Carly Pearce never expected to be that Grammy girl
Beyoncé may have set an all-time Grammy record this month. Harry Styles may have taken home the coveted album of the year. But neither had the kind of Grammy night that Carly Pearce did.
One nomination — her first ever — and one win. No grumbling about the ones that got away.
Pearce triumphed for best country performance by a duo/group for “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” with Ashley McBryde. Flabbergasted at the Grammys with her victory, Pearce burst into euphoric babble, punctuated with a couple of OMGs.
A few days later, she had a little perspective.
“It’s hard to even put into words what a Grammy nomination means, let alone a win,” said the rising Nashville star. “To see all the ways (the song) has transcended every stereotypical roadblock that it could have had — with the subject matter (having an affair with a married man) and two female artists on country radio and now to see it make history at the Grammys feels like the most perfect ending of the most beautiful ride with this song.”
Pearce and McBryde bested some pretty heavyweight duos, including Robert Plant/Alison Krauss and Dolly Parton/Reba McEntire, singers who have a bunch of Grammys.
“Never Wanted to Be That Girl” was the first duet by women to top the country chart since “Does He Love You” by McEntire and Linda Davis in 1993.
In 2019, Pearce landed at No. 1 on the country list with the duet “I Hope You’re Happy Now” with Lee Brice. She wanted to write a duet and sing it with another woman.
“We didn’t have a hook, a title we were dying to write. So we just started talking and telling this story and we didn’t know where it was going,” she recalled. “We started to write what we were just talking about. I’ve never had a songwriting session quite like that.”
Pearce said she and McBryde were both willing to be vulnerable and willing to address a subject that some women experience but don’t discuss.
“It’s such a blessing to be part of a genre that allows you to make real stories come to life,” Pearce said.
The tune was the second single from Pearce’s acclaimed third album, 2021’s “29: Written in Stone.” It was her divorce record, filled with painful and penetrating songs like “Messy” and “Diamondback” about her eight-month marriage to singer-songwriter Michael Ray.
The centerpiece is “29.”
“The year that I got married and divorced
Held on for dear life but I still fell off the horse
From a Miss to Mrs.
Then the other way around
The year I was goin’ live it up
Now I’m never going to live it down”
“I wrote that song really not knowing if anyone would ever hear it but needing to write it for myself,” Pearce said. “It’s become an anthem for a lot of people. As a songwriter, it’s definitely my most proud moment I think I’ll ever have.”
The album contained another classic, though it’s not related to divorce.
“Dear Miss Loretta” is a tribute to Loretta Lynn, whose songwriting inspired Pearce, a fellow Kentucky native.
“I didn’t get to meet her,” Pearce said of the legend, who died last year. “The fact that she got to hear my song and I have that little voicemail memo (from her) forever is really special to me.”
Now 32 years old, Pearce is about halfway through the recording of her fourth studio album, working again with producers Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne.
“Thirty-two has its own struggle; 32 is strong and really sure of herself and even more country than 29 but you wonder how I could do that, but I did it,” she said.
One new number is called “Trust Issues.”
“It’s about trying to figure out how to love somebody after you’ve been hurt. It’s a love song to my now boyfriend. I can do love songs.”
There’s no release date set for the album but meanwhile Pearce will drop a live disc, “29: Written in Stone (Live from Music City),” on March 24.
She toured hard behind “29,” not only mounting her own headline trek but also opening for Kenny Chesney last summer at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Carly, Kelsea, Kelly collaboration
Even though Pearce is only four months younger than Taylor Swift, she didn’t release her debut until 2017. Her first single, “Every Little Thing,” went to No. 1 in Nashville.
Pearce has found a way to boost her profile in country music by twice hosting the TV programs “CMA Christmas” and “ACM Honors.”
“It’s just another way to show your personality and grow your brand,” she said, sounding like a committed careerist. “And another way for me to be challenged.”
Always looking for a challenge, Pearce collaborated with her pals Kelsea Ballerini and Kelly Clarkson on the song “You’re Drunk, Go Home,” which they sang on the CMA Awards in November.
Pearce met Ballerini years ago in a support group for young artists sponsored by a Nashville songwriters organization.
“We kind of bonded,” Pearce recalled. “When she had success and I wasn’t, she took me on the road. We just maintained a friendship.
“If you can find girlfriends in this industry who know what it’s like to be an artist, it’s fun to see each other through life’s crazy ups and downs. We’ve had a lot of similarities over the last few years.”
Like going through divorce.
“She was there for me during mine and I’ve been there for her. That’s kind of what matters,” Pearce continued. “Obviously, we’re artists and that’s fun but to just be able to be friends and help each other when the cameras are off and the microphones are not on, that’s rare.”
Pearce fantasizes about a tour with Ballerini and Clarkson, another recent divorcee, if their schedules somehow align.
“Oh, gosh. That would be a wild time, wouldn’t it?” Pearce said. “I’d be totally down to do it, though. It would be super fun.”