Carly Pearce Signs With Big Machine And Shares Inspiring Journey
Sitting down with Carly Pearce was like sitting down with an old friend. Pearce recently signed to Big Machine Label Group. If you're not a music buff, this is a huge deal! Big Machine has quite the roster which includes everyone from Taylor Swift, to Reba McEntire, to Thomas Rhett.
Originally I was going to chop our interview into "snack-able" bits, but I left it pretty raw as far as editing goes, because there is something so beautiful about the way Carly recounted her story, the individual steps that really aligned to get to this point, and the sheer amount of trust she had. So, when the inevitable happens, and you see her labeled as an "overnight success", you can see through our interview, it's been a 10+ year crawl of sheer hustle, talent, and determination. I believe so many can relate to the phase in her life where she was a nanny, juggling cleaning Airbnb's, and her music career. I have no doubt in my mind you will hear Carly's name more and more. She's currently on a radio tour and just wrapped up opening for Kelsea Ballerini on tour. Pearce is a prime example of someone who has simply done the work, who has not quit, and has continued to pursue her dream, despite what others told her she couldn't do.
Watch Our Interview:
If You Can Dream It Do It: I wanted to take it back to when you were little. How did you know you wanted to do music?
Carly Pearce: "I'm from Kentucky originally, and I always grew up singing. I come from a family that loves music. Nobody's musical, but they can all sing if they were really being honest, and genuinely I was singing before I could talk. When I was 11, started singing in a Bluegrass band, and did talent shows, and things like that, and I really truly have never known a day where I didn't want to be a country artist."
If You Can Dream It Do It: Even at 11 years old you were in a Bluegrass band..
Carly Pearce: "Yeah, I look back at that now, and I'm like, 'why did those guys let me in that band?' I was a kid. That was my first taste of singing on a stage with a real band, and kind of what that felt like. I knew from that moment, that was what I wanted to do."
If You Can Dream It Do It: When you were 16, you went to your parents and told them, 'I want to be homeschooled?'
Carly Pearce: "Yeah, I had gone to a public school my whole life, and I went to my dad, and said, 'I want to quit high school,' and he was like that's really funny. I convinced him to let me take the summer to find a homeschooling program that would get me into a University, and he let me. So, I did it, and saw an audition for Dollywood, and 'why wouldn't I want to work for Dolly Parton?' So, I auditioned, got a job, and moved to Pigeon Forge, with my mom. I really did work 9-5 for Dolly!"
If You Can Dream It Do It: You also shared a 1 bedroom apartment with your mom, right?
Carly Pearce: "I did, and it was grizzly bear decorated, and there was a jacuzzi tub in our bedroom, which was super awkward, but memories!"
If You Can Dream It Do It: What did you learn during that time at Dollywood?
Carly Pearce: "You know I was the youngest. I was 16 and 17 at that time, and everyone was well in to college, or out of college. So, it taught me to be around older people, and also we did 6 shows a day, 5 days a week. I had to learn how to sing sick. I had to learn to "always be on" as a a performer, and really what it meant to be a performer. My voice really went through the grind of having to be strong for all of those shows. So, that was kind of my dress rehearsal before Nashville."
If You Can Dream It Do It: Then you headed to Nashville, what was that like?
Carly Pearce: "Overwhelming, because in Pigeon Forge I was a little star on all the billboards, and all that fun stuff. Then you get here, and it was just so much more about being an artist than just being a singer. I was a singer before."
"So, I just jumped into the rollercoaster, and realized this was a journey. It definitely beat me up at times, but I knew it was what I wanted to do. I just knew it."
If I could find the right team, and the right craft, and grow as an artist, as a songwriter, that I had something to say."
If You Can Dream It Do It: I want to talk about 2012, because you had a (recording) deal. What was that like when that fell through?
Carly Pearce: "I did. I had a developmental record deal with Sony, and my A&R lady got fired."
"I remember watching the whole town go from being right in my face to shutting the door, and acting like they didn't know me. From songwriters to publishers to just everyone, and that was really hard. I was 22, and everything was right there, and I watched it slam in my face, and I had to go start nannying and cleaning Airbnb's, and that was crazy, because I couldn't get a publisher to take a meeting with me."
"So many people in the industry told me to move home, so many people told me no, so many people told me I was old news. You know, it's just that fire inside knowing that you haven't arrived yet, and you have so much more to say."
"I am just a really driven person naturally, and I just said, you know, I'm going to cry about it. I'm going to get it out, probably drink some wine. Then, I'm going to get up and I'm going to work harder or as hard as anybody else in this town, and I'm going to make it happen for myself to where they come to me."
If You Can Dream It Do It: I was just interviewing Jonathan Cain who wrote "Don't Stop Believin' and it was something that his dad actually told him when he was struggling in LA to be a musician. He said his dad was really a vision keeper in those times. So, in those times when you were cleaning Airbnb's and not sure it would come together. Who's been your vision keeper with this dream of yours?
