Carly Pearce

Carly Pearce

“When I first met busbee, I told him, ‘I know you're a pop guy first, but you can't change who I am, which is a country singer,’” says Carly Pearce of the writer-producer, who helped her shape both her 2017 debut Every Little Thing and her new self-titled album before his sudden passing in 2019 from brain cancer. “I felt like really on this record we dialed into the perfect blend of that. He was able, even more on this record than the first, to really push me into seeing where we could take my voice, with it still remaining country.” The final full record that busbee made is powered by sleek, energetic rhythms but colored by incisive licks and solos played on bluegrass-style resonator guitar. “I know that he was very proud of this record and was excited for me, because he really felt like it was going to change the game for me.” Another major event also altered the way Pearce and her fans would experience the songs on her sophomore full-length. When recording began, she was in a new a romance, widely covered by country blogs, with her fellow hitmaker and now-husband Michael Ray. “Forever that will be the start of our relationship,” she says. “We really did fall in love during this record.” Here Pearce walks through each track on her second album.
Closer to You “That song was the right moment to introduce what was going on in my life, which was falling in love. And I didn't want to come out with something that was too heavy right out the gate.”
Call Me “That song was written by the boys of Little Big Town [Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook] with busbee and then with Emily Shackelton, who wrote ‘Every Little Thing’ with me. I could hear in there the sass and the swagger that fits my vibe. I have figured out that fans like sad from me and they like sass from me. I just loved what it said. Yes, I am married, and yes, that's an amazing thing. But that doesn't mean that I don't want to feel sexy and want to sing things like that.”
I Hope You’re Happy Now “‘I Hope You're Happy Now’ was completely my story. I played with Luke [Combs] when ‘Hurricane’ was out, so way before he was what he is now, and I just fell in love with his voice. I felt like we grew up the same; we grew up on '90s country, we're the same age, and we just really love real songs and real singing. So I had asked to write with him, and we went in the room and just started talking and he knew exactly what I was getting out of and entering into, which is my now-husband. [Luke] had the idea, ‘I hope you're happy now,’ and he told me, ‘What if I play the role of your ex and we do a double meaning on it?’ And he started playing this groove and that entire first verse just fell out of my mouth. It just was something that I felt like I needed to say. I would have loved to have sung it with Luke, but at the time I knew I wanted to put it out as my next single, just to further explain to people who I am—I want to be the next-generation female country artist—he wasn't able to do that. I have been a Lee Brice fan for years and years and sent him the song and he flipped out over it. And I will tell you he took it to a place that I didn't even know it could go vocally.”
Dashboard Jesus “It's almost ‘Jesus, Take the Wheel’ meets ‘Wide Open Spaces.’ I kind of felt like it was my ‘Wide Open Spaces’ moment; I totally can relate to the girl in that story that's just giving it her all. I had a record deal in 2012 on Sony, and that song was actually pitched to me then. I never forgot that song. What it reminds me is so many labels in town, so many people in town told me that I was singing music that was dated, that my time had passed in country music: ‘Oh, you would've been so big in the '90s.’ And that song represents that I'm still the same girl singing the same music with the same story. It was just the right timing. And that song is just really special to me because it stood the test of time.”
Halfway Home “This one was hard to write. I wrote this song before I was able to write ‘I Hope You're Happy Now.’ This is emotions that were happening during the end of a relationship that this person didn't know it was coming to an end. And it's just really real and raw. A lot of people don't want to say that they broke somebody's heart, but we do it. And sometimes we're the one that is at fault. This one is hard for me to even play for people, but I had to go there.”
Heart’s Going Out of Its Mind “I wrote that song three days after my first date with Michael, and it just kind of happened. I wrote it with Laura Veltz; she's a phrasing genius. She's behind so many songs on the radio right now. I just wanted to capture that feeling of what is happening to me. And I loved that phrasing, just because it felt really hooky. There was almost magic in it; you didn't even have to really know what I was saying. When I took it to busbee, he of course really loved it. I was a backup singer for a while. I sing harmony a lot. I feel like he pushed me on a lot of these harmony parts and this was a fun one for us to build some vocal things to.”
Finish Your Sentences “Michael and I were just dating. But it was such a moment of me going, ‘Why did I not think of this?’ Because so many people say, ‘Oh my god, we finish each other's sentences,’ but I had never heard a duet where you literally are doing what the song is about. And when [Michael and I] got in there, it was just really fun and we did a lot of layering. I just wanted to capture that fun, flirty feeling.”
It Won't Always Be Like This “This one, I think, will forever be the most vulnerable song I could personally write about my story. It took on a new meaning in a studio. busbee actually started crying in the studio because it moved him so much, because he was going through something with his brother and making amends. Little did we know he was literally sitting there fighting brain cancer. This song, just when I thought it couldn't get any more personal, it took on a new thing, and I think that everybody can insert their own story into that message.”
Lightning in a Bottle “Hannah Ellis is one of my good friends, and I had her out on the road with me and she played me [the song]. She was like, ‘I feel like I wrote this song for you and I didn't even know it.’ Even though the demo was pretty R&B, I felt like this could really have some old-school country moments vocally. And it was just a fun departure that I feel like will be a really cool moment live for us to strip down the band and do something a little different.”
Love Has No Heart “This song reminded me of all those Martina McBride power ballads, and just that really challenging melody. This song really challenged me vocally in a way that I had never been challenged. Trevor Rosen of Old Dominion is a good friend, and he sent me the song and I immediately was just like, ‘I have to do this.’ Dobro has become such a part of my sound, and I wanted just to really take it to a country place in a way that I used to really love and try my hardest to sing like Martina in my bedroom.”
Woman Down “I heard this song and immediately thought of my mom and the things that she sacrificed through her life. She's been through hell. It's an interesting time right now for women, and I wanted one of those anthemic moments for women. No matter what you've gone through, what you face, what you deal with in any capacity, you are resilient. And the women in my life are super resilient, so I wanted to sing it for them.”
You Kissed Me First “Hillary Lindsey actually sent this song to my publisher, Daniel. I heard it and it did remind me again, the heartbeat of this record is me finding my way to Michael. I definitely experienced that moment where you're like, ‘Oh my goodness, Is this for real?’ And I loved that Hillary wrote it in mind for me, just because she's been a key part of my sound from the beginning as well.”
Greener Grass “The lyric just really killed me. I felt like it was such a cool take on the phrase ‘the grass is always greener’ and the elements of the country lyric. I loved ‘Wildest Dreams’ from Taylor Swift, and I felt like this was a moment that we could really make into that for me, just this dreaming world.”


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