Carly Pearce Goes in More Country Direction with “Next Girl”

Well this is welcome, and somewhat unexpected.

Big Machine’s Carly Pearce has always contained the fundamental components to become a modern day neotraditional country star if she wanted, and was allowed to. Born in Taylor Mill, Kentucky, Pearce was playing bluegrass at 11, and dropped out of school at 16 to move to Dolly Parton’s Pigeon Forge. There she landed a job playing bluegrass music six times a day, five days a week. Carly Pearce’s musical acumen was formed deep in the roots of country music.

Some of her singles have been very promising, including her debut track from 2017, “Every Little Thing,” and her recent #1 with Lee Brice, “I Hope You’re Happy Now.” Both weren’t exactly traditional country, yet were much better than what you’re used to hearing from country radio. But her other recent single called “Closer To You” was pure pop, and stalled at #28 on the charts. This left any assessment on Carly’s music as a mixed bag.

Perhaps now they’ve figured out where Carly Pearce’s place is, which is not trying to keep up with the Maren Morris’s of the world, but to be the more traditional-leaning lady of today’s popular country. That’s what you hear from her new single, released somewhat unexpectedly, called “Next Girl.”

According to Carly, the song is the result of the question, “What would Patty Loveless do?” And “Next Girl” is a good answer. Again, it’s not traditional country. But with banjo that is more fundamental to the melody than tokenistic, some true twang to Carly’s vocal delivery, and even the way the music drops out near the end of the chorus, it’s all very indicative of late 80’s and early 90’s country. The writing isn’t exceptional, but it’s solid, while still delivering an appeal you can hear working on today’s radio.

But the strange thing about this new single is that Carly just released a new, self-titled record in mid February. 6 1/2 months is and extremely quick turnaround time for releasing a lead single from an entirely new upcoming project. When you listened to the February record, it was much closer to pop sensibility than country purist, even though a couple of months before the release, Carly was quoted as saying, “I really wanna be a purist. I really wanna be a country artist.”

“Purist” is a strong and loaded term these days, but “Next Girl” definitely comes closer to fulfilling that promise than most of what Carly’s recent album delivered. So who knows, maybe this is the moment when Carly Pearce moves on entirely from the more pop sound, and really announces her presence by letting her country roots unfurl. After all, that is the continuing trend in mainstream country music.

So many of the new women in mainstream country seem to believe that the way to defeat the impasse for support for women in country is to go even more pop, when all that’s done is given into a self-fulfilling prophesy of depreciating success. As men like Luke Combs and Jon Pardi continue to prove, the appetite for more country-style country music is growing. There is a gaping hole for someone like Carly Pearce to step into and succeed.

Carly Pearce was just nominated for a surprising four CMA Awards. Now might be the perfect time for her to really step out, and express herself as a leading lady in today’s mainstream country landscape. “Next Girl” is definitely a step in that direction.

12+