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Interview: Carly Pearce opens up about telling her story on new album ’29: Written in Stone’

The singer-songwriter opens up about expanding ’29’.

Carly Pearce
Credit: Allister Ann

Carly Pearce blew our socks off earlier this year when she released her 7-track collection ‘29‘.

Tackling the difficult year she’d been through following the breakdown of her marriage, Pearce was refreshingly candid while moving her sound closer to the traditional Country she grew up on. A few months later, Pearce has expanded ’29’ into 15-track album ‘29: Written In Stone‘, which is released on Friday 17th September 2021.

I spoke to Carly ahead of the release this week to discuss working with producers Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, talk about telling her story in a classy way, and find out how she feels about being the Opry’s newest member…

For this record you’ve worked with Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, and the sound is much more rooted in that traditional Country that you grew up loving. What was it like working with them on the record?

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When I talk about my music, even prior to making this record when I was speaking of it, I would talk about how I love 90s Country, I grew up on bluegrass, I grew up on traditional Country music, I’m from Kentucky, I want to be a part of the Opry… but I didn’t feel like sonically my music was translating in that way. I will never ever be able to process that busbee is not here anymore but I think I took him as Country as he was ever going to go. busbee was a pop producer from the Bay Area that loved Country music but didn’t grow up submersed in it. What I found with Shane and Josh was they bled the same kind of Country music that I did so you had three people that really just could speak that language and ultimately birth this album that I always wanted to do.

I like the fact that you didn’t stick all of the songs from ’29’ in one block, and you’ve woven them into the track listing. How important was it for you to get the sequencing right?

I wanted it to be, this sounds kind of corny, but reimagined as the full project. The first seven (songs) were pretty sad because I was in the new phases of trying to figure out what in the hell just happened to me, and I think you can really hear that. I had a lot more time to go through it and process it and understand it for what it was and get stronger, and ultimately heal from it. I wanted you to hear the album almost in real time of how I experienced it and make you see those seven songs are now part of a much bigger narrative.

Carly Pearce
Credit: Allister Ann

The song I keep going back to is ‘Easy Going’ and I absolutely adore the bluegrass instrumental at the end. What was it like putting that song together?

I was in a write with Josh Osborne and Natalie Hemby. Natalie has always been somebody that I look up to so much for her brilliant quirk to songwriting. She loved The Judds like I did, and I told her and I told Josh, ‘I want a sassy Judds moment’. They started playing that groove and that melody came out of me. It was so fun to write those lyrics because it’s such a play on so many different little colourful lyrics and play on words. When we got in the studio (I told) the band, ‘make this as Judd’s “Why Not Me” as you can’ and they went in there and they just kept playing at the end. I said, ‘let them keep going’. I wanted it to have that band feel because they were so into it and I didn’t want to stop them. We have a minute and a half solo at the end because I just loved it. I called on Ben and Sonya Isaacs to come and sing the harmonies with me, they’re part of the Isaac’s family. I grew up on Southern and bluegrass gospel music so it just felt so special to have them on it as well.

There are two collaborations on the album – ‘Dear Miss Loretta’ with the legendary Patty Loveless and ‘Never Wanted To Be That Girl’ with Ashley McBryde. Those are two women from very different times in Country music. What were they like to work with?

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Patty’s been an icon and a hero of mine for so long. I’ve always just loved how she sang, the tone of her voice nobody’s ever been able to recreate that. Having her on that song, two Kentucky women celebrating another Kentucky legend, was so special. I felt like in a lot of ways I was singing with my older sister. Ashley is somebody that I love. She’s a peer and somebody that I admire, just her artistry and her vocals, and I wanted to get in the room and just see what we could do. We both were hoping that the other one wanted to write a duet and we just wrote this song, and I think it’s really special.

You mentioned before about the clever word play in the lyrics to ‘Easy Going’ and that’s something that runs through the whole album. You could have approached the songwriting in a very different way given what you’ve been through but instead you’ve chosen to keep it classy. How easy was it to get the balance right of giving fans an idea of what you’ve gone through without it being too personal?

You hear me reference my Mom a lot in this album and I think that my Mom raised me to take the high road and to be classy. I didn’t make this album to slam or burn anyone or try to take someone down. The really intimate details are for me to know and for my family to know, and for my closest friends to know. It was important for me to write from a place of truth and write from the perspective of what I had experienced and what I’ve gone through. I didn’t want people to leave this album and go man, ‘she’s bitter’ or ‘man, she’s on a mission’ or ‘she’s revengeful’ or ‘she’s angry’. There are moments of those emotions throughout the album because they’re real but it wasn’t the whole goal at all. The whole goal was just to tell my story.

Carly Pearce
Credit: Allister Ann

The past few months have been so special for you as you’ve become the newest member of the Opry. I know that’s been a bucket list item for you so how does it feel?

It’s been so amazing to see the way that the Country community has just wrapped their arms around me during this time. To have that happen in this season of my life just feel so sweet and so wonderful. The Opry knows how much I cherish and preserve that honour, and that I will take it seriously until I’m no longer able to sing. It will forever be one of the most precious things that will ever happen to me in my life.

You’ve also picked up nominations at the CMA Awards this year including ‘Album of the Year’. You could very well be nominated again next year in that category with ’29: Written in Stone’…

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I know! It’s very wild. ‘Album of the Year’ has always been a bucket list of mine and now I’m the only female nominated with a record that in the beginning of it I thought I was going to die. God’s funny like that sometimes (laughs).

I’m predicting all of the awards for this album. I hope a Grammy is coming your way next year…

Oh, me too! Thank you, that means a lot.

’29: Written In Stone’ is released via BMLG Records on Friday 17th September 2021. Take a listen to ‘Never Wanted To Be That Girl’ featuring Ashley McBryde:

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