For Carly Pearce, Valentine's Day means more than just a day to celebrate romance with her husband, Michael Ray. It's also the day Pearce's long-awaited self-titled sophomore album will finally be released. And no one is more ready than Pearce to share the vulnerable, honest tracks with her fans.
"I feel like I am more myself than ever," Pearce told PopCulture.com. "I feel like everything that's happened to me in the last few years, professionally and personally, has just led me to this place where I really am the most confident version of myself that I've ever been. So I just really wanted to say, 'Here I am. Like it or not, here we go.'"
Pearce co-wrote four of the 13 songs on Carly Pearce, with artists like Little Big Town's Jimi Westbrook, Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett and Kelsea Ballerini among those who have songwriting credits on the record. For Pearce, it was a harrowing process to narrow down which songs to include on her personal project.
"It's hard," Pearce conceded. "It's hard to start it. I feel like both times I've made a record, it's kind of a difficult thing to figure out where to begin. Once I figured out a few of the songs, it was easier. I look at it as a puzzle so it was easier to fill in the puzzle pieces of what subjects or what sentiments I wanted to say that I didn't have yet, but it's hard.
"You only get, for me it was 13 songs," she added. "What are the best 13 songs to represent who I am?"
Some artists, like Ballerini and Combs, prefer to write all of their own music, but Pearce is fine, and even welcoming, of songs that she didn't write, as long as they feel personal to her.
"I feel like all the greats got outside songs and they weren't afraid to say the best song wins, and that's how I feel like I will always be," Pearce said. "Sure, would I love to write my whole record? Yes, but do I think that I could do it and do it the best that it could be? No."
Pearce was falling in love with Ray when she began the work on Carly Pearce, which permeates the project.
"I think it influenced it in every song, in different ways," said the singer. "'I Hope You're Happy Now,' that particular relationship that I'm talking about, I hurt that person because I found the forever. When you fall in love, you kind of get this just opening in your heart and in your mind and he's taught me so much, and bettered who I am as a person, and it just feels really good to know that you have your person, and I think with that comes individual confidence."
Carly Pearce was produced by Busbee, marking his final project before he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, succumbing to the disease only two months later. Pearce didn't know, of course, that the record would be his last, but his fingerprint is evident all over the album, especially in the eclectic sounds and influences that come out in some of the songs.
"I don't want anybody to be confused," said Pearce. "When you have Busbee as a producer, he's funky and I wanted him to kind of take me a little that way. 'Call Me' is a great example of one that's different. But I always wanted to make sure that we kept the banjo, and the dobro, and my voice keeps things country. I didn't want to make just an album that sounded exactly like the first one.
"But I also didn't want people to be confused that I want to be the female country artist of our genre," she continued. "I have no desire to be anything other than a country artist. I don't want to collaborate into pop or anything like that so I have to, I walk that line of making sure that people know that."
Photo Credit: Courtesy of BMLG / John Shearer