Carly Pearce: "My parents are really amazing, and have always supported me, have always told me I could do it, and have always been a vessel to let me do this. I think Jesus is another one. My faith is really important to me. I've prayed so many times on my knees, 'Lord if this is not your plan for me, take it away from me,' and always there's some little feather that's dropped right in front of me, where I go alright, I'll do it another day."
If You Can Dream It Do It: So, moving on to now, you recently toured with Kelsea Ballerini, you were her opening act. What was that like, and what did Kelsea really teach you about this industry?
Carly Pearce: "I love Kelsea so much! I think Kelsea is such an example of paying it forward. She's bulldozed the door down for people like me. When I first moved here, females were not having any kind of success at all, and you were kind of penalized if you were female. She just bulldozed the door down and has really latched onto me in the way that I feel like Taylor Swift latched on to her, and she's not forgotten that. She's been such a supporter of mine from the beginning, and I consider her a really good friend. A mentor. She inspires me. I'm so proud of her, because I've watched this whole thing happen for her. I got to tell her that I got the deal before it was public, so we got to share in that. She's just been a really good support system, and made me believe in just the heart of people in this town, and you don't have to change who you are. She's just amazing, and I hope we get to do a lot more things together!"
If You Can Dream It Do It: Another person that tweeted support for you and 'Every Little Thing' was Lucy Hale, and you actually were her back up singer. So, can you talk about how that came about?
Carly Pearce: "So Lucy is another dear friend. When I was cleaning Airbnb's I got a call that Lucy Hale from Pretty Little Liars needed a back up singer for a music video. I was a closet, I don't know if she even knows this, I was a closet Pretty Little Liars fan, so I was like okay. I went and it was so interesting to be on the stage at the Opry, because that's where they shot the thing. And I was like okay, I'm in the background, I'm not the front girl. I'm the background singer, but I enjoyed it, and I went to her tour manager, and said, 'if you ever need a backup singer, let me know.' Why would the ever need a backup singer? But, you never know unless you ask! So, two weeks later I'm nannying, job number 2, and they call me, and they're like can you move to LA for about a month, and do the Ellen Show with us and tour with Lucy?"
"I was like, yes! I went out there, and I didn't tell her I was an artist. I told myself I was there to work for her, and I needed to be her back up singer, and be apart of her band, and do that.
She came in and was like, 'I Youtubed you, why are you singing backup for me?'
If You Can Dream It Do It: No way, so she came into rehearsal...
Carly Pearce: "Yes, she knew, and she has been a lot like Kelsea, such a strong supporter, friend, mentor. Doesn't have to use her platform to help me, but always has, and it's helped me gain social media followers. It helped me even in a setting."
Pearce noted, it was really the opportunites with Lucy Hale that helped shape and carve her, preparing her for the media opportunities ahead.
"I got to do the Jimmy Kimmel show with the Josh Abbott band, but before that I had never done any TV, but I genuinely believe those radio visits I went to with her, and the TV things we got to do really helped me to be ready now, because as a new artist you don't get those opportunites. So, for anybody who's aspiring say YES to everything, even if it's not what you want.
Did I want to be a backup singer? No. But, if I wouldn't have taken that job, I don't know where I would be right now."
If You Can Dream It Do It: What would you say, I heard you say it in an earlier interview, to the nay-sayers who told you, you would always be a back up singer if you take this gig?
Carly Pearce: "I was literally told, you will never get out of being a background singer, and these were influential people, it was hard. This was a moment I went and cried in my car, and I just follow your gut, follow your heart. You're your own inner confidence booster, and I think we all have an intuition to know what's right for us."
"I genuinely believe, humble yourself and always stay grounded, and understand that you never know, especially now in this business, you just never know what opportunity will lead to whatever. I'm so thankful that I did it."
If You Can Dream It Do It: You mentioned Jesus really being a vision keeper. Do you have a verse that you've clung to these past 8 years in Nashville waiting for a moment like this?
Carly Pearce: "Oh man, just in Proverbs it's just so much about trusting in the Lord, and understanding that his timing is never delayed, and having complete peace knowing that he's going to guide you, and it's really kind out of your control. So, I've really leaned on this moment for me signing this deal was not delayed. This was absolutely apart of the plan for me. I can look back now at 26, and realize at 22 that record deal that didn't happen was absolutely the best thing that ever happened to me, and I'm thankful for it."
If You Can Dream It Do It: 'Every Little Thing' got picked as a Highway Find, what did that mean to you and then it obviously skyrocketed after that.
Carly Pearce: "I had built a relationship with XM two years prior, actually when I was singing backup for Lucy for a song called, 'Blame The Whiskey,' which they put on their On The Horizon show, which isn't as cool as the Highway Find, but it's the weekend show. So it's cool to hear your song on the radio. I also had success with the Josh Abbott band with 'Wasn't That Drunk,' on XM. To have my own song I always wanted it be a Highway Find, that was something I always really wanted. I never thought. 'Every Little Thing' was written as therapy for me about a boyfriend that broke my heart, and I really never thought anyone would hear it. Certainly never thought it would be my single. It's just a testament to, you put out a song, they knew. JR at XM, was like this is your song, I want to do it now. I had no preparation, no nothing."
