Since she dropped her 29 EP in February, Carly Pearce has been candid — both in the project’s seven songs and in conversation — about how personal this music is to her life. 29 tells the story of the singer’s 29th year: The year she “got married and divorced,” as she sings in the title track, to fellow country star Michael Ray. It’s also the year she grappled with the sudden loss of her producer, Busbee, who died in September of 2019 from brain cancer at just 43 years old.
29 is a personal project from front to back, and the seventh and final track, “Day One,” is no exception. In its lyrics, Pearce chronicles the day-by-day timeline of recovering from heartbreak, a process that begins by just getting through that excruciating first day.
“By day 17, I won’t need a drink to help me close my eyes / On day 28, I’ll go on a date and he’ll think I’m having fun,” she sings. “Sounds easy to do if I just get through day one…”
“Day One,” Pearce recounted to Country Now and other outlets during a recent virtual press event, actually got its start years ago, when her co-writers and producers Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne started working on it with Old Dominion bandmate Matt Ramsey. At the time, they thought it might be a fit for one of Old Dominion’s albums, but it never quite made sense for the band to cut. While working on 29, the two songwriters brought it Pearce.
“[They told me], ‘We’ve tried to re-write it every single album cycle for [Old Dominion] and we never finished it. Do you want to hear what we have?’” she remembers. “And I listened to it, and I was like, ‘Oh my God. I can so relate to this. I’m going through this right now. Yes, I want to write on it.’”
Osborne and McAnally let Pearce put her spin on the song and “girl it up,” she explains, adding that when it was finished, Ramsey described it to his Old Dominion bandmates by saying, “It sounds like ‘90s Faith [Hill].” For Pearce — who has made no secret of her admiration of the legendary women of country — the comparison was high praise.
“I was like, ‘Well, that’s awesome,” she chuckles.
But while the song focuses on that first post-break-up hurdle of day one, it also mentions milestones down the line. There’s day 45, when “I won’t have to drive / By your house on my way home,” and day 92, when “if I run into you / It won’t kill me if you’re not alone.” Eventually, by the end of the song, the heart that was so broken in the first verse has all but healed.
“It might take a while, but I might even smile / When that day finally comes / You’ll just be someone I knew / If I just get through day one.”
“When you’re going through any kind of struggle, it seems overwhelming to get out of bed — or even take a breath,” Pearce reflects. “At times I couldn’t even take a breath.”
But the singer is getting further and further away from her own heartbreak. She filed for divorce over the summer of 2020, and as she puts more and more days between herself and that breakup, she’s realizing that “Day One”’s message is coming true in her personal life.
“And I have to tell you, I just recently sang that song for the first time with my band, and I got super choked up at the end of the song, because I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m there,’” Pearce remembers. “I didn’t even know it until I sang it. I was like, ‘Wow, I’m okay.’ And I didn’t think eight months ago that I would be there.”