Now that Carly Pearce has her second No. 1 song after her “I Hope You’re Happy Now” made it to the top of this week’s Billboard country airplay chart, she had a few days to let that sink in, to reflect on the road that led her here, and to open up about what really happened in the studio when the song was in the works.
Thank you @leebrice for lending your voice to this song. What started as an apology ended up giving me closure & making me realize WE all fall short sometimes. So grateful to be celebrating my second #1 & am so thankful to country radio & all of YOU! ♥️ #ihopeyourehappynow pic.twitter.com/tMrI3Wrg9k
— Carly Pearce (@carlypearce) June 15, 2020
First, Pearce wrote the song with Luke Combs,* Jonathan Singleton and Randy Montana. Then she asked Lee Brice to make it a duet with her. Then, she and her producer busbee got to work in the studio.
When I asked Pearce about that process — which would come to be the last song she worked on with Mike Busbee, who died on Sept. 29 — I wanted to know if he’d taught her how to embrace the collaborative spirit that’s so prevalent in Nashville.
“I feel like what he did so well was just giving me confidence in a writer’s room. Try different things with different people,” she said he’d told her, “but also just own who I am in a room.”
Then she shared a story about the break-up ballad that she’s never shared before.
“What’s interesting about this song is that this was the last song busbee had finished on the whole record. He was working on this song and had just gotten Lee’s vocal as he was landing in California,” she said. “And he was going to go and work on it, and was texting with Lee. And that was actually the night that he had the first seizure and found out that he had brain cancer.
“So a lot of people don’t know this, but I always said if it went No. 1, I would tell this story: Dan Huff actually came in and ghost produced the rest of Lee’s vocal, because busbee was sick.”
Busbee was diagnosed with a glioblastoma — an aggressive form of brain cancer — last summer and died just a few months later.
It shows you that people love Busbee and what kind of heart Huff has, Pearce explained. “Dan never wanted credit for it. But this song is just extra special for me in all of those ways, because it’s the one thing that busbee didn’t get to finish, but he knew that it was special. And now I feel like that needs to be heard, because it’s pretty special that Dan did that, and I am grateful to him.”
“I think that this pandemic has given me time to grieve busbee,” she added, “and not let go of him but also understand that I have to move on. I feel confident in that and I know that he always wanted me to fly. He always knew I struggled with my true confidence and was always just a little bit shy and a little unsure. With these two records and with this time, I’m just ready to show him that I can do it without him.”
Pearce also shared her thoughts on the abrupt shut down of the live music scene she’d been so busy with since her debut in 2017. “I mean, I was pulled off the road very fast. In an instant, I watched my band walk away in the airport and it was like, ’Oh, wow. Okay.’ This thing that I always talk about being such a hectic one, like ’Oh, I can’t do this ’cause I’m on the road.’ Then the road was taken away in two seconds. What that has done for me with music is given me the space and the time and the silence to really focus in on what’s next and understand that it’s heavy out there. Everybody feels a heaviness.
But after the chaos has come some calm for her. “I’ve just had time for the first time,” Pearce said.
* Listen to Combs play the demo of “I Hope You’re Happy Now”:
Songwriting is one of the things that made me fall in love with country music, so I'm pumped to have written this song (I Hope You're Happy Now) with @carlypearce & it be my first No. 1 as just a songwriter. Huge congrats to her & @leebrice for it being the No. 1 song this week! pic.twitter.com/QY9KmlmzhE
— Luke Combs (@lukecombs) June 16, 2020