Photo: Allister Ann
Carly Pearce on '29: Written In Stone,' Relating to Kacey Musgraves & Becoming The Country Artist She's Always Wanted To Be
Country star Carly Pearce opens up about how a divorce and the death of her producer led to her most meaningful album yet, '29: Written In Stone'
"So much has happened to me in the last year," Carly Pearce wrote in an Instagram post announcing her forthcoming third album, 29: Written in Stone. It's a bit of an understatement: Nine months after losing her longtime producer busbee to brain cancer in 2019, the country star filed for divorce from fellow country singer Michael Ray.
But, as Pearce wrote, in the wake of the heartbreak, "Some unbelievable things started happening." Just days before her divorce went public, Pearce landed her second No. 1 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart with the apologetic Lee Brice collaboration "I Hope You're Happy Now," which went on to win Pearce her first Country Music Award and Academy of Country Music Award (she took home two ACMs, including Single of the Year).
Last fall, the Kentucky native released the lead single from her next project, the uptempo cautionary tale "Next Girl." The song's twangy production is arguably the most reminiscent of the '90s country that inspired Pearce to pursue her own music career when she began performing at just 11 years old. The singer herself could feel it, too.
"When we wrote 'Next Girl,'" she recalls to GRAMMY.com, "I was like, 'Wait a minute, this is what I always wanted to do.'"
Pearce harnessed that same energy as she continued to process her hardships and write songs. Five months later, she unveiled an EP titled 29, a raw and emotional account of what she'd been through. But as Pearce says, songs "just kept happening," and she quickly realized there was more to her story.
29: Written in Stone—arriving Sept. 17 via Big Machine—is an exceptional combination of Pearce's crafty songwriting (see: "Liability") and '90s country influence, resulting in the singer's most confident display yet. And that was clearly apparent from the first portion: The morning of Pearce's chat with GRAMMY.com saw the singer earn CMA nominations for Female Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year, her first in each category. While she admits the nods are "hard to process," she also acknowledges the kind of impact her vulnerability has had on fans and industry players alike. "People have really responded to this so amazingly."
Ahead of the album's release, Pearce will have an in-depth conversation at the GRAMMY Museum on Sept. 13, also performing as part of Big Machine's Spotlight Saturdays on Sept. 18. Her interview will be viewable on the Museum's official streaming platform, COLLECTION:live.
GRAMMY.com caught up with Pearce before release week (and her GRAMMY events) to hear how 29 evolved into a full-length album, the women of country who inspired her and why she's finally the artist that pre-teen Carly envisioned.
Take me through the progression of 29 the EP into 29: Written in Stone. How did your feelings change in the time between the two?
In the beginning, I wasn't quite sure what 29 was. I just knew I needed to get some things off my chest. "Messy" felt like a really good stopping point. I'm very much a situational writer, so when I wrote that song, I was like, "Okay, this feels like I'm done for a while."
I remember turning it in, and continuing to feel inspired to write. The songs just kept happening. These ideas would come to me, and it was forming almost faster than I could keep up.
Losing my producer, busbee, was a really interesting experience for me of looking at music completely different. I was very overwhelmed with the idea of even continuing on in music without him. I felt like I had unleashed this part of me that I was always supposed to find musically and sonically with this really country sound.
I think what I didn't realize is, I was kind of going through all of this in real time. Now when I go back and I listen to this project, it really is grief and realization of something that was so difficult—but then getting on the other side, which is a really powerful part of it. That's why I wanted the second half to be in color instead of black and white like the first.
Was there anything outside of your divorce and losing busbee that inspired songs on this album?
I think it was those two things. It was a blow to my professional life, losing my counterpart. [Busbee] is who helped form my sound, so to think he wasn't there was so difficult. Then, to have such an equal blow to my personal life—it still makes me quite emotional to think about how lost I felt in the beginning. Just, "How is this all happening to me at once?"
Was there anything you learned from busbee that had an impact on the making of this project?
The biggest thing—and I have just started to even be able to talk about this without being so emotional—but I went to see him two weeks before he died. The very last thing that he said to me was that he just wanted me to fly. I remember not really understanding what that meant in the beginning.
He knew that I had taken so much time in Nashville trying to make this whole career happen, and he knew the struggles. He knew the insecurities—how I was just a little unsure of myself in a writer's room or in front of a mic. Now, looking at it, I knew I needed to show him I could fly in all of those ways. Even when I woke up today and saw the album of the year [nomination], I was like, "God, I did it. I I tapped into what he told me to do and just gave it everything I had."
That's a heavy thing, but it's also so incredible.