"I was just like, 'oh my gosh I'm just going to throw it out there, and see what happens.' Immediately the song just started sprouting it's own wings, and is making me realize the genre, especially country, they want to hear true, real, raw lyrics. It really does all begin with the song. This journey has just reminded me if you have a song that can connect with people on a heart level, and open yourself up and be vulnerable enough to let them in, the sky is the limit."
If You Can Dream It Do It: That's amazing! Then the Big Machine deal, you said off camera that Scott actually flew to come see your performance. How did that come together, and how did you know Big Machine was the right fit for you?
Carly Pearce: "Interesting, for so long I've just wanted a deal. I've just wanted a record deal, and I got to this place probably a year and a half ago with my publisher, and Busbee, my producer, where I said, 'I don't want a deal, unless it's the right one.' I'm going to wait for the right partner, because I had built so much on my own, and done so much on my own. I wanted to make sure that I was wise, because getting a record deal was not. I've had so many friends get a record deal, and it doesn't mean anything. When the song came out, Scott, and his team, his director of A&R Allison Jones immediately was just like, 'this song kills me.' You have you're three minutes. They became involved very fast, and I felt their passion for me as an artist, the vision for what I was doing. Scott had so much respect for what I built and wasn't trying to change me into something else, and they genuinely were looking to partner with me. I signed a record deal two weeks ago, and my single is going to radio next month."
"I built so much and did so much on my own, and the blood, sweat, and tears, on the front end, and laying at night and sometimes being like, 'is this ever going to do anything?' To now getting in front of the line, because I have a product, that they are seeing is reacting. Also, I'm not someone who's walking into a meeting going, 'I don't know who I am,' or 'I don't know what I want.' I'm showing them the entire visual, every angle of my brand and who I want to be."
I love Scott, and I'm so grateful.
If You Can Dream It Do It: Yeah, Scott is so great! Scott is the President of Big Machine, for those who don't know, and he's always talking about finding artists who have individuality. That's his number one thing. What do you want for people who haven't heard your music to feel when they hear it?
Carly Pearce: "I think there's been such a void especially in the female genre for the mature woman who is just singing country songs. The modern country girl, not the pop country girl, not the girl who's I'm not very cool to begin with, and so I'm just really trying to play to that authentic country listener that....I'm 26, I've lived some things. I've had heart break. I just feel like I've got some depth to what I want to sing about. Also, from a production standpoint. This is more about my voice, and more about storytelling. In the way that Trisha Yearwood, Alison Krauss, Patty Lovelace, and Faith Hill, and all these females that I idolized. That is the mold I want to go in to, that mysterious, mature woman, which is interesting, because I always thought age was going to be 'oh my gosh I'm getting too old I'm in my mid twenties!' But I want to be that more mature female that I idolized in my early 2000's."
If You Can Dream It Do It: What would you tell 22 year old Carly who was cleaning Air BnB's and nannying, knowing what you know now?
Carly Pearce: "Oh my goodness! So many things!
"First of all I would tell her to calm down, and to love herself, and to trust God, and trust in her voice, and to not take so much of her identity and put it in other people and in this town, because I think you can get lost. If I'm honest with you, I think I got lost for a long time internally, and I think the moment that you truly believe, and you lean on God, and you work your butt off, you can do it! You can do anything."
"I think just telling her it will all be okay, because I don't think she knew it."
If You Can Dream It Do It: What's the best advice you've been given about following your dreams?
Carly Pearce: "I've had so many different things, my mom and my grandma always told me just to be kind, be humble, be classy, and to work really hard. I come from a family where they're like we will absolutely help you, but you have to work hard."
"My publisher Daniel Lee, he gets embarrassed when I talk about him on things like this. My publisher at BMG, he has just changed the game for me, and he kind of gave me my voice, and helped find my confidence again."
"He's always just told me be 100% authentic to you, and you will win every time."
"Every single time I can look back at songs, at shows, at outfits, whatever and when I wasn't being authentic to yourself, it doesn't work."
If You Can Dream It Do It: Heading into the New Year, what are you most excited about?
Carly Pearce: "I'm just excited to meet people. I'm excited to get out on the radio tour. I'm excited to make my record. I feel like because 'Every Little Thing' is my first single, the sky is the limit as far as production and songs. That song was so personal, and artsy, and truly who I am, so I'm going to be able to make the record I want, so I'm just really excited to get started."
If You Can Dream It Do It: Nashville is a tough town, being a girl in country music. I actually had no idea how hard it was until I moved here, and I'm not even an artist, so I can only imagine. What would you tell those girls who are struggling to make it?
Carly Pearce: "Find what makes you, you. Find your lane. Find your identity. Find why you matter, which is such a weird statement. Find why you matter, and why people would want to listen to you. Work harder than the boys. Don't wait for someone to do it for you. I drive the van. I load the van. I book the shows. I make the connections. Don't lean on anyone else and be tough!"
Check out Carly's brand new music video which debuted on CMT this past weekend.