Why Carly Pearce is a Quality Pick for the Grand Ole Opry

photo: Chris Hollo c/o Grand Ole Opry

Yes I know. Jamey Johnson is way past due. Why can’t Elizabeth Cook finally be rewarded for all of her loyalty over the years? In fact when it comes to who could be and who should be the next Grand Ole Opry member, the line forms to the left. Just like with the Country Music Hall of Fame, there are too many that should be that aren’t, and a handful that are in that shouldn’t be (cough, Dustin Lynch).

But when it comes to the Opry picking its next contemporary member—meaning not someone past their commercial prime that could instill a little youth and vigor into the institution—there’s just about no better pick than Carly Pearce. In fact, I felt so strongly about that opinion, yours truly called his shot on January 25th, laying out the convincing case for Carly Pearce specifically. Yep, this was all pretty much my doing, with the brilliant strokes of my persuasive pen (probably not).

Only fitting that Dolly Parton was the one to dole out the invitation announced late Tuesday evening (6/22).

Born in Taylor Mill, Kentucky, Carly Pearce developed an interest in country music at an early age from her grandparents, and was playing bluegrass at 11, declaring proudly in one home video that she would play the Grand Ole Opry someday. She dropped out of school at 16 after trying out for the “Country Crossroads” show at Dollywood and winning the job. She then convinced her family to move to Pigeon Forge with her. There she performed bluegrass music six times a day, five days a week, and performed on a few bluegrass compilations albums as well. 

Normally Grand Ole Opry invitations come from the Opry stage, but this one was unique. Carly Pearce was convinced to record a promotional video for Dollywood, and talk about her experience cutting her teeth in country music at the theme park. While she was conducting an on-camera interview, Dolly Parton surprised Carly with the invitation (see below).

As Dolly Parton says, the 31-year-old Carly Pearce has performed on the Grand Ole Opry some 80 times, which is just the kind of loyalty you want to see from a new member. Carly moved to Nashville when she was 19, and struggled for years to get her start, signing a developmental deal with Sony Nashville before losing it soon after, and cleaning AirBNB’s to get by. One of her first champions was actually Pete Fisher, who was the General Manager of the Opry at the time, and bestowed Carly Pearce with her Opry debut in 2015 when she was still unsigned.

Beyond all of this personal history with country music institutions that makes her such a smart and clearly eligible pick, Carly Pearce has been allowed to finally put her roots forward in her music. When Saving Country Music asserted she would make a good Opry pick in January, we’d yet to hear her latest EP 29, which might possibly be the most country record released in the mainstream all year.

The Grand Ole Opry doesn’t get all their picks right. But this one they did. Of course we all have our own individual opinions and those we root for. And this should include older artists that the Opry has summarily passed over too often. But if you’re going to pick an artist from the current class of contemporary performers, Carly Pearce has the skins and service time, proven her loyalty, and is just about perfect.

© 2021 Saving Country Music