I don't even know how to explain it. Also, the fact that "I Hope You're Happy Now" was the last song he ever worked on in his career, and look at what that song did for me as well. It almost feels like he's been here at every single step, like he really never did leave me.
You've said that this album is the biggest representation of the kind of music you've always wanted to make as a country artist. Was there a certain song that felt like a turning point for you in getting to that feeling?
"Next Girl" was one of the very first songs we wrote for this project. As soon as that one came out the way that it did, just with that '90s country feel to it, I was like, "Wait a minute, this is what I always wanted to do."
One of the musicians on the album, Josh Matheny, he's been with me for all of my albums. While I was singing the scratch vocal for "Next Girl" in the studio, he texted me and said, "I've never heard you sing more like yourself than right now."
Did you feel that too?
Yes. I knew it. That's the music that I grew up on.
What made it feel different?
In interviews, people would ask me, "What do you want to be?" and I was always like, "I want [to be a member of] the Grand Ole Opry and I want to be a country music purist." I never quite felt like my music translated that completely, because it was still heavily pop-produced on a lot of things.
What I found was [29: Written in Stone co-producers] Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne loved '90s country like I did. It opened this understanding of the same way that we listened to music growing up that I had never experienced with busbee, [since] he was a pop producer.
Do you think that you would have worked with Shane and Josh if you hadn't lost busbee?
That's such an interesting thing that I've thought about quite a bit. It's almost like you don't know what you're missing until you find it. I knew that there was a little bit of a disconnect that I was still trying to find, but I don't necessarily think that I thought, "I need to change my producer."
It's interesting, because I feel like this is how it was supposed to be. I believe wholeheartedly that busbee was supposed to help me find my way, and I was supposed to make those two albums with him and start this beautiful journey in country music. But I do think I was meant to move on.
I wrote with both of [Josh and Shane] previously—I wrote one of my favorite songs ever with Shane and busbee, "If My Name Was Whiskey" from my first record. But [Josh and Shane] were blown away at my ability as a writer [now]. I've written so many songs in this town, but I hadn't really written like that.
Was there a '90s country song that helped you get through the pain you were experiencing as you wrote this album?
"You Don't Even Know Who I Am" by Patty Loveless is one of my absolute favorite songs. That shows you exactly the kind of artist that I wanted to be, in the lyric and the honesty.
Patty Loveless is the big influence for me. Loving her music, loving how she wrote songs, loving the kind of songs she cut. A strong woman with true substance to her lyrics, but songs that just felt so good.
Even before she became a part of the full-length album [on "Dear Miss Loretta," a doting tribute to Loretta Lynn], I had this thought of "What would Patty Loveless do?" and it stemmed from when we wrote "Next Girl." [Her song] "Blame It On Your Heart" is where "Next Girl" came from.
I was pushed to own what happened to me and own my truth in a way that I never had quite thought about—because nobody thinks, "Oh, my marriage is gonna fail in front of the world." Thinking about her and the way she would write songs is why I just owned it.
You co-wrote with a lot of female singer-songwriters on this album, including your peers Kelsea Ballerini on "Diamondback" and Ashley McBryde, who features on "Never Wanted to Be That Girl." What do you feel like your female collaborators brought to the storytelling for an album of this context?
I think just having a female perspective—a lot of these women were my friends, and it was important for me to feel safe by women, and almost affirming my feelings through women. These women were the first to message me as soon as my divorce came out, and really care about me as a person. I was able to be brutally honest in those rooms because I felt safe with them.
29: Written in Stone is coming out a week after Kacey Musgraves released her own post-divorce album with star-crossed. In a way, did having someone going through a similar situation at the same time—and in the public eye—make you feel less alone? Or at least give you some reassurance that being this honest in your music is what you should be doing?
It's very interesting, because so much of Golden Hour was about her husband, and so much of my sophomore album was about mine. I remember her divorce announcement came out very soon—I mean weeks—after mine. I've known her for a long time, and just hurting for her, and knowing what that felt like, and very much feeling like, "Oh my God, somebody else my age knows what it feels like."
I have to say that as a fan of music, I'm very much looking forward to her album. I feel like in a lot of ways, I will be able to listen to something and maybe not feel alone myself in the way that some people are probably listening to our music.
I do think it's a very powerful thing that two women didn't get it right the first time. We're young, we're only two years apart, and we're owning our truth in our own artistic ways. It reminds me of the kind of music that I grew up on with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette singing these unapologetic songs, like "The Pill" or "D-I-V-O-R-C-E.," and just owning it. I'm proud of that, and I'm proud of Kacey for doing that.
