Pearce, a Taylor Mill, Kentucky, native, is only the fourth solo female artist this year to place a single in the Billboard country music charts. Now, with her debut album due out on Oct. 13, she's touring the country, playing shows and doing interviews about her music.
In short, she's living her dream.
"It's indescribable, really," Pearce said from her record label's studios in Nashville, Tennessee. "I'm kind of living a whirlwind tornado, always on the go, and I feel so lucky, I really do. I have been so fortunate to have the people I work with, and the ability to do the things I want to do. I will never take it for granted."
By now, many have heard her story: She grew up in Kentucky idolizing the women of country and bluegrass music, like Dolly Parton and Allison Krauss. She sang in a band when she was just a child and persuaded her family to let her move to Dollywood to perform at age 16. A few years later, she moved to Nashville and scored a record deal. Things were working out quickly for her.
Until she was dropped by the label. In her own words, she was told she was "old news." People said she would never become a country star.
So she worked and prayed and wrote and played, which led to relationships with stars Lucy Hale and Kelsea Ballerini. That led to touring with Ballerini, which led to relationships with other producers and writers, which led to her getting her own shot -- and now, she's making the most of it.
Her video is in rotation on CMT, and her single, "Every Little Thing," continues to sell almost 10,000 digital downloads per week. She has been featured in Rolling Stone Country and People Magazine, and this fall she'll be touring with Eric Church and Brett Young, coming to Louisville and Cincinnati in November and December.
WCPO caught up with Pearce and asked her about fame, the songs on her new album -- one of which describes her hometown -- and her now-famous hit, which describes a difficult breakup.
WCPO: I'm going to start off with a question or two from a couple of fans, OK? One asks, "What's the most surreal moment you've had so far during this tour?"
Pearce: Yeah, it was over the summer. My song had just hit the top 20, and we were playing a festival somewhere in Wisconsin. I don't even know where -- the middle of nowhere. We were playing with Cole Swindell and Dierks Bentley, and there were about 2,000 people there. I start singing "Every Little Thing," and when I get to the chorus they sing every word so loud I just started crying. It was amazing. It all still hasn't sunk in, really.
WCPO: I assume there are still some difficulties though, too, right?
Pearce: Most of it has to do with the lifestyle. We do a lot of traveling by airplane, which means a lot of 3 a.m. lobby calls, and then you have to jump into a full day. Especially as a female artist, you have to keep up your appearance, when in reality I just want to go with no makeup and some sweatpants. But you have to get ready, most of the time in a car, doing your hair and makeup. And you live in a hotel room, which is tough. I'm a person who loves to eat healthy and go to the gym and work out, but it's hard to do that on this schedule. Still though, it's the time of my life.
WCPO: I hear a lot of influences on your album, from Faith Hill to Carrie Underwood. Is that accurate?
Pearce: For sure. I grew up loving Shania Twain and Alison Krauss and Faith and Carrie. That era of women in country music, they were so inspiring, and they were women who had amazing tones to their voices. And they were mature, too. Faith and Trisha (Yearwood) didn't really have their big success until they were in their late 20s and 30s.
WCPO: You've got to tell me a little bit about the song "I Need a Ride Home," which describes going back to your hometown in Kentucky.
Pearce: This is the one, honestly, that's sometimes difficult for me to sing live. I'm so proud of where I came from. I have the state of Kentucky tattooed on my wrist, and my album is dedicated to my grandparents. The older you get, the more you identify with the place where you're from. And maybe you took it for granted, maybe you moved away like I did. Again, the ladies I really idolize -- Dolly (Parton), for instance -- I want to do what she did for Sevierville, Tennessee, or what Carrie did for Oklahoma. I want to represent Kentucky in the same way. I wouldn't be the artist I am without being where I'm from. I kind of want to take people home with me.
WCPO: Your story is an inspiration to others, because you were told you couldn't do this multiple times. What kept you going?
Pearce: No matter what you do in life, like when you're a child and people may tell you something can never happen, that you can't do it, the message is this: You can be told no 100 times, that it's never going to happen, but if you keep at it, you keep working and praying, you can be what you dream to be.
WCPO: "Every Little Thing" is a classic break-up song. Do you think the guy in the song has heard it? What do you think about that?
Pearce: Well, I haven't talked to this person since we broke up. But I do think he's probably heard it, and I do think he would know it was about him. But as an artist I feel like I have to be honest. Initially, when it was a "Highway Find" on XM Radio, I was a little nervous about people hearing it. And sometimes it's a little awkward, because I'll be playing the song in his hometown, and I'll wonder, "How many people in the crowd know about all this?" But I have to be honest with myself and the album, and now it doesn't bother me. Honestly, I hope he hears the song and it's his own little nightmare (laughs).
WCPO: And what does the future hold now for Carly Pearce?
Pearce: I've got other singles coming out, and the album and the tour. Now I just want people to know me for more than just one song. I want more listeners to hear more of me!