Carly Pearce Says “I Really Want To Be A Purist”
Sure, talk’s cheap. And we saw that illustrated perfectly when Sam Hunt released a new single recently called “Kinfolks” after promising us his new music was going to be “more traditional.” Instead we got more of the same from the EDM/pop star, and a broken promise. But the case is a bit different with Carly Pearce. Unlike Sam Hunt and other current mainstream stars, Carly started out in the traditional country ranks, and she’s also backing up her claims with her music.
Born in Taylor Mill, Kentucky in the northern tip of the state, the 29-year-old was playing bluegrass at the age of 11, and dropped out of school at 16 to move to Dolly Parton’s Pigeon Forge. It was there that she landed a job playing bluegrass music six times a day, five days a week for crowds at the tourist destination. She performed on a few bluegrass compilations albums at the time as well. Carly Pearce’s musical acumen was formed deep in the roots of country music.
But like so many artists that move to Nashville with big country music dreams, Carly Pearce had to scrape to get by, and claw to get her foot in the door. She spent eight years struggling to get noticed and make ends meet in the city before signing to Big Machine Records. And now that she’s had some success and mainstream country at large seems to be moving in a more rootsy direction, hopefully this opens the door for the little girl from Taylor Mill, Kentucky to be the country artist she’s always wanted to be.
“I really wanna be a purist. I really wanna be a country artist,” Carly Pearce told the press recently as she prepares to release a new album in early 2020. Not only do her words emphasize where she wants to go, but it’s also acts as sort of a mea culpa of where she’s been recently. Her breakout single “Every Little Thing,” which became a rare #1 for a woman on country radio, included enough traditional country inflections to not be offensive to many “purist” ears, even if it was still more of a pop song than anything. Her more recent single “Closer To You” was almost purely pop, and stalled on the radio charts at #28.
“I was in Nashville for eight and a half years before I got a record deal. I wanted so desperately for people to care about my music that I was writing from a place of desperation,” Carly says. “I hear so many songs on my [first] record that I’m like, ‘Oh, gosh, that girl needs a hug.’ So I think that now, finding love, finding my voice in country music, being accepted the way that I have been, getting so many of the things that I wanted as a little girl—I think I just have a way stronger foundation as a woman, and a way stronger sense of who I am, that doesn’t waver with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from someone in a suit.”
Recently Carly Pearce released a new single called “I Hope You’re Happy Now” featuring Lee Brice (listen below). Though it’s not what most would consider traditional country, it’s leagues ahead of what Sam Hunt just released, and what a lot of country radio is featuring at the moment.
While many in the press love to say that performers look at genre as a burden, artists like Carly Pearce that were born into country music see it as a dream. Where paying dues in country music used to mean playing six shows a day, five hours a week at somewhere like Pigeon Forge before you were given your big break on bigger stages, today paying dues is often recording a few pop songs to get your label off your back so you can do what you want. Now Carly has done both.
Carly Pearce was already someone worth paying attention to in the mainstream. Now hopefully she can join performers like Jon Pardi, Luke Combs, and others helping to put the roots of country back into country music.
October 12, 2019 @ 8:33 am
I really do love the new song with Lee Brice. They both give some of the most passionate vocal performances in their careers and the lyrics are more interesting and nuanced than the majority of mainstream country hits right now. I’m just curious as to what you would rate I Hope You’re Happy Now, Trigger?
October 12, 2019 @ 8:45 am
I don’t think it’s a great song, but I think it’s great for what it is, which is a radio single by two artists who are willing to put their pocketbooks on the line to release quality material. I may do a proper review for it in the future. Here I wanted to focus mostly on Carly’s words, because they speak to the struggle so many rootsy artists face in Nashville, and run so counterintuitive to what some in the press love to characterize, which is artists feel hemmed in by genre, as opposed to how many feel, which is hemmed in by the expectations of Music Row.
October 12, 2019 @ 8:58 am
I completely agree. Carly definitely has a ton of potential, and her voice is a perfect fit for a more traditional sound, which is why I’d say this song and Hide The Wine are my favorite singles of hers. It just seems like it’s very difficult for women to be successful with more traditional sounds on the radio at this point. It seems like Luke Combs can get away with releasing more traditional country sounding songs because men are still dominating radio, while Carrie Underwood can only get a big hit on country radio with a relatively bland party song from Cry Pretty.
Cool Lester Smooth
October 14, 2019 @ 8:03 am
Lee Brice is honestly pretty underrated – he’s far from a world-beater (and he definitely straddles the rock/country line), but the guy just records solid songs, and sings the hell out of them.
October 12, 2019 @ 8:45 am
I love her voice. Beautiful & country. Only song I had heard of hers is Every Little Thing years ago on radio. Surprised it got radio play cause it’s a great song! I like this song too even tho it’s not overtly country sounding but to me it’s also not a pop production. Hopefully she sticks with country. Time will tell.
October 12, 2019 @ 8:50 am
As I noted in the Sam Hunt comments section, I heard this on the way to work yesterday and I actually like it. It’s far better than anything Carrie, Maren, and Kelsea have churned out lately. Or anything Carly herself has put out lately. I know purists will rip it to shreds & say she’s not “purist” enough, but just like with Jon Pardi, every small step away from EDM is a victory.
