Having toured extensively across the US in recent months, Big Machine Record’s Carly Pearce finally made her long awaited return to Europe and the UK recently. Tickets for her string of dates proved hot property with the entire tour selling out and those fortunate enough to have seen her and her band will no doubt bear testament to what a fantastic set the Kentucky native performed. I caught her London date, where her vocals were among the best I have ever heard live. She owned the stage and loved engaging with her band members and the audience, particularly enjoying hearing us singing along word (maybe not note!) perfect. Carly also proved herself to be quick witted during some highly amusing moments, including breaking the heel of her stunning sparkly boots and having to change footwear on stage (“I hope I’m wearing matching socks! “ she quipped) and referring to Bob Harris who had championed her on the BBC having heard “Every Little Thing” on the radio in Nashville as “Bill” (blaming jet lag and the rose wine she was sipping from). While songs from her most recent and highly acclaimed album “29: Written In Stone” naturally dominated the set list (opener Sarah Darling, who performed a fantastic set which included several gorgeous new songs, duetting on the uber-emotional “Never Wanted To Be That Girl”) her back catalogue was well represented and we also got treated to a brilliant cover of “Man, I feel Like A Woman” (Carly pointing out an audience member wearing a Shania t-shirt). Mid-set she introduced three songs which she told us “needed their own moment” and with minimal accompaniment performed “29”, the afore-mentioned “Every Little Thing” and of course her tribute to her late producer and friend Busbee “Show Me Around ” which was a real pin-drop few minutes. Look out for a special which was being filmed that evening by ABC Network by the way and which we will hopefully be able to catch here somehow or other!
Anyway… it was a privilege to get the chance to interview Carly before she took to the stage, a chance to catch up with what’s been happening in her life (lots!) since we last chatted over Zoom almost exactly a year ago, and I hope you enjoy out 15 minute conversation.
LH Welcome back to this side of the pond and congratulations on selling out your first European headline tour so fast! How has it all been going for you so far?
CP Thank you! Oh it’s been so great, it’s so nice to finally come to do my own shows and see so many fans who I feel like I’ve been talking to on the internet for so long and finally get to see them face to face.
LH It’s pretty whistle – stop I know but have you had any time for sightseeing, or maybe go to see any of the moving tributes to our late Queen who was such a strong and inspirational woman for so many all around the world? What a very poignant time for you to be in the UK.
CP Yes, we actually went to Buckingham Palace yesterday, a once in a lifetime moment to be there. I feel lucky that I got to experience that.
LH The last time ( and first time!) you were in London was for C2C in 2019… what enduring memories do you have of that visit?
CP Oh gosh I feel like in many ways I was just starting to figure out who I was as an artist then. I was still living in a really wild rollercoaster but I remember feeling I was way bigger in London than I was in my own home country! and i was very excited about that! I was playing in a slot in the show that I would never have gotten in the States. I just remember feeling a lot of love early on in my career so that was really sweet.
LH That’s great because it made you want to come back!
CP Yes of course it did!
LH Well that return here has been possibly slightly delayed because of course since then so much has happened for ALL of us, but let’s focus on the here and now for a moment and I want to first of all congratulate you on your recent 5 CMA nominations which you seemed genuinely blown away by when they were announced! Where were you when you heard, and what significance do they have for you?
CP Thank you! I was pulling into a workout class in the morning and my assistant said “Carly, did you see the nominations?” and I said “No” and she replied “You got 5!”. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been nominated a lot in the last couple of years, and win a lot, but it just never gets ANY older. It’s just the greatest feeling to be recognised by the industry and by your peers, by country music fans, and know what you’re doing is impactful. It just means EVERYTHING to me. And it will mean everything to me every single time.
LH And in general it’s a great year for female nominees isn’t it, Lainey, Ashley and yourself in particular ….do you see the tide finally turning in at least some aspects of the Country music industry which has been so male dominated in the past couple of decades really?
CP Yes it is a great year. And yeah I do. What I think we are seeing, contrary to what other people think… I didn’t feel like women weren’t “allowed” to be on radio. You have to make great music and I think that’s what we’re seeing now. Look at Lainey, she came out of nowhere, makes great music and works really hard. Ashley and I….make great music. Miranda… makes great music. I just feel that if you lead with music and stop talking about the female thing we’re gonna just show you! I think right now is probably the most exciting time as a female that I’ve seen . We’re making great music and we’re showing you, and we’re not talking about it as much now..and I think THAT’S when we win.
LH Actions speak louder than words?
CP Yes! And if we just make great music you don’t have to talk about how they’re not playing us.
LH It’s so fantastic to see “What He Didn’t Do” doing so well at US Country radio recently btw, more congratulations for that….
LH We last spoke over Zoom last September when ” 29 Written In Stone “ had just been released…..Happy First Birthday to an incredible album for this Saturday by the way, that date’s probably engraved on your heart…
CP Yes!! Thank you!
LH And of course we both now know how well it was received by critics and fans, but when it comes to the latter how did it make you feel to know that your very personal experiences resonated with so many people and indeed often helped them cope with issues they were experiencing? Is that one of the reasons you like to make music?
