album, 29: Written In Stone, And Her Hit Songs “Next Girl,” “Never Wanted To Be That Girl,” “What He Didn’t Do”

Carly Pearce
Carly Pearce
(photo credit: Allister Ann)

Over the past five years, Carly Pearce has made the transition from being a promising newcomer, to becoming one of the most acclaimed, leading female artists in country music. Last fall, the CMA named her Female Vocalist of the Year, and she’s also won ACM awards. In addition, she’s now a mainstay on the Billboard country charts, with a steady flow of hit singles.

Earlier in her career, Pearce had success with her first two albums: Every Little Thing (in 2017) and Carly Pearce (2020). But it’s been the very positive response to her latest album, 29: Written in Stone (on Big Machine Records), that has taken Pearce’s career to a new high. This album has received excellent reviews, as well as strong support by her fans and the country music community. Notably, it was named one of the best albums of 2021 by Billboard and the New York Times.

29: Written in Stone is a very personal, heartfelt album that contains 15 songs that Pearce co-wrote, that were inspired by the traumatic divorce she experienced after being married to country singer, Michael Ray. Pearce filed for divorce in June 2020, just eight months after getting married. This album is full of emotional, thoughtful and insightful songs about what she went through during that period.

For the album, Pearce collaborated with top Nashville songwriters & producers Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne on several songs, including the superb title cut, “29.”  The song “29” is a starkly honest and intimate ballad, where Pearce explains how she got married and divorced in the same year, when she was 29. She also wrote songs with other hit songwriters such as Ashley Gorley, Natalie Hemby, Brandy Clark, Nicolle Galyon and Emily Shackleton. And for her current hit “Never Wanted To Be That Girl,” Pearce teamed up with hit artist Ashley McBryde to write this song, and they sang a duet together.

Besides the strong songwriting, Pearce is receiving accolades for her expressive, soulful lead vocals on the album. This has led to her being named CMA Female Vocalist of the Year, and the ACM has nominated her for four awards: Female Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Music Event of the Year and Video of the Year.

We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Carly Pearce. She discusses the making of her album, 29: Written in Stone, and she tells the stories behind writing these songs. But before we get started, here’s a rundown of her music career and hits leading up to her latest album.

Here’s the video of Carly Pearce & Ashley McBryde’s hit,
“Never Wanted To Be That Girl.”

It was in October 2017 that Pearce released her debut album Every Little Thing, which contained the #1 hit “Every Little Thing” plus two other chart singles. Then in February 2020, she released her second album, Carly Pearce, that included the #1 hit “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” which was a duet with Lee Brice. Impressively, both the CMA and ACM named “I Hope You’re Happy Now” the Musical Event of the Year, and ACM voted it Single of the Year.

Then in September 2020, Pearce released her single “Next Girl,” which was a hit and was included on her 7-song EP, 29, that came out in February 2021. This EP laid the foundation for the subsequent release of her 15-song album, 29: Written in Stone.

Currently, Pearce is headlining her own tour called The 29 Tour. Then in April, she will join country stars Kenny Chesney, Dan & Shay and Old Dominion for the Here And Now Tour, which will consist mostly of stadium shows.

Carly Pearce Interview

Here’s our interview with Pearce:

DK: Congratulations on being named CMA’s Female Vocalist of the Year. How does it feel to win this prestigious honor?

Carly Pearce: Thank you! Receiving the award for Female Vocalist of the Year was a childhood dream of mine and I honestly can’t believe it’s even real. It’s all just been so surreal and I couldn’t be more grateful to be able to share my music and have such a beautiful reception from everyone.

DK: During the past year, you released your EP, 29, and your album, 29: Written in Stone. Can you talk about these two releases, and deciding to devote your album to writing about your divorce?

Pearce: For both of those projects, I knew that I wanted to share my experience of healing after a difficult time in my life. Whether it’s something good that’s happened in my life or something bad, I’ve always been able to turn to music. I am very proud of the 15 songs and the vulnerability that they show because that’s what country music is all about.

Here’s the video of Carly Pearce’s hit, “Next Girl.”

DK: I like your current hit, “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” with Ashley McBryde. How did you decide to collaborate with Ashley and release it as a duet?

Pearce: I had always wanted to work with Ashley, so when I started working on the album, I reached out and asked if she wanted to get to get together and write. We had a really wonderful conversation about finding a perspective that isn’t touched on very often. Ultimately, what we came up with was a song centered around the aftermath of a cheating man from two different perspectives. Once we had the idea nailed down, writing the lyrics came together pretty quickly and it just felt really natural to have this be a duet between the two of us.

DK: Your title song, “29,” is a powerful song that is so personal and emotional. How did you write this song with Shane McAnally & Josh Osborne?

Pearce: “29” was one of the songs that came together the quickest for the album. Shane, Josh and I were in a writing session over Zoom in the early stages of the pandemic and were very inspired to write new music. Even during a time of isolation, we were really able to connect and bring to life a song that we’re very proud of.

DK: The first single from your EP, 29, was your hit, “Next Girl.” What’s the story behind writing this song?

Pearce: We wrote and produced “Next Girl” early on in the pandemic as well. Soon after we finished the song I knew that it had to be the first single. No matter what song it is, I always write what feels authentic to me and my story, with the hopes that someone else has been through a similar experience before as well.

DK: I like your song, “Show Me Around.” The lyric is very unique, and it’s a nice tribute to hit producer & writer, busbee, who passed away. Can you tell me about your creative relationship and friendship with him?

Pearce: As my mentor and friend, busbee always encouraged me to push myself creatively and helped me share parts of my life that I could only explain in my music. He will always hold a very special place in my heart, and I hope “Show Me Around” brings comfort to his wife Jess and their three little girls.There is no way to ease the pain of losing someone you love, but this song felt like a really hopeful way to look at our loved ones meeting us again one day and showing us around.

Here’s the lyric video of Carly Pearce’s song, “29.”

DK: Besides the songs we’ve discussed, what are your other favorite songs on the album?

Pearce: It’s so hard to choose because they are all so special to me, but I really love “What He Didn’t Do.” For me, the overall message of that song is about taking back your worth and telling yourself, ‘I deserve better.’

DK: I read that you’ll be playing many shows, headlining with The 29 Tour and on the Here And Now Tour with Kenny Chesney, Dan & Shay and Old Dominion. Can you talk about these tours?

Pearce: I’ve been very lucky over the years to be able to share the stage with so many country music icons and learn from their shows each night. Everyone has always been so welcoming and friendly, and it’s just a blast to be out on the road with them. Especially this past year after being away from the fans for so long, we couldn’t be more grateful to be playing shows again and sharing our music with fans once again.

Here’s the link to Carly Pearce’s site:

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima