Carly Pearce never left country music, but it’s still safe to say she is back, and in a big way. The Kentucky native will release a fiery new single, “Next Girl,” on Friday, September 4, hearkening her love of the female country music artists she grew up on, like Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Patty Loveless and Pam Tillis, accompanied by a determined new attitude after her split from Michael Ray, following only eight months of marriage.
“The truth is, I was never actually lost,” Carly told American Songwriter. “I didn’t realize it until I started singing along, until I got back to the music that made me want to be a country singer. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: I needed to make real country music in the sense of all those women I loved.”
Carly was faced with working on new music while also mourning the loss of her producer, co-writer and friend, Busbee, who passed away last year. Instead, Carly teamed up with hit songwriters Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne to pen “Next Girl.”
“Shane and Josh as big country fans, they remember those sassy, sexy songs, too,” Carly boasted. “And when we got in the studio, Shane really leaned into the track. To see them digging into a real country song was so much fun, because they knew how to really get aggressive with the track, where to pull the instruments out, how to support me singing the lyric, where to drop everything out and let my voice do the work.”
“Having lost Busbee, I didn’t know what I should do,” she added. “It’s a tough business, and when you have some success, especially with someone who’s a friend? But the more I listened to those records, the more I knew if I could find someone who understood the kind of country I grew up, this was what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Carly found inspiration not just by listening to the music of her female heroes, but by looking at their personal lives as well.
“That was the thing about Patty Loveless and so many of those women,” said the singer. “They were so strong, and so real. They stuck up for themselves, earned their own money, fell in love, got hurt, but they were always their own women. They dug down deep, but they still had fun. They held their own and they held the line, but it was never mean-spirited or hard.”
With “Next Girl,” Carly offers a likely firsthand cautionary tale of “walk you to your car, said he never falls this hard, knows how to say all the right things, how to get you out of your dress, make you think you’re the best thing,” adding, “I know what happens next, girl.”
“You know we’ve all been both of these girls,” Carly reflected. “You’re young, you think it’s magic. You’re grown and you know better … How many times have you gone to a club and watched this happen? It’s so predictable, just look around. But for all the looking, how many times have you ever said anything?”
Carly just received four CMA Awards nominations, for New Artist of the Year, as well as three for her “I Hope You’re Happy Now” duet with Lee Brice: Song of the Year, Musical Event of the Year and Video of the Year.