CP For sure. I think we are all in this industry to make people feel something, right? And for me I made a decision to lay everything out there, and what it has done is make other people who have shared similar experiences or other hard things feel like they are not alone. But what it has done for me in return is made me not feel alone as well. And I’ve had more honest conversations with my peers in the industry, with fans, with my friends, because of this album than I ever did before. And that makes me so grateful that I experienced that and wrote those songs .
LH ” Never Wanted To Be That Girl “ has of course been insanely successful. You, Shane and Ashley are all experienced and prolific songwriters but did you have a feeling that you’d come up with something extra special immediately that one was completed?
CP I’ll tell you when we knew. So we made a work tape of it, we thought it was great but never thought it would be a single at all. Then we got into the studio, me, Shane and Josh Osbourne, to put it down it raised its hand in a way you can’t really explain. I’ve only had a few songs that I felt immediately like this and I knew right then.
LH You’ve performed it on stage with several different artists, do they each bring their own energy and feel to it and does that alter your performance ? I must say I’m excited to hear you and Sarah duet on that one later on.
CP The females I’ve had sing it definitely sing it differently, which is kind of fun for me just to hear everybody’s take on it especially on a song that I wrote. But I try to stay the same no matter who I’m singing it with just because I want to sound like the record.
LH And am I correct in saying you’re over here with your band this time around? How’s that been…do you hang out together?
CP Yes I am! And gosh we are best friends and do everything together. It’s very, very fun to be here with them and for a lot of them it’s their first time over here so it’s very fun to get to see them experience this for the first time.
LH And your Dad’s here with you too I gather?
CP He is!! He’s here on the whole trip…he doesn’t get to come out to my shows very often unless i’m playing around his area so getting him to experience this whole one overseas is really fun!
LH And I know your parents both made a lot of sacrifices for you over the years so it must be great for them to see their belief in you paying off?
CP Absolutely yes! I couldn’t have done it without them.
LH Which songs from the album are proving to be your favourites to perform live and are they the ones you expected when you recorded it?
CP That’s a good question… I think so, I think the ones that really stood out …of course “29” is super powerful and personal, but then I love “What he Didn’t Do”, “Diamond Back”.”Easy Going” is one of my favourites, Dear Miss Loretta “…I have all different kinds of reasons why I love them all!
LH You have a really busy touring schedule, do you have to take any special care to protect you voice? Is there any regime you follow?
CP I should probably take better care to be honest! I’m the type of girl who says ” I’ll drink a bottle of wine before I warm up”! However I feel like any artist who has been around me will say I’m one of the most disciplined artists in the business in as much as I really don’t party and am in bed early, I eat very regimented, I get up and work out every day….so I do think that serves me well with my overall health. But I could be kinder to my voice!
LH Looking to the future, and you shared a clip of a new song ” We Don’t Fight Any More” on your socials, is this a hint that you’re working towards your next album ?
CP I am! I have written probably half of it at this point and I’m going into the studio to start to figure out what the looks like this fall .
LH And when you make an album do you have a central song that everything gets built around ?
CP I would say a few….I begin to find those key marker songs then I need to decide what’s missing, if that makes sense, then I fill it out that way.
LH That’s great….so exciting, and I’m wondering who you’ll get to produce it this time…
CP It’ll be Shane and Josh… I think they did really good with “29” so they can do it again!
LH And you have a collab with Kelsea Ballerini and Kelly Clarkson, ” You’re Drunk, Go Home” on Kelsea’s upcoming album I see…what a fantastic trio to bring together and it sounds like it’ll be a fun track….were you all in the studio together to record it?
CP Kelly wasn’t with us, she was in LA. Kelsea is a long time friend of mine and I’ve been a huge Kelly Clarkson fan for years. We have all very much been going through similar things out lives these past years and it’s so fun for us all to get to sing this fun honky-tonk song, I was so happy when Kelsea asked both of us to do it.
LH And looking ahead to your touring schedule in the coming months you’ve got 2 nights headlining at The Ryman and you’re stepping back into the circle at The Opry ( as a member now of course!). While I’m hoping you enjoy wherever you perform, I’d assume those venues are just that little bit special for you?
CP Oh gosh those are the two places I always wanted to make it to. I feel like if you been significant at all in Country music you’ve played those two stages so I feel very lucky.
LH There’s also the iheartradio festival in Vegas next week, and you’re joining Blake Shelton ( along with exciting newcomer Jackson Dean who I love!) on tour in 2023…..
CP Yes I love Blake Shelton so much and I think Jackson Dean is the ” next artist” …and I’m not just saying that because he’s on my record label! I remember when I first heard him sing and thought ” well there goes one of the next superstars” .
LH You play a great variety of venues does that help keep you on your toes an an artist, each must pose different challenges ?
CP Yes, I was out with Kenny Chesney and we did a lot of stadiums. I prefer smaller venues, theatres, I think my music serves itself better in those places where I can story tell. But it is nice to have a challenge at every step. Blake will be arenas, so that will be fun…I like a challenge!
LH The challenge of reaching people who aren’t necessarily there to hear your music…
CP Yes exactly.
LH What do you miss most when you’re away from home touring?
CP Johnny and June! Hands down my puppies for sure!
LH Well that’s my time up, I hope you enjoy the rest of your time in the UK and have a great time on stage tonight, thanks so much for your time!