October 12, 2019 @ 9:05 am
I took my wife to see Carly last year. Mid-show her band broke out banjos, upright bass, etc., and did a few full-on bluegrass songs. Really unexpected and cool.
October 12, 2019 @ 9:26 am
Just a related comment: A quick google search shows she done 16 Grand Ole Opry appearances this year alone.
October 12, 2019 @ 10:44 am
Carly plays the Opry all the time, and has been for years. She would be a great candidate for a younger artist who would still honor her obligations and the institution of the Opry, but also keep it youthful and fresh.
October 12, 2019 @ 9:37 am
If Every Little Thing makes Carly Pearce a ‘purist’, then I guess that means I am not a purist. I just find that song so boring, bland and insipid. I have mostly avoided listening to anything else by her because of it.
October 12, 2019 @ 10:51 am
I don’t think anyone believes “Every Little Thing” makes Carly Pearce a purist. I certainly don’t.
October 12, 2019 @ 9:58 am
Purist my ass. Nothing Carly Pearce has released sounds country enough to deserve that label. Even “I hope your happy now” is littered with lines that sound closer to rap than country and electronic drum beats that destroy any chance of sounding organic. Jon Pardi is more what mainstream country needs to be not this.
October 12, 2019 @ 10:50 am
What Carly Pearce said was she WANTS to be a purist, she WANTS to be a country artist, and I believe her. But the pressures Music Row puts on artists to be pop are well documented, and Carly helps document them even more here. Sure, she could have avoided all that mess and still be in Pigeon Forge playing bluegrass covers for tourists. But if country music is going to be saved, the mainstream has to be tackled to. Carly Pearce is already helping to move the soul of the mainstream more towards the roots, and I think a song like “I Hope You’re Happy Now” helps that. But I hope in the future she earns the creative freedom to do what she wants, and if she does, I do expect it to sound more “pure” than most of what is on country radio today.
October 12, 2019 @ 10:21 am
I like her. She hasn’t been as bad as some female pop singers (Kelsea Ballerini) We will see about her “purist” claims, but she has a great voice, and she is as pretty as they come. I hope shes true on her word.
October 12, 2019 @ 7:34 pm
we have to stop this stuff about an artist ‘ not being as bad as _______ “”
it isn’t helping REAL artists realize their COUNTRY vision .
CARLY PEARCE has a label deal which means she has to play the game . period .
what she WANTS to do and what she’s ACTUALLY doing are two different things . i WANT to be an astronaut but I’m a musician . Carly WANTS to be a purist but she’s not ….she’s a pop singer doing what her handlers tell her to do . Michaela Anna , Emily Scott Robinson , Catherine Britt , Holly Williams , Loretta Lynn…THESE are country singers who WANT to be country singers and ARE . Jesus !!!
Carrie Underwood , Maren , and Carly Pearce are POP singers paying the bills with airplay on ‘country’ radio . great singers …. .but they are just female versions of sam hunt or fgl as far as i’m concerned. they are all just f***king with us to keep from being honest . THEY ARE POP SINGERS !!!!! its an insult to the women i listed above for CP to call herself a COUNTRY singer and its an insult to MY intelligence which , in case it isn’t evident , I’m REALLY beginning to resent . these people think i’m stupid . i don’t like that they are trying to scam me to make a living . i don’t do that to make MY living ….so just f***ing STOP trying to scam ME .
October 12, 2019 @ 11:41 am
I still say her label screwed up big time by not releasing “If My Name Was Whiskey” and “I Need a Ride Home” as singles. They were the best songs on her debut, which I really enjoyed by the way. Regardless, I’m interested to see where she ends up.
October 12, 2019 @ 11:44 am
How exciting that you’re gonna let Sam Hunt set the bar now…
October 12, 2019 @ 2:37 pm
Man it’s frustrating when people mischaracterize my thoughts.
October 12, 2019 @ 4:07 pm
Nah. Just bustin’ your balls man.
October 12, 2019 @ 3:39 pm
Duet about heartbreak. Dobro and pedal steel throughout. Dunno how that can be anything other than country. Hope she has success with it and can keep moving in the direction she wants to go.
October 12, 2019 @ 3:54 pm
She wants to be a purist. Fine.
But i don’t have high hopes for her next album. Well…i don’t have high hopes for all artists on a Scooter Braun owned label.
Bluegrass? A new Donna Ulisse album is in the pipeline (Time For Love – 10/31). She is one of the best bluegrass artists & the new Kristy Cox single “Train” is a fine piece of work (& will be a massive hit down under & on the US Bluegrass Charts).
North Woods Country
October 12, 2019 @ 4:55 pm
I’m still recovering from how bad “Hide the Wine” is. The most lifeless, boring song ever written. “Closer to You” was a hail mary by the suits to keep her a pop artist. The only good part of that song was her voice.
King Honky Of Crackershire
October 12, 2019 @ 9:12 pm
So she’s basically from Cincinnati. Wow, the real deal, cornfed.
October 14, 2019 @ 8:38 am
You’ve obviously never been to Cincinnati. 10 minutes any way outside the city, and you’re where the eagles screw the chickens. Geography is hardly an indicator of anything.
October 14, 2019 @ 9:35 am
Luke Combs is a co-writer on this one and supposedly cut the demo. Been interesting to hear him on the collab with Carly. I hear a significant 90’s country style here…could easily imagine Patty Loveless singing this one.