A devastating couple of years paved the way for Carly Pearce's 29 EP and its subsequent full-length version, 29: Written in Stone. Pearce mourned the death of her longtime producer, mentor and friend, Busbee, who died of a brain tumor in 2019 at the age of 43.

Then there was her divorce: Pearce married fellow artist Michael Ray in late 2019, but they divorced just eight months later. As she wrote for her next album, she drew inspiration from those two difficult events, also digging deeper into the traditional country music that she's long cited as her primary stylistic influence.

Now, with the ACM Female Artist of the Year trophy newly under her belt, Pearce says the honesty she brought to her latest project is paying dividends. The singer found a No. 1 hit in "I Hope You're Happy Now," her Lee Brice duet, which hit the top of the charts the same day that she filed for divorce. That song went on to win her acclaim at awards shows, and the following year, she became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

But the best part, Pearce told media backstage at the 2022 ACMs, is finding a deeper, more engaged artist presence onstage.

"I feel like people see me more like a human being than just a singer, and I would truly go through it all again, because I feel like I have such a richer purpose in my life," she reflects.

There's no better example than "Never Wanted to Be That Girl," Pearce's duet with Ashley McBryde, which appears on the track list of her latest album and won Music Event of the Year at the ACMs on Monday night (March 7).

The song grapples with infidelity, as told from the perspective of two women who are caught between the same cheating man. In the song, the women never meet, but each sing about the insecurities and pain they're facing as a result of this man's actions.

Talking about infidelity in a song, Pearce says, has opened up her relationship with her fans and peers in a whole new way.

"I have had people in the industry, fellow artists, fans, come up to me and share their stories of infidelity with me, and how this song has made them pull over to the side of the road and start crying the first time they heard it for the first time," she says, adding that the new connections she's finding through the song are especially intimate because infidelity isn't often talked about.

"It's a very normal and realistic thing that happens in life," Pearce points out. "I feel like I know people better because of this song, and because of the subject matter, and because I didn't shy away from it. And I'm really proud of that."

2022 ACM Awards Nominations: Snubs and Surprises

This is not the same 'ol list of ACM Awards nominees. One of the biggest categories seems to have completely turned over, while a major winner from 2021 was snubbed in a major way.

Chris Young leads all nominees — who saw that coming? — and Morgan Wallen is back. What some would say is the best album of 2021 was forgotten, and an artist everyone thought could represent the next generation of female stars was shut out.

Needless to say, the 2022 version of the ACM Awards Nominations: Snubs and Surprises list is very, very interesting.

2022 ACM Awards: The Most Nominated Artists

Chris Young is the most-nominated artist at the 2022 ACM Awards, earning seven nominations. Some of country's biggest names also earned multiple nods this year.

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