Written in Stone Sounds Like Nashville
Carly Pearce tells her story on her own terms with 29: Written in Stone. It wasn’t always an easy process, but one that found Pearce claiming her narrative and freeing herself of the darkness of her past.
Following in the footsteps of her critically acclaimed EP, 29, Pearce completes the story with 29: Written in the Stone, adding eight new stunning songs that continue to demonstrate Pearce’s elegance and power. Inspired by her divorce from fellow country singer Michael Ray after eight months of marriage, Pearce boldly and unabashedly owns her truth in a way that’s garnered her nominations for Female Vocalist of the Year and the coveted Album of the Year at the 2021 CMA Awards. “I think that some people can pretend like large events in their life have never happened, it’s interesting. I cannot, I don’t know how to do that. I don’t want to know how to do that. That sounds super painful and not the kind of life that I want to live,” Pearce proclaims to Sounds Like Nashville and other media. “I don’t know exactly when the shift happened for me, but I think as I look at these 15 songs that I wrote, I feel like you can very much hear the different stages of where I was at each moment, and ultimately seeing that I got out on the other side better.”
Allowing her pain to see the light and share it with the world, the hitmaker fully embraced the journey and channeled it into song. The album opens with the fiery-tongued “Diamondback,” a country tale set to a gothic, bluegrass-leading melody that sets the album’s tone as she fiercely claims, “you can keep the dog / And the Cadillac / But you ain’t gonna get this diamond back.” This leads into “What He Didn’t Do,” a confession that informs the listener not of her ex’s wrongdoings, but of the specific actions that weren’t taken that lead to the demise of the relationship. “I wrote ‘What He Didn’t Do’ from a perspective of feeling like it’s so easy when you’re going through a breakup to say, ‘they did this,’ and really all that’s doing is creating unnecessary drama that quite frankly doesn’t matter,” she explains. “I think when you lay down at night, taking back the power of ‘is this relationship serving me?’ and I’m going to bet if you’re in a place where this relationship is ending, it’s probably not. For me, it’s taking back your worth and going, ‘I deserve better.’”
Examining one’s worth is a theme that also arises in her new single, “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” a duet with Ashley McBryde. Pearce reveals that McBryde is in an elite class of two of her peers whom she was adamant about writing a song with, the other being Luke Combs, with whom she fulfilled that dream by co-writing the chart-topping, ACM and CMA Award winning hit, “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” featuring Lee Brice. Borrowing classic storytelling akin to 90s country, “Never Wanted to Be That Girl” is a callback style song in which two women discover they’re dating the same man, coming to terms with the fact that they’re “the other woman,” albeit unintentionally. Reba McEntire and Linda Davis’ duet, “Does He Love You” was among the anthemic female country duets they referenced while writing the song, along with the vulnerability of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Yet the two worked to find a fresh perspective on country cheating songs. “I think that the sad truth is that no woman wants to find themselves in this situation, no matter if you’re the mistress or the wife. I think this is the realization that they’re having the exact same feelings in real time being burned by the same man, even though they’re both innocent,” Pearce analyzes. “I think a lot of times in a cheating situation, women immediately want to fight each other or they want to fight the guy, and in reality, none of that really matters. It’s that feeling of realizing ‘I’ve been duped.’ Ashley and I never meet in the song and there’s a reason for that, because I think a lot of times it doesn’t need to be that, you just never thought you’d be in that situation.”
With “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” Pearce and McBryde could very well be adding a new classic to the cannon of female country duets. It’s also one of 15 examples of how the Kentucky native connects deeply with her country roots on the album, particularly working with master songwriters and co-producers, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne. McAnally hailing from Texas and Osborne from a coal mining town in Kentucky, Pearce attributes their rural upbringing to allowing her to “spread my country wings as far out as I had always wanted to.” This notion shines through especially on “Dear Miss Loretta,” a smoldering, rootsy country number that’s more than a tribute to the country legend, but a letter detailing how Pearce identifies with her story through lyrics, “I ain’t been a widow / But I’ve been an ex-wife / And I hear your truth / And I feel your pain / Now I know why you sang that way.” She’s joined by one of her idols, Patty Loveless, on the track, who after watching Pearce debut it on the Grand Ole Opry requested to sing on it with her after Pearce had pitched Loveless on another collaboration. Having recorded her part in Georgia, Pearce was shocked when she got the tape back and heard Loveless’ voice on an entire verse of the song. While Pearce has yet to meet “Miss Loretta” herself, she did receive a voicemail from the “Coal Miner’s Daughter” praising the song and requesting that Pearce come visit her.
In spite of all the painful moments Pearce processes across these 15 songs, she ends the project on a sentimental note with “Mean It This Time.” It’s a song of forgiveness for the past and feeling hopeful toward the future, the singer sharing that she burst into tears while writing it with Emily Shackleton, Jordan Reynolds and Jordan Minton, Pearce immediately inspired when Minton offered the title. “It was almost like I didn’t even know that I was ready to think about that. It’s like a prayer to my future and my future love, solidifying that I’m going to find the love that I deserve and I’m going to give it everything that I have,” she describes. “It says, ‘when I say forever, I’m going to write it in stone.’ So I started thinking about what that actually means to me. I feel like life and your words and your actions and your truth should be written in stone, and that’s what I’ve done. I think that will be one that really hits me in my heart every single time I try to sing it.”
It’s in this closing track where Pearce professes, “When I say forever / I want to write it in stone.” There’s a finality to these words that reflect the intent behind the album’s title, Pearce taking her truth and turning it into raw material that is truly Album of the Year worthy. Pearce says with conviction that Written in Stone completes this chapter of her journey, and reveals she hasn’t written a song since finishing the project. While she’s ready to turn a fresh page, she’s only willing to do on her terms – an integral element to her artistry and the superstar she’s bound to become. “I have such a richer relationship with fans now because I feel like they’re able to humanize me through this experience and something that I never wanted to be a part of my story, which is being a young person that is divorced. I’m so proud to put a face and be a public figure that can now humanize that and make it not as scary. Putting my pain to purpose for other people, I would go through it all again. I hope that little girls at home that are writing songs right now can see that anything’s possible,” Pearce expresses. “I think it’s telling the whole story. I think it’s giving the whole experience. I chose to recognize a situation that I did not want to be in and I decided to leave it. I decided to see it through, go through it, not hide from it, not run from it musically and personally. I decided to figure out why I had to go through something, and in the process, found something so much deeper, so much more beautiful. On the other side of it feel grateful. I do feel like I get to use it for good,” she reflects. “I do feel gratitude that I was given this story.”
29: Written in Stone is available now.