Carly Pearce: From the Way Back to the Right Now

Even though Carly Pearce might still be considered a new artist, this ain’t her first rodeo. At all. Pearce has been singing professionally for years, ever since she dropped out of high school at 16 to move from Kentucky to Tennessee for a job performing at Dollywood.

And when she finally made the move from Pigeon Forge to Nashville, Russell Dickerson was one of the first friends she made.

Pearce told me the story about how they initially met. “He went to Belmont, and because I had no friends, honestly, I used to search out certain country artists on MySpace who went to Belmont,” Pearce said. “And one night, I went to a showcase where Russell was actually just playing drums for another artist. It was before he was really chasing the artist thing. But I heard the EP he’d made in college, and I was just such a fan of that voice. He’s got that Josh Turner deep alto thing that I just love.

“We always said that if we could figure out a way to make this our life, we’d tour together. And here we are. It’s such a special time.”

The two first started playing shows together almost ten years ago. “A lot of people don’t realize that. People may not know that that’s why we named our tour the Way Back Tour, because Russell and I go way back. We played our first label showcases together when we were like 19 or 20. Then we had a residency at 3rd and Lindsley, but back when it was the old 3rd and Lindsley,” she said.

And Pearce’s concert influences come from all the country stars who came before her.

“I saw Wynonna and Blackhawk, LeAnn Rimes and Alan Jackson, the Dixie Chicks, Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, and Rascal Flatts every year. I even remember when Blake Shelton was the opening act on the Rascal Flatts tour,” she said.

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“Those were the shows I’d never miss.”

Now that Dickerson and Pearce have come this far, she’s learned a lot about the must-haves she must have when she’s on the road. “I FaceTime my trainer, I’m a huge runner, and sometimes I’ll even find a SoulCycle class wherever I am on the road. I also make all my own food so I can eat clean and healthy. I have an oven on the bus so I can bake chicken or vegetables. I’m not on a diet, I just try to make everything as naturally and organically as I can. I drink wine, because to me that’s heart healthy. And I sleep. If I’m not performing past 9:00 at night,” she said, “I’m in bed.”

Her voice, though. That kind of needs its own health routine. “My voice is my instrument, it’s my money maker,” she laughed. “But I really do have to make sure it stays well, and when we’re in different climates, it can get tired and dry. I really love the way I feel when I have the Zarbee’s 99 percent Honey Cough Soothers on hand at all times. If I ever feel like, ’Oh gosh, that flight really did a number on my voice,” it’s a really good thing that I have something made for my voice.” Pearce and Zarbee’s Naturals have teamed up to make sure she takes her wellness with her on the road.

Because once you move from opener to headliner, she told me, everything changes.

“For me, being on those past tours (Luke Bryan, Rascal Flatts, Brett Young) has been incredible. And now with Jason Aldean later this year,” she said. “But when it’s their fans and they’re seeing me for the first time, and that’s if they even make it there for my set, it’s different than what we’re doing now.

“Because for this tour, the people there are literally buying a ticket because they’re fans of mine and of Russell’s. And that’s really exciting, and something I’ve been wanting to get to do. I am really, really, really honored to show fans a deeper side of me, because they’re coming for me this time.”

The Way Back Tour starts January 24 in Cleveland and runs through early March.

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Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.