Carly Pearce's journey to Grand Ole Opry membership dates back to age 11, when the Taylor Mill, Kentucky native first joined a touring bluegrass band, and passes through Dollywood, where she performed multiple shows a day as a 16 year old.
Though Pearce's story is uniquely hers, she followed a comparable path as some of her predecessors. Hopping on a bus at a young age with bluegrass talents jumpstarted the Hall of Fame careers of Marty Stuart and Ricky Skaggs. Likewise, working at a country-themed amusement park for exposure and experience dates back, at the very least, to the Opryland stints of Dean Dillon, Chely Wright, Ty Herndon and others. Now Pearce joins the likes of Stuart, Skaggs and Dolly Parton as a Grand Ole Opry member.
Pre-Teen Touring and Taylor Swift Covers
After hitting the road as a bluegrass prodigy around the turn of the century (she turned 11 in 2001), Pearce set a personal high bar she still maintains when it comes to both her stage and studio presence.
"I never want a country fan or any fan to come to my show and say, 'Wow, she does not sound like her album,'" Pearce told the Associated Press in 2018. "That would be terrible to me. So, I really just take pride in a live show and I think I really learned that from my bluegrass heroes."
If you're itching to hear Pearce sing familiar songs with a bluegrass band, track down 2008 compilation The Bluegrass Tribute to Taylor Swift. The future "Hide the Wine" singer gets credited on seven of its 11 tracks, including a grassed-up rendition of "Cold as You."
From Dollywood to the Opry House
Pearce's next step toward country music stardom came when she enrolled in a home schooling program and took a job at Parton's East Tennessee theme park.
"Imagine walking into work every day, your first job, you're 16, and you hear Dolly Parton music up and down every single little pathway that you would go up to your theater," Pearce told the Associated Press. "I worked up by the grist mill at a place called The Valley and a front porch was our set. And we wore, I call them George Jones style pearl snap shirts in 100-degree weather. And we were an outdoor show with really long, unflattering denim, handmade, costumey skirts with black cowboy boots and really ugly belts. But it was some of the most fun I have ever had in my life."
Two years later, Pearce appeared on the same episode of Today as Parton. Both had an album released that year on Oct. 13: Pearce's big label debut Every Little Thing and Parton's kid-friendly I Believe in You. Pearce told Parton about her Dollywood past that day, setting the stage for the park's namesake to take part in a former employee's 2021 invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry cast.
A video clip the Opry shared on social media on June 22 shows Pierce participating in what she believed was an interview about her experiences performing at Dollywood.
The Dollywood interview proved to be a ruse, in the best possible way, when Parton surprised the "Next Girl" singer.
"You should be a member of the Grand Ole Opry! What's the matter with them?," Parton told Pearce.
Parton followed that quip with a long-overdue invite that'll make Pearce's Aug. 3 appearance on the Opry stage a life-affirming moment.
"Dreams come true ... sometimes even better than you dare to dream," Pearce wrote on social media. "I couldn't be more happy or honored the be the newest member of [the Opry]."
Pearce debuted atop the Nashville heap with 2017's "Every Little Thing" and started filling up her trophy case here lately with ACM and CMA awards for Lee Brice duet "I Hope You're Happy Now."