Carly Pearce Honors Riley Strain With Emotional Performance In His Home State: ‘We Love You, Riley’

Pearce paid close attention to Riley Strain’s disappearance and followed along with the search efforts.


Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

March 23, 2024

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Carly Pearce; Photo Courtesy Carly Pearce Connect, Riley Strain; Photo Courtesy of Riley Strain’s Family

Carly Pearce paid tribute to the late Riley Strain, the University of Missouri student who went missing in Nashville and whose body was later discovered in the Cumberland River, while performing in St. Louis on Friday evening. 

In the midst of her opening set on Tim McGraw’s Standing Room Only Tour, Pearce took a moment to send a heartfelt shoutout to Strain, his family, and friends.    

A Heartfelt Dedication

“I do not feel like I can live in Nashville and be in the state of Missouri tonight and not say that we love you Riley Strain,” the songstress shared from the stage. “I just wanna say that I’m thinking of his family and I’m thinking of his friends and anybody that knows him in this room that knows him and I wanna dedicate this to them.”

The Grand Ole Opry member went on to perform her song “Every Little Thing” in his honor. 

“Every little thing/ I remember every little thing/ The high, the hurt, the shine, the sting/ Of every little thing,” Pearce emotionally sang. 

At the end of the song, she looked up to the sky, as if speaking to Strain in heaven, and sweetly stated, “We love you, Riley.”

Watch The Performance


The wonderful Carly Pearce made tribute to Mizzou student Riley Strain at the show in St. louis tonight. She is truly such a wonderful person inside and out i love her so much 😭

♬ original sound – Inmanshannon

The Kentucky native paid close attention to Riley Strain’s disappearance and followed along with the search efforts. On March 20, she took to X to write, “I can’t stop following the Riley Strain case. Praying for his hurting mother & family. Praying for Riley and hoping they find him. Life is so precious.

After he was found, Pearce wrote, “Rest easy, Riley.” 

Strain went missing in Nashville on the evening of March 8 after visiting several bars along Lower Broadway in Nashville, including Luke Bryan’s establishment, Luke’s 32 Bridge. This was his final stop of the night before he was removed from the bar. He was there with friends, however, no one left with him and he ended up walking by himself throughout downtown. 

Riley Strain; Photo Courtesy Metro Nashville PD
Riley Strain; Photo Courtesy Metro Nashville PD

Surveillance video of Strain’s movements after leaving Luke’s 32 Bridge was released in the days after he went missing and Metro Nashville Police began extensive search efforts to locate him. 

His Body Was Recovered 14 Days Later

Sadly, his body was found 14 days later. WKRN reported that on the morning of Friday, March 22, authorities received a report of a body found in the river in the Nations neighborhood in West Nashville, approximately 8 miles from the downtown area. 

Once recovered, the Metro Nashville Police Department confirmed the identity to be the missing college student and revealed that “no foul play-related trauma was observed.” An autopsy is pending.

YouTube video

Strain’s Parents Speak Out

After his body was recovered, Strain’s family spoke with local media and thanked the local police, as well as the United Cajun Navy and the Nashville community, for their efforts in finding him. 

“It’s just unbelievable what they’ve done for us,” Ryan Gilbert, Strain’s father, said, according to WSMV.  

“I just ask that you mommas out there hug your babies tight tonight, please.” Strain’s mother, Michelle Whiteid, shared. “Please for me, hug your babies tight tonight.”

Vigil Held In His Honor

On Friday evening, hours after Riley Strain’s body was recovered from the River, friends, family, and members of the Nashville community, gathered on Gay Street to hold a candlelight vigil in his honor. This was one of the last locations Strain was known to be seen. 

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Lauren Jo Black

Written by

Lauren Jo Black

Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for and her work being featured on She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.