Carly Pearce chased the spotlight for years, since dropping out of high school to perform at Dollywood, before she found success. Now, looking back, she's okay with the waiting and hustling she had to do; in fact, it's been helpful.

"Age is an asset," Pearce told The Boot in early 2020. "I used to think it was not an asset."

According to a 2019 study by the University of Southern California's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, the average age of the eight best-performing men on the country music charts between 2014 and 2018 was 42 years old, while the average age of the eight top-performing women during that same timeframe was 29 years old. Pearce, turns 31 on Saturday (April 24), was 27 years old when she earned her first No. 1 country radio hit in 2017. Statistics-wise, she had a reason to feel like time was running out.

"[Being older when I become successful] absolutely has allowed me to grow up," Pearce reflects. "It's allowed me to figure out and articulate who I am, it's allowed me to grow up and mess up and have some life experience to now be able to write and really connect with people."

In fact, Pearce admits, some of her older songs don't resonate with her anymore. She calls them "yearbook photos": "[There's] none that I can't sing anymore," she explains, "but definitely ones that I'm like, 'Oh God, I don't feel that way anymore,' or, 'I've grown out of that.'"

Pearce is hoping she and some of her peers can help raise that average age of women on country radio. While she's happy seeing younger stars -- such as Gabby Barrett, of whom Pearce is a fan -- succeed at a younger age, she also wants to make sure female listeners of all ages see themselves represented in the music.

"We need another echelon of the girls who are a little older to be able to speak to women," Pearce says. "They just haven't gone through it at 19."

Pearce has continued to learn how much of an asset age, and the experience that comes with it, truly is. After releasing her sophomore album, a self-titled record, on Valentine's Day 2020, she divorced fellow artist Michael Ray -- her husband of just eight months -- in June, and released a new project, 29, in February of 2021. The title track chronicles "the year that I got married and divorced," with the record's other songs covering romantic heartbreak and the grief that followed the death of Pearce's go-to producer, Busbee, in late 2019.

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