We’re all missing C2C with lots of happy memories and great music just bursting out of our Facebook pages at the moment.
To help fill in one of the gaps just a little, Big Machine Label Group celebrated International Women’s Day this week with a Virtual Artist Showcase featuring Carly Pearce and Callista Clark, alongside songwriter extraordinaire Laura Veltz.
Six Shooter Country’s Sally Maybury and Alison Dewar joined the guest list as Big Machine president and CEO Scott Borchetta introduced the evening, describing Carly, Callista and Laura as “three of the most talented artists in country music” and urging the online audience to “turn everything up and enjoy”.
In the style of a virtual ‘in the round’ session, each of the artists played three songs and it was clear from the camaraderie and laughter between the three that they are not just exceptional singer songwriters, but good friends too.
Having made her debut visit to the UK for C2C 2019, Carly Pearce said she “can’t wait” to get back to these shores, as she showcased her stunning vocals on songs including her CMA Musical Event of the Year award-winning song I Hope You’re Happy Now. Calling it a “quarantine gift”, the song is usually performed as a duet with Lee Brice and features on her 7 track ‘mini album’ 29, which came out last month.
It’s been a well-documented tumultuous 18 months for Carly following her marriage and divorce from Michael Ray and she laughed as, ahead of playing the album’s title track 29, she called it her “depressing” song, commenting that “sometimes beauty comes in the hard times” when not everything ends up as you wanted it to.
29 was co-written and produced with Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne and, in the Q&A session at the end of the evening, Carly talked of the need for honesty and telling “real” stories as she described having zoom sessions with Shane and Josh while her personal life was “falling apart” and she was still mourning the loss of her longtime friend, songwriting partner and producer, Busbee.
“My career was better going than ever but inside I was crumbling,” she said. “I said ‘I just have to tell you that I am filing for divorce next week’, that moment of honesty and telling my story – you have to be real. None of us have a perfect life and I found it very liberating to be honest – I think I was actually filing for divorce on a day I wrote with Laura.”
At just 17-years-old, musician and songwriter Callista Clark is already a YouTube star and in February released her debut EP Real To Me with Big Machine.
She co-wrote all five of the songs and two of them also feature the deft hand of Laura Veltz , including It’s Cause I Am, the first song of the night sung by Callista. So moving was the song that it prompted Carly to compare her vocals to Joss Stone who – it turns out – is one of Callista’s favourite artists.
The title track Real To Me was one of Callista’s very first co-writes on moving to Nashville and she paid tribute to Laura for being “so kind to her” during the experience. The song is the perfect vehicle for her soulful voice as she talks about the challenges of being told she was too young for things to feel “real” yet – the lyrics perfectly explain what she means and we loved the line about being “too old to cry, too young to drive”.
It was clear from both Laura’s and Carly’s reactions that they were bowled over by the teenager, Laura declaring her the “the most gifted vocalist that walks this planet” and Carly to say “little girl, you were meant to sing”.
Laura’s second song was one of my favourites What If I Never Get Over You, co-written with Ryan Hurd, Sam Ellis and Jon Green and made famous by Lady A in 2019. Talking about writing the song, Laura says “it was the day I got three grown men to cry with me” and described it as an “amazing day”.
She followed up with Maren Morris’ CMA Single of the Year The Bones, co-written with Maren and Jimmy Robbins, saying: “It is really humbling to watch a song get so big. We were so proud, you don’t know what songs you will be remembered for – some of them might be crap – but I love this song and it has been such a fun journey.”
To much laughter, it prompted Carly to remind her of when they were on a bus together and Laura actually played her a demo of the song – so she was among the first to hear it!
To round off the evening’s celebration of women, compere Becca Walls from Big Machine Radio, hosted a short Q&A session and asked each of the artists to name which females had been their biggest role models and mentors:
• For Carly, who used to work at Dollywood, it was Dolly Parton – who she called “the epitomé of a country music icon”, not just for her musical talents but also as a businesswoman and advocate. And she also gave a big shoutout to fellow singer-songwriter Kelsea Ballerini who, she said, had given her “huge help” at the beginning of her career, something she hoped she could pay forward in turn by helping the next generation of artists like Callista
• Laura said much of her inspiration comes from the new generation of artists like the girls she shared the platform with and the “Maren Morris’s of the world” but she also namechecked climate change activist Greta Thunberg and politician Stacey Abrams, saying she was “so grateful for women who take risks in a man’s world”.
• Callista paid tribute to her musical family for their support and to all the songwriters who had “taken a chance” on a young girl. But it was Jennifer Nettles who received a special thank you as a “great mentor” after the pair met when Callista was just 11-years-old and they played guitar and sang together – “she was so kind and supportive” said Callista and, to this day, Jennifer still stays in touch.