It was a little over a year ago that Carly Pearce released her debut LP, Every Little Thing, and, here at a house in Brentwood, Tennessee, the Kentucky-born singer-songwriter admits that, in some ways, it’s hard to identity with the woman who graces that album cover.
“As much as I love that album, and as much as I love that girl, I am not her anymore,” Pearce tells Rolling Stone Country, sitting on a stool in jeans and leather jacket. She’s back in Nashville for a brief stint off the road, and has been enjoying reconnecting with normalcy — going to the grocery store, doing laundry and cooking at home. “I feel like I have pieces of her in me, but I have grown and blossomed into who I am supposed to be, and who I am meant to be.”
That growing and blossoming has included a lot of success. Her single, the gorgeous heartbreak ballad “Every Little Thing,” went to Number One on Billboard‘s Country Airplay, one of only two songs by women to do so in 2017, and she logged dates supporting both Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan. She’s also gone through some personal transitions, too: over the summer, Pearce divulged to fans that she’s dating fellow country artist Michael Ray. So when it came time to pick a track to follow up “Hide the Wine,” nothing from Every Little Thing felt right. She needed something new, to reflect the changes in her life.
“Closer to You,” her single released today, was that song. Written by Hillary Lindsey, Gordie Sampson, Troy Verges and produced by Busbee, it’s an up-tempo ode to being in love that melds Nineties country slickness with a bit of R&B and nods to her traditionalist roots, thanks to the dobro playing of her longtime band member Josh Matheny. It also showcases Pearce’s unique vocal command, which bends and holds the notes in unexpected ways and taps effortlessly at the top of her range.
“This is my version of a love song,” says Pearce, who admits that she has about half a dozen songs completed from the new record. “I am in a long distance relationship and I can’t get enough of this person. That for me, lyrically, is what attracted me to this song. You hear the dobro that you hear in all of my music and hear the nuances that make my voice special. Everybody can relate in some capacity to wanting to be with that person who makes you happy.”
Though “Closer to You” is a departure from slow-burning, molasses-rich “Every Little Thing” and the equally tearful fan favorite “If My Name Was Whiskey,” it was still important for Pearce to keep it faithful to her genre. “I may mess with the phrasing on a song, but there are still country lyrics, like ‘a diamond sky’ and just singing about getting out into the country,” says Pearce, who also claims she has no designs on venturing out of country, either.
“If I ever explore out of country it would only be [bluegrass],” she says. “I grew up loving Alison Krauss and the Cox Family, Ricky Skaggs and Dan Tyminski.”
For now, Pearce is focused on that sophomore LP, due in 2019 on Big Machine Records, and, while she won’t share much, she will hint at a possible sonic partnership with an unnamed male artist in the works.
“A duet? Maybe? Possibly,” she says smiling. “Maybe it’s already done. I said about a year ago I wanted a duet with a male artist on my second record. And I got that.”
Pearce will appear Friday night at the Grand Ole Opry, and later this month as part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 22nd alongside Kane Brown. “Closer to You” is available now.