Why Carly Pearce Didn’t Hold Back When Writing ‘Diamondback’

Country music singer Carly Pearce gave a spirited performance of her breakout hit, “Diamondback,” at this year’s CMT Awards. When writing the song, the ACM Female Vocalist of the Year leaned into the heartbreak of her divorce from fellow country singer Michael Ray. But “Diamondback” almost didn’t happen, as Pearce was reeling from her recent divorce filing.

Dressed in a white dress with gold fringe, Carly Pearce performs at the 2022 CMT Music Awards, in Nashville, TN.
Carly Pearce | Brent Harrington/CBS via Getty Images

After death and divorce, Carly Pearce was at a crossroads

Carly Pearce quarantined with her parents in Alabama during the early days of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Although a newlywed, she was not with her husband, Michael Ray. What the world didn’t know was that Pearce was in the process of filing for divorce. 

Her album 29: Written in Stone chronicles her 29th year of life when she married and divorced her fellow country singer. 

Pearce had reservations when her manager told her it was time to work on the next project. She was nervous about the possibility of writing about her divorce, and she was also scared to write with a new team. Pearce’s longtime collaborator, Busbee, died at 43 from brain cancer.

Her manager set up sessions with famed country music writer Shane McNally. She told People magazine she was “fighting back tears” at the thought of working with someone else. Pearce was also under pressure to write a radio hit, something she’s never been comfortable with, “The pressure of writing a single for radio is so difficult for me.”

A conversation with Shawn McNally and Josh Osborne opened Pearce’s heart

Although cautious, Pearce agreed to a zoom meeting with McNally and another songwriter, Josh Osborne. 

Her publisher coached her not to talk about the divorce, “I remember my publisher, he had sent me this really long note, pretty much saying, because nobody knew I was getting a divorce, tell them you don’t really want to write about love,” Pearce said.

“I read this message, and I was like, ‘Well, this isn’t going to happen.’ I understood it; he was protecting me.”

Pearce let down her guard as soon as the Zoom conversation started and told them she was getting a divorce. She shared, “I’ll never forget this as long as I live: Shane looked at me, and he goes, ‘I would’ve thought you would’ve told me you were pregnant with eight kids before you were going to tell me that,'” she said. “That vulnerability in that moment, we started 29 that day.”

Pearce ‘didn’t want to put up a facade’; she ‘just wanted to be real’

Pearce realized it was time to let the world in on her truth, “I didn’t want to put up a façade. I just wanted to be real. Because of that, you get this album. This one, I was like, I don’t care what anybody else thinks, I have to do this. It’s not for anybody but myself.”

On “Diamondback,” Pearce sings, “Keep the house, keep the truck/ Go downtown, get too drunk/ Kiss a one-night stand with a butterfly on her back/.” She then tells her ex he can take everything, but he’s not going to get the diamond back (engagement ring.) 

By the end of the song, listeners learn she pawned it, “You ain’t gonna get this diamond back/ No, never ever gettin’ this diamond back/It’s in a pawn shop next to the laundromat/ You ain’t gonna get this diamond back.”

Like her idols Miranda Lambert and Loretta Lynn, she used her heartbreak for a ‘go-off moment’

Pearce said, “I think it was the last song I wrote for this project,” She continued, “You try to do the right thing and try to stay quiet, and I just stopped caring. I went, ‘Hmm, I gotta go there,’ and I did.”

She explained, “All of the great women that I love as writers and as singers and as performers had those go-off moments.” she said. “Miranda Lambert writes from such an unapologetic place, Loretta Lynn writes from such an unapologetic place, Kacey Musgraves … So that was my go-off moment.”

Pearce had her go-off performance complete with fringe and flames at the CMT Awards when she triumphantly sang, “you ain’t gonna get this diamond back.” Thanks to her vulnerability, a new anthem for the newly divorced, “Diamondback,” was born. 

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