In the very beginning of putting this album out, I remember the hundreds of messages that I got from fans in a way that I've never gotten. Sure, I've had fans say, "I relate to your music" and "You helped me through a hard time," but this felt different.
Now that we're back out on the road, I can't tell you how many people have come up to me and shared their stories. I helped them let go of a relationship, I helped them file for divorce, I helped them regain their worth, I got them out of an abusive relationship. All of these things that, to me, matter so much more than just being an artist singing on a stage.
Everybody experiences pain, and to hear that people have clung on to my music as hope, that's more empowering than anything I could ever imagine. I'm proud to have gone through what I went through for that.
Which is probably something that you weren't thinking you'd be able to say when you were initially going through all of it.
Absolutely not. And that's the beautiful part of it. I had a fan recently come up to me and she was like, "I just went through a divorce and I just don't know what to do." I said, "You're gonna be okay." She's looking at me, on the other side, and she's like, "Are you sure?" and I said, "Yes, I know it." That's such a cool relationship that I now have with fans.
Is there a song on 29: Written in Stone that feels like the pinnacle Carly Pearce song to you, at least thus far?
Gosh, that's so hard. "29" is the song that I never wished I'd write, but am now so blown away that I wrote. I never wanted to write a song that talked about something like going through a divorce. But the fact that I went that deep, just went for it, and was brutally honest, that just really, really makes me proud.
[Written in Stone comes from] a lyric in the very last song on the album, "Mean It This Time"—"When I say forever/ I'm gonna write it in stone." So I kind of got to thinking about what "write it in stone" means to me.
I came up with, "Life is indelible, and your words, your actions, and your truth should be written in stone." That's exactly what I've done on this project. I can put it out there, let it out, and shut the door. This is the kind of album I never wanted to make, but in hindsight, it's the best thing that ever happened to me.
Photo: Rebecca Sapp/WireImage.com
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Take Over The GRAMMY Museum
Hip-hop duo discuss their career beginnings and creating their GRAMMY-nominated album The Heist
Current seven-time GRAMMY nominees Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, along with their manager Zach Quillen, recently participated in an installment of the GRAMMY Museum's A Conversation With series. Before an intimate audience at the Museum's Clive Davis Theater, the hip-hop duo and Quillen discussed the beginning of the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' career, having creative control over their work and recording their GRAMMY-nominated Album Of The Year, The Heist.
"I met somebody [who] had the same dedication as me, [who] put everything into the music, everything into the craft," said Ben Haggerty (aka Macklemore) regarding meeting Lewis. "I wanted a career and Ryan was somebody [who] had the same discipline and sacrificed everything."
"I think it took a little while before it became clear to me who [Macklemore] was going to be," said Lewis. "I think the first indication of that was with the song 'Otherside' from the VS. Redux EP]. … That song … embodied so much. It was a story nobody was telling. … It was just somebody who was dying to be on the mike and to say something."
Seattle-based rapper Macklemore and DJ/producer Lewis have been making music fans take notice since they released their debut EP, 2009's The VS. EP. They followed with VS. Redux, which reached No. 7 on the iTunes Hip-Hop chart. The duo made waves in 2011 with the release of their hit single "Can't Hold Us" featuring Ray Dalton. The next year Macklemore was featured on the cover of XXL Magazine's coveted freshman class issue, and Rolling Stone dubbed the duo an "indie rags-to-riches" success story.
Released in 2012, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' debut studio album, The Heist, reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200, propelled by the No. 1 hits "Can't Hold Us" and "Thrift Shop," the latter of which reached multi-platinum status and remained on top of the charts for six weeks. The album garnered a nomination for Album Of The Year and Best Rap Album at the 56th GRAMMY Awards, while "Thrift Shop" earned a nod for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. The duo's Top 20 hit "Same Love" featuring Mary Lambert earned a nomination for Song Of The Year and has been adopted by some as a pro-equality anthem. The duo garnered additional nominations for Best New Artist and Best Music Video for "Can't Hold Us."
Upcoming GRAMMY Museum events include Icons Of The Music Industry: Ken Ehrlich (Jan. 14) and A Conversation With Peter Guralnick (Jan. 15).
Photo: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images
Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour
El Mal Querer Tour, named after the Spanish pop star's latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances
Rosalía is set to perform at some of the most popular music festivals around the globe, including Primavera Sound in Spain, Lollapalooza (Argentina and Chile) and Coachella, but the Spanish pop star isn't stopping there when she gets to the States. Now, she has announced her first solo North American Tour with a string of dates that will bring her to select cities in the U.S. and Canada.
