Singer-songwriter Carly Pearce's journey to a career in country music has been anything but typical.
Now, with 28 weeks on the Top 100 charts, her profile is rising equally as fast as her now-Top 10 ballad, Every Little Thing — which checked in at No. 9 in the County Music Airplay Billboard ranking. She is enjoying the success, and sharing her story on how it all came to be.
"It's been the biggest surprise but also the most rewarding because of everything that I've done up to this point and the way that I've devoted my life," Pearce said. "I'll never forget that, and I'll never take it for granted.
"It's insane. I've always dreamt of this. I've never been the girl — there's nothing wrong with anyone who has these dreams — I've never dreamt of a wedding dress and children or that life. I've always dreamt of being on the stage, being a member of the Grand Ole Opry," she added.
Those dreams started early, and being just 27 years old leaves plenty of opportunity to see them realized.
At age 11, Pearce toured with a small bluegrass band which eventually led to an audition at Dollywood. She then convinced her parents to let her drop out of high school at 16 so she could perform at the amusement park for six shows a day, five days a week. After moving to Nashville and subsequently losing her first record deal in 2012, Pearce took on a job as a backup singer for Pretty Little Liars star, Lucy Hale.
Following her stint with Hale, Music City began to pay closer attention when Pearce collaborated with the Josh Abbott Band on her first Top 40 Hit, Wasn't That Drunk — a song that hit close to home for her.
"[It's] the true story about a guy who really shattered my heart," she said. "I wanted to just write the kind of battle that you go through internally of wanting to forget this person, but not wanting to forget them. Knowing why you need to let them go, but remembering the good along with the bad."
In fact, Pearce said penning the tune was such a deeply personal experience and that she wrote it under the impression that no one was going to hear it.
"I was kind of told heartbreak ballads will never make it on the radio," she admitted, saying that it made the writing process much more vulnerable. "It did just really connect with listeners as soon as it was put out."
The singer released it independently on the Sirius XM radio station, The Highway.
"It took off and was selling 6,000 units a week, just with very little airplay," she said, adding that the surprising success of the song drove her vision for the album. "It pushed me to make sure every song was was real and vulnerable."
That vulnerability is likely why fans and other artists have come to embrace Pearce so fiercely.
"I'm just being loved on in a way that, I don't know — being here for almost 9 years, I started to have my doubts that the kind of music that I make, which is a bit of a throwback to late '90s, early '00s, but still modern, that it was going to be well-received," she said.
But considering who Pearce counts among her musical inspirations, it should come as little surprise she's been well-received thus far.
"I rarely listen to anything outside country," she said. "I love bluegrass, like Allison Krauss. The late 90s, early 2000s. Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Shania Twain — just the women that I feel like really defined the women in country music."
Still, the singer says, she can't help but be a little stunned by the reactions she's received from her work, adding that one day she hopes to considered an influential women in country music, just like her icons — including her first employer, Dolly Parton.0comments
"Hopefully this is the start of many, many years in the genre," she said.