"I kind of take you through the journey and show you that even if you have struggles or whatnot, you can get to the other side, and it's okay," the Kentucky-born singer-songwriter tells Apple Music. "And life is meant to kind of twist and turn and sometimes surprise us." At age 29, Carly Pearce had a year full of milestones—some good, others less so. Her star was rising as a country singer-songwriter, but she also went through a painful divorce and lost a close friend and collaborator when beloved producer busbee died at age 43. The seven-track 29 EP, which comes on the heels of 2020's Carly Pearce, chronicles not just the events of that year but the lessons that it taught Pearce, many of which she hopes to pass on to her listeners. Opener "Next Girl" channels one of Pearce's idols, Patty Loveless, for an anthem about moving on. "Should've Known Better" grapples with hindsight and accountability with frank compassion. And the title track challenges conventional notions of what one is supposed to achieve by the end of their twenties, reminding listeners that it's okay to take a unique path. Below, Pearce walks Apple Music through each of 29's cathartic songs.
Next Girl "'Next Girl' was such a turning point for me, as far as just really stepping into the kind of country music that I always wanted to make. I grew up on Patty Loveless and Lee Ann Womack and Faith Hill and all of those ladies that I feel did that kind of rootsy, unapologetic female anthem so well. And it was so awesome to hear the way that we just really brought to life all of those influences that I loved. And it's just kind of what, to me, Patty Loveless' 'Blame It on Your Heart' would be in 2021."
Should’ve Known Better "That one I actually wrote with two of my dearest friends in the industry, and it came from just a really honest, vulnerable place of trying to not assign blame for things that maybe you overlooked. And I think that that song in particular was kind of my quest, to try to not do that to myself, but I hadn't quite allowed myself to forgive myself for that. I think we all have moments of that."
29 "I've played '29' for some of my friends, and they're very similarly saying to me, 'We know this is your story, but I hear myself in this.' And I think that's just kind of the universal message of why I named the collection 29, which I feel like is a pivotal year for people. You are old enough to know better, but you still have wonder, and you're still excited about life, but maybe things in life didn't turn out exactly as you thought that they might. And you kind of feel like, 'Oh my goodness, am I running out of time? Because I feel old now.' And for me, 29 was a huge year. I lost a lot of things. I lost my producer, and I also clearly went through a super painful divorce and never thought that was going to be a part of my story."
Liability "I had that idea, the double meaning of liability, and it was kind of one of those moments where you go, 'This is either really awesome or really stupid.' My favorite line in that song is 'The truth about a lie is it ain't never made to last,' and I think that's true in all things in life, and not just in the relationship world, but also the lies that we tell ourselves. And I think there's a lot of things that I had to silence my inner voice on, in my process of writing this album, of just that thing—we're not always nice to ourselves."
Messy "Going through a divorce during quarantine was not pleasant. But, kind of like piggybacking on what I just said about not being good to ourselves, I think that song was me wanting people to know that when you're going through something difficult, you're going to have moments where you think you're fine. I think, especially in our society today—certainly in my position of being somebody in the public eye—you want to act like you're perfect. And I think this song was me telling myself, and also hopefully telling others, that it's okay to not be okay. And that you need to love yourself and love the process of grief."
Show Me Around "I flew out to busbee's funeral the week after I got married, and Barry Dean, who's a writer that just is so poetic, he started speaking of heaven like Disneyland and said that he felt like busbee was finding all of the special parts to show his daughters and his wife and all of us when we got there. And I wrote 'Show Me Around' in my phone. And faith is a really big part of my life and it was a big part of busbee's, and so I had no doubt that he was in heaven and I had no doubt that this was the right messaging for him. I took it to two of his very close friends, and we wrote it and it's kind of taken on its own little life for other people. And I hope that it just brings people hope that loss can be something that's kind of bittersweet and they live on and you'll see them again."
Day One "Shane [McAnally] and Josh [Osborne] actually had started that idea with Matt Ramsey from Old Dominion, and they were like, 'Man, we just could never figure out what it was missing, but it was never quite right.' You feel like there is no way you're ever going to get over this person, but if you can just make it through the first day, you're on the right track. And this song just kind of takes you through that time of trying to realize if you can just take that first step, all these other things are going to happen."