Q&A: Carly Pearce Opens Up on Live Album, Touring with Blake Shelton

Carly Pearce captures the heart of her transformative album 29:Written in Stone on her first live album 29: Written In Stone (Live From Music City), available now. With special appearances by “Never Wanted to Be That Girl” duet partner Ashley McBryde, Lee Brice on their hit duet “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” multi-CMA Musician of the Year winner Jenee Fleenor playing fiddle on the title track and more, Live From Music puts a period at the end of her 29 journey.

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Pearce chatted with American Songwriter about what it was like to capture this show at Marathon Music Works in Nashville, teases what to expect from her new music, what Blake Shelton has taught her about performing and more.

American Songwriter: What inspired you to want to do this live album, especially in Nashville?

Carly Pearce: I’ve always been a live album fan. A lot of my favorite records were live albums and I think that I always knew I wanted to do one, I just wasn’t quite sure when or how. But I think when I wrote this record, I knew that the storytelling and the musicality of it was different than anything I’d ever done, and when we got out on the road on the 29 Tour, it just really felt like I had locked in on what I really wanted to do and how I wanted my shows to look like and how I wanted people to feel and all of those types of things. We really felt that was such a special, cute little moment in my career and we wanted to capture that, and what better place than Nashville?

AS: When you were getting ready to go out on the 29 Tour, how did you want the tour to look and feel, and do you feel like that’s captured in the live record?

CP: I do feel like it’s captured in the record. It’s so interesting because I feel like in country music especially, I’m on an arena tour right now and I’ve been on stadium tours, and a lot of my peers have fire and tons of stuff and lots of backgrounds and a ton of props. I think obviously that works well for a certain type of music, but for me, that was never what I saw. I saw more of exactly what the 29 Tour looked like, more of that intimate setting where I’m sharing my music on a very intimate level even if there’s thousands of people there. So I feel like when we got out of the 29 Tour, I remember walking into the theater on our first date and just being like, “Oh my god, this is what I wanted to do.” If I would have made an album like my first two records, I don’t think I would have ever discovered that.

AS: How do you feel like the Live in Music City record captures the spirit of 29?

CP: We played the show just like the record in chronological order of how it occurred in my life. I never intended to write a concept album but it just kind of happened because I was writing this story in real-time of it happening to me. So we really wanted to preserve that, so it is in real-time and we literally did on the live record exactly how the 29 Tour went, from the musical breaks to the banter in between to the acoustic set to having the special guests [that are on the record], which was very fun. If you weren’t able to see one of the 29 shows, you’re going to get it on this record.

AS: What have been some fan moments or stories that they’ve shared with you about how this record has impacted them?

CP: I think even though I wrote this album about a divorce, I feel like the universal thought of the album is people go through hard things and it’s all about how you deal with that. I have heard night after night people tell me that they have left abusive relationships, they decided to leave the relationship even though they were scared, they decided to get a divorce even though they’re young and felt like they had failed.

I have made them feel like they’re not alone. I’ve made them feel like they’re going to get through it. They’ve watched my story and watched me get through it, so now they feel the strength to do it. It’s just the most fulfilling piece of music that I’ve ever created and it came from the worst two years of my life. It’s just interesting to have that full-circle moment.

AS: How do those fans’ stories and everything you’ve experienced throughout this 29-chapter impact you as an artist and a songwriter?

CP: Before 29, I thought I was writing from an honest place, and I think I was, but I think I had not tapped into the depths of my vulnerability and my honesty. What this album did is it allowed me to not try to write for the radio. I actually didn’t even know if this album was going to come out. I was just kind of like, “I need to write this.” It certainly didn’t sound like a hit record to me. It was so personal that it kind of freaked me out. But to see what it has done on a commercial and a critically acclaimed level is exactly what I always hoped that I could find in music. I always wanted to be a commercial country artist, but I never wanted to lose the integrity of real songwriting and real musicality and I feel like I found that through this record.

AS: Can you share anything with us about the new music you’re working on?

CP: I will tell you that the Live album is coming out, [current No. 1 single] “What He Didn’t Do” is near the end of its life, so you’re going to get music sooner than you think. I think that a lot of people are going to assume that because I’m not going through a divorce and I’m quite happy that I’m going to be coming out with some fluffy love song, but that’s not what Carly Pearce does, so stay tuned. It’s literally the most proud I’ve ever been of a track. I’m really excited, I think it’s going to be unexpected in several different ways.

AS: What was it like being on the road with Blake Shelton’s Back to the Honky Tonk Tour? What have you learned being on the road with Blake and how do you apply that to your own show?

I love Blake. Blake is such a great person, a great singer, a great showman, a great personality. He’s just really been somebody that over the years has been really good to me and I’ve really just tried to study how nobody is like Blake Shelton. I feel really lucky to get to be out there and the arenas are really fun. It’s a good challenge for me to still maintain my creative integrity while still running up and down a stage and doing those types of things. So I’ve really enjoyed being on tour with him.

I think Blake doesn’t try to chase anybody else. I think Blake is Blake unapologetically. People come to see Blake talk as much as they come to hear him sing, and nobody else I feel like is that. If you view me against the other females in country music, people are coming to hear me share my stories. I don’t know that that’s really the way that everybody else does things. I think just continuing to really carve out your narrative. He’s really shown me how to just unapologetically be yourself.

Photo Credit: Alexa Campbell / Courtesy of Big Machine Label Group

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