Carly Pearce’s ‘Never Wanted to Be That Girl’ Lyrics Couldn’t Have Come Five Years Ago
During "Never Wanted to Be That Girl," Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde play two women who learn they're both in a committed relationship with the same man. Exercise caution before jumping to conclusions about the lyrics and any other song the story sounds like, though.
Pearce and McBryde teamed with Shane McAnally to write "Never Wanted to Be That Girl," and talking to Taste of Country, the Kentucky native shared that both women felt the song would be a great duet. The lyrics were almost written chronologically as you hear them — McBryde's verse came first, then the chorus and so on — but while they came naturally, they didn't come easily.
“It was an odd one. We fought for it in some ways of trying to make that chorus stay the same and trying to make sure we got all the pieces right," Pearce, whose 29: Written in Stone album drops Friday (Sept. 17), says.
While the song will be found on Pearce's album, it's actually McBryde that begins, singing, "You helped me change a tire in the Citgo parking lot / You said we both could use a beer / I said, 'Hell, why not?' / What started out as one night turned to six months just like that / You never had a ring on / So I never thought to ask / But then last night, I saw a message on his phone / Said, ‘Hey, babe, what time you coming home?'"
From the beginning, Pearce was penciled in as the "wife," while McBryde was always going to play the paramour. "I’m certainly not going to be the one to be out changing a tire and grab[ing] a beer," she says. "That felt more like Ashley, and my scenario felt more like me.”
Indeed, after the chorus, the 31-year-old tells a story that is much more believable for her — "I’ve heard about those women who didn’t have a clue / The ones who made excuses like my mama used to do / He jumps in the shower just as soon as he gets home / And I spend half an hour / Going through his phone" — but Pearce recommends fans exercise caution before assuming she's telling her truth.
"I think it’s a story that happens more times than people even want to admit," she says during a Zoom from a hotel room in Los Angeles. "This should be looked at as two female artists coming together to write a truth that so many women live.”
"Never Wanted to Be That Girl" was written in late May or early June, just before Pearce returned to the studio to finish recording 29: Written in Stone. Comparisons to "Does He Love You," the 1993 hit by Reba McEntire and Linda Davis, are fair (coincidentally, both pairs were 31 and 38 as the song became a hit), but Pearce says that her writing group went out of their way to distance themselves from that classic.
"That is a timeless piece of art that can never be topped or even matched," she says. "And for me, and for Ashley, we wanted to do a different perspective."
Still, the choruses of both songs are a mix of emotions, none of which is anger toward the other woman: "I never wanted to be that girl / I never wanted to hate myself / I thought this kind of lonely only happens to somebody else / Being the other one when there’s another one / God this feels like hell / I thought I knew who I was / But it’s getting hard to tell / I never wanted to be that girl," Pearce and McBryde sing.
Rather than hatred, there is a soft maturity that Pearce admits just wouldn't have been possible at the start of her career "because I was still such a kid in so many ways," she says.
"I just hadn’t experienced life," Pearce adds. "I don’t think you can write a song like that if you haven’t lived a little bit of life.”
"Never Wanted to Be That Girl" is the second single from her 29 album, after the Top 20 hit "Next Girl." The shortened, first version of the album was recently nominated for the CMA's Album of the Year award; Pearce and McBryde were both named Female Vocalist of the Year nominees as well.