Photography: Harper Smith

C&I talks to rising country star Carly Pearce about the instant success of her debut album, Every Little Thing.

Fresh off the release of her hit debut album, a No. 1 single, and a spot on Blake Shelton’s Country Music Freaks tour, country singer Carly Pearce is on the trail to superstardom.

Born in Kentucky, Pearce made the move to Tennessee to sing fulltime at Dollywood after dropping out of high school. Now residing in Music City, the 27-year-old singer-songwriter is taking her talent to a wider audience and finds herself nominated for the ACM Award for New Female Vocalist of the Year.

Recently C&I talked with Pearce about her debut album, her recent success, and her favorite Nashville hotspots.

Cowboys & Indians: You’ve had so much success with your new album, Every Little Thing: an ACM nomination, mentions on numerous “People to Watch” lists, and a No. 1 single. How have you transitioned into the success, and how has it affected you as an artist?
Carly Pearce: Oh, gosh. I feel like I’m still trying to transition just from trying to be heard to now having the opportunities that I’ve had. I think, as an artist, you dream of having an opportunity to share your music like this your whole life, and then you also pray that people listen and that you’re accepted and that what you write connects with people. I’m just so thankful that all of those things seem to be aligning for me right now.

C&I: Has there been a moment in all this attention that’s stood out more than another?
Pearce: It’s hard to say one. Obviously, having my single go No. 1, releasing my debut album, being nominated for an ACM, getting to tour with some of the biggest artists in country music, getting to play The Today Show — so many different things have just been firsts but also just crazy.

C&I: What surprised you most with regard to the release of Every Little Thing?
Pearce: That people bought it and that radio played it. It’s not what you think typically gets played on the radio, especially for a new female artist, and the fact that I got to have that song as my debut single is very rare. So I was just very pleasantly surprised at how much it was received and connected.

C&I: When you began to pursue a career in singing, you started at Dolly Parton’s Dollywood and then moved to Nashville. How do you think those experiences shaped you?
Pearce: I think just learning from Dolly, as far as being the hard worker that she is and doing six shows a day, five days a week, and just getting to learn a lot of the history of Dolly is definitely a lot of things that I carry on in my career now and hope to align myself as I grow, with that at the back of my mind so that I am treating my career the way Dolly did.

C&I: Did you ever get any good advice from Dolly herself when you started working on Every Little Thing?
Pearce: No. I mean, I don’t know Dolly, but I, of course, think that Dolly wrote the truth of her life, so I think I kept that “What would Dolly do?” in the back of my mind.

C&I: What’s the best advice you’ve received about your career?
Pearce: I think just to be 100 percent me and write what I know and write what I’ve experienced and don’t compromise that for what you think the radio wants to hear.

C&I: Is there a specific song on the album that your fans have really taken to or a song on the album that you’re most proud of?
Pearce: I would say “Every Little Thing” [qualifies as both] because it opened so many doors and it showed me how vulnerable I could be and proved to me that people wanted to hear real music. I think another standout is “If My Name Was Whiskey,” which I feel like is a great representation of the influences of the late-’90s and early-2000s women that I love so much.

C&I: Such as ...
Pearce: Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Shania. I love, obviously, Dolly and Reba, and then also Alison Krauss.

C&I: Speaking of them and your fans, you heard about your ACM nomination at 35,000 feet in the air surrounded by strangers and fans and the whole plane got to share the excitement. Any other fun stories about fan experiences?
Pearce: There’s not really one quite like that, but, yeah, I think it’s been fun to see the fan base grow and starting to get the looks in airports, or people coming up to me and asking for photos or just wanting to tell me that they love my music. That’s really awesome and just a really good feeling. It’s cool to see it grow.

C&I: Tell us a little about how your album came together.
Pearce: I think all of the stories, all of the songs on the album tell a particular part of my story, whether it’s songs like “Every Little Thing” that I wrote about an actual breakup or “Color,” which is one that I wrote about being very stubborn and not wanting to admit being in love. All of the things that I’ve gone through — I feel like I really wanted that to be the concept for my debut album.

C&I: Are there songs that didn’t make it on this album that are on the list for the next?
Pearce: There’s a few. I think that I’m evolving as a person and musically and I do think that there’s going to be new material.

C&I: You’ve been on tour for a while now and have opened for Blake Shelton and will soon open for Luke Bryan and Thomas Rhett. What’s it like performing with those artists and how has your tour experience been?
Pearce: That was so amazing. [Blake] is amazing. It was so fun to get to learn from somebody who I respect so much as an artist. He’s an amazing performer and businessman. I got to sing with him every night and that was amazing. I’m equally looking forward to doing the same this year with Thomas Rhett, Rascal Flatts, and Luke Bryan and just learning from them and being a sponge to all these male artists that are huge influences of me and figuring out all of the things that they do to make their shows special.

C&I: What’s something that fans might not know about you?
Pearce: That I’m actually ... kind of boring. I’m just like any young girl who likes to hang out with her cat and drink wine and hang out at home. I’m actually a homebody, which is really funny. I love being on the road, but I also really love to be at home and just veg out.

C&I: Besides home, when you’re back in Nashville, what are some of your favorite places?
Pearce: Oh, gosh, I love the greenways around Nashville. I love Burger Up. I love Barcelona for wine. I love Arrington Vineyards. I love Posh Boutique, a clothing store. I love the Grand Ole Opry.

Carly Pearce is nominated for the ACM Award for New Female Vocalist of the Year. The 2018 ACM Awards take place on Sunday, April 15, at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The awards show begins at 8 p.m. Eastern and will air live on CBS.

For more information on Carly Pearce and the album Every Little Thing, visit her website.