CMT Artists Of The Year: (WATCH) Carly Pearce Delivers Stripped-Down Version Of "29" And Shares Inspiring Acceptance Speech

Carly Pearce says she's ready to move away from the "29" era and start a new chapter.

Carly Pearce has come a long way since singing at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. After a whirlwind of a year, the powerhouse vocalist was recognized (Oct. 14) for her achievements during the CMT Artists of The Year celebration at Nashville's Schermerhorn Symphony Center. 

The hitmaker was honored alongside Cody Johnson, Kane Brown, Walker Hayes, Luke Combs, Lainey Wilson, and Artist of The Decade recipient Alan Jackson. Pearce resembled a real-life princess  in a glistening pink ball gown to deliver a stripped-down rendition of her chart-topping hit, "29." 

Pearce penned the poignant ballad alongside frequent collaborators Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally. The thought-provoking lyrics describe why "29" served as a pivotal age for Pearce. Although the raw melody touches upon her public divorce from singer-songwriter Michael Ray, it conveys a universal message about owning unexpected situations and the importance of embracing the unknown. 

Pearce placed her heart on the line and shared her truth with undeniable poise. While the released version includes upbeat production, the platinum-selling performer decided to slow down the temp and only include a full-set orchestra. The fine string work flawlessly backed her rich Kentucky twang, placing emphasis on the emotionally-driven words. 

(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for CMT)"

"But for me, twenty-nine | Is the year that I got married and divorced |I held on for dear life, but I still fell off the horse | From a Miss to a Mrs | Then the other way around | The year I was gonna live it up | Now I'm never gonna live it down," she belted.  

While smoke leaked onto the stage – Attendees and fans watching from home could almost feel the weight lifting off her shoulders as she came to terms with her personal journey. The retable track lives on her critically acclaimed record "29: Written In Stone," which became Pearce's one-way ticket to stardom. 

The 15-song collection scored Pearce Female Vocalist of the Year at both the 2021 CMA Awards and the 2022 Academy of Country Music Awards. With the prestigious titles under her belt, the 32-year-old secured her third No.1 single with "Never Wanted To Be That Girl" with Ashley McBryde. The fierce duet broke records, as it has been nearly 30 years since a female duet graced the top of the charts. 

While relishing in her new profound success, Pearce was invited to become a Grand Ole Opry member by country legend Dolly Parton and dominated stadiums nationwide with Kenny Chesney

During her acceptance speech, Pearce expressed her gratitude to the special people in her life that made her dream a reality, but spoke out about her rigorous grind to make a name for herself. 

"I think about CMT, and I think about ten years ago, crying on Leslie Fram's couch, wondering if I was ever gonna get a break," she explained. "Fast forward to just everything that has happened in my life in the last few years. I wrote this album not to chase anything except to survive. When I think about everything that has happened in my life, I want anybody who's struggling to know that you can get through and overcome anything. I was at the bottom, and I got up, and I chose to get through this situation," she added. 

While cultivating "29: Written In Stone,"  Pearce was not only enduring a sticky split but grieving the loss of her good friend and long-time producer Busbee to brain cancer. The vocalist was forced to lay her trust in other notable names in the industry – Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, the world-renowned producers behind the album. 

"I have so many people that make this journey happen for me. Scott Borchetta allowed me to be the artist that I always wanted to be, thank you for that. My amazing other members of my team are here, and my parents are watching. I couldn't have done this without you guys," Pearce said with the crystal trophy in hand. "Country music is my heat. It's all that I've ever wanted. Shane McAnally, I saw you over there – thank you for helping me make the album of my dreams. As a little girl, you think about the things that you want in your life. This right here is what I wanted. So, thank you, CMT. Thank you, country music fans — the country music industry. I have to say…divorce has never looked so good," she added with a wink. 

(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for CMT)

While flaunting her divorce with pride,  she sent her last single from "29: Written In Stone" to the airwaves. The breakup banger "What He Didn't Do" became the most added song at country radio and was recently certified GOLD by the RIAA.  

Pearce told CMT that she's ready to end the "29" chapter and start a new era with a fresh perspective. 

"I think this album has so much more good, than it did pain in the end for me. I feel like it's just the starting point for me of where I want to go, and it showed me what I want to do musically. Now, let's go. Let's go on all of the bit happier times."  

An immediate encore showing will follow at 11p/10c (Oct. 14) and on Sunday, October 16, at 8p/7c.

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