Carly Pearce is headlining Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium for the first time this week. Her two-night run, which kicks off tonight, marks a major milestone in the career of the reigning ACM and CMA Female Vocalist of the Year. Singer says performances at Mother Church of Country Music are more than a celebration of her critically acclaimed 2021 album 29: Written in Stone.
“For me, this will probably be the most special performance I’ve ever had,” she tells me. “That’s all that’s happened to me in the last six years. That’s what it embodies and to be able to celebrate the career I’ve had so far is really exciting.
Pearce has tailored her set list specifically for her two performances at the prestigious venue and promises special guests who have impacted her career. She says she will also honor some of her heroes. The concerts will showcase Pearce’s last 13 years in Nashville and the singer hopes fans will see how grateful she is for the trip.
“We do different songs from each of the albums,” she says. “I think it’s important to showcase every album, not just the last one, and we definitely have special guests on both nights. I really wanted it to be something that was just me. We have a set completely new that we’re going to have specifically for the Ryman. We have special Ryman-specific products, so it’s a very bespoke show just for those two nights.
Performances will showcase Pearce’s songwriting roots as well as the evolution of his live show. She credits her recent stadium tour with Kenny Chesney for pushing her as a performer and says her gigs will always be about storytelling.
Although Pearce’s year was one that dreams are made of, his journey has not been easy. Her early years in Nashville were tough, and she’s heard the word “no” more times than she can count. Pearce says if she could go back and give herself some business advice, it would be that sometimes hearing “no” is a good thing.
“I’ve heard ‘no’ so many times in different ways in the music industry and I couldn’t figure out why and I thought there was something wrong with me and in reality, there was nothing wrong with me,” she said. “It just wasn’t the right time. I think if people just can’t use “no” as an end at the end of something and maybe just consider it a step again, I wish I could.
The difficulties made Pearce more grateful for all the successes. She recently celebrated her first anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry and “Never Wanted To Be That Girl,” her collab with Ashley McBryde, hit No. 1 on country radio. For the past year, she has been crowned female singer of the year by ACM and CMA and named one of the artists of the year by CMT. After her acceptance speech at the CMT ceremony, she shared on social networks, “Let it be scary. Let it be hard. And then do it anyway.
“I think everything about my journey has been scary and difficult, but I think that’s where the biggest payoff happens,” Pearce says. “So many people just see the shiny, glamorous thing, but for them to be able to see the struggle that’s going on in it, I feel really, really proud that this is my story and that I can now use all of this hardship to show you can go through anything.
Pearce’s 2022 will end on a high note as she is nominated for five CMA Awards at next month’s awards show and will serve as a performer. Following her two sold-out performances at the Ryman Auditorium this week, the singer will also be inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame on Friday. She joins musical heroes Loretta Lynn, The Judds and Ricky Skaggs in the Hall of Fame.
“I grew up in Kentucky and it was in Kentucky that I discovered country music,” she says. “The fact that I’m among all the people who were my heroes, it’s so special.”
As Pearce marks the end of his 29 season with single “What He Didn’t Do,” she says the heartbreaking tune turned into a love song for her.
“I found the person who treats me right and it’s a sweeter part of my life now to sing that song and realize that I found that,” she says. “I didn’t know what it was like for me when I wrote this song, but I’m in such a better place that I feel like I can be really honest with the fans saying, ‘Hold on. I promise I know how you feel, but I promise you it will get better.'”
While Pearce is working on new music and plans to hit the studio later this year, she says her Ryman shows won’t feature any new songs. Instead, they serve as a celebration of his Nashville career so far.
“I’m so grateful that it happened the way it did. I’m grateful that I didn’t get all the things I thought I wanted in my early 20s,” she says. “I’m so glad I had the time to grow and figure out who I was as an artist because it made me appreciate it all more. I didn’t get it and that makes it so much more nice now that it’s happening.