El Mal Querer Tour, named after her latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances. Then she'll play San Francisco on April 22, New York on April 30 and close out in Toronto on May 2.
"I’m so happy to announce my first solo North American tour dates," the singer tweeted.
Rosalía won Best Alternative Song and Best Fusion/ Urban Interpretation at the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards in November and has been praised for bringing flamenco to the limelight with her hip-hop and pop beats. During her acceptance speech she gave a special shout-out to female artists who came before her, including Lauryn Hill and Bjork.
Rosalía has been getting some love herself lately, most notably from Alicia Keys, who gave the Spanish star a shout-out during an acceptance speech, and Madonna, who featured her on her Spotify International Women's Day Playlist.
Tickets for the tour go on sale March 22. For more tour dates, visit Rosalía's website.
Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures Exhibit Will Showcase The Surf-Rock Icons' Impact On Pop Culture
The exhibit, opening Dec. 7, will feature late band member Mel Taylor's Gretsch snare drum, a 1965 Ventures model Mosrite electric guitar, the original 45 rpm of "Walk Don't Run" and more
Influential instrumental rock band The Ventures are getting their own exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles that will showcase the band's impact on pop culture since the release of their massive hit "Walk, Don't Run" 60 years ago.
The Rock Hall of Fame inductees and Billboard chart-toppers have become especially iconic in the surf-rock world, known for its reverb-loaded guitar sound, for songs like "Wipeout," "Hawaii Five-O" and "Walk, Don't Run." The Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures exhibit opening Dec. 7 will feature late band member Mel Taylor's Gretsch snare drum, a 1965 Ventures model Mosrite electric guitar, the original 45 rpm of "Walk Don't Run," a Fender Limited Edition Ventures Signature guitars, rare photos and other items from their career spanning six decades and 250 albums.
“It’s such an honor to have an exhibit dedicated to The Ventures at the GRAMMY Museum and be recognized for our impact on music history,” said Don Wilson, a founding member of the band, in a statement. "I like to think that, because we ‘Venturized’ the music we recorded and played, we made it instantly recognizable as being The Ventures. We continue to do that, even today."
Don Wilson, Gerry McGee, Bob Spalding, and Leon Taylor are current band members. On Jan. 9, Taylor's widow and former Fiona Taylor, Ventures associated musician Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and others will be in conversation with GRAMMY Museum Artistic Director Scott Goldman about the band's journey into becoming the most successful instrumental rock band in history at the Clive Davis Theater.
"The Ventures have inspired generations of musicians during their storied six-decade career, motivating many artists to follow in their footsteps and start their own projects," said Michael Sticka, GRAMMY Museum President. "As a music museum, we aim to shine a light on music education, and we applaud the Ventures for earning their honorary title of 'the band that launched a thousand bands.' Many thanks to the Ventures and their families for letting us feature items from this important era in music history."
The exhibit will run Dec. 7–Aug. 3, 2020 at the GRAMMY Museum.
Photo by Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty Images
Alicia Keys Unveils Dates For New Storytelling Series
The artist will take her upcoming 'More Myself: A Journey' biography on a four-city book tour
After performing her powerhouse piano medley at the 62nd Annual GRAMMYs, R&B superstar, GRAMMY-winning artist and former GRAMMY’s host Alicia Keys has revealed that she will set out on a four-stop book tour next month. The storytelling tour will support her forthcoming book More Myself: A Journey, which is slated for a March 31 release via Flatiron Books and is reported to feature stories and music from the book, told and performed by Alicia and her piano, according to a statement.
Part autobiography, part narrative documentary, Keys' title is dubbed in its description as an "intimate, revealing look at one artist’s journey from self-censorship to full expression." You can pre-order the title here.
The book tour will kick off with a March 31 Brooklyn stop at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. From there, Keys will visit Atlanta’s Symphony Hall on April 5 and Chicago’s Thalia Hall with Chicago Ideas the following day, April 6. The short-run will culminate on April 7 in Los Angeles at the Theatre at Ace Hotel.
Pre-sales for the tour are underway and public on-sale will begin on Friday, March 6 at 12 p.m. Eastern Time. Tickets for the intimate dates and full release dates and times are available here.
Keys won her first five career awards at the 44th Annual GRAMMYs in 2002. On the night, she received awards in the Best New Artists, Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, Best R&B Album and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance categories respectively. She has received a total of 29 nominations and 15 GRAMMYs in her career.
This year, Keys will also embark on a world tour in support of Alicia, the artist’s upcoming seventh studio album and the follow up of 2016’s Here, due out March 20 via RCA Records.