Hear Carly Pearce and Lee Brice’s ‘I Hope You’re Happy Now’ Duet

The hitmakers reveal the story behind their classic-country inspired collaboration.

Written by Chris Parton
Hear Carly Pearce and Lee Brice’s ‘I Hope You’re Happy Now’ Duet
Lee Brice and Carly Pearce; Courtesy of Big Machine Records & Curb Records)

There’s a rich history of heartbreak ballads in country music — and of singers who can make feeling bad sound so good — but Carly Pearce newest single, “I Hope You’re Happy Now” comes at an awkward moment. The rising star is just about to get married to the love of her life, fellow hit maker Michael Ray.

Sung as a duet with Lee Brice, the apologetic new track is out today (September 27) and reveals some of the private story behind Pearce’s fairytale romance with her now-fiancé. Co-written by Pearce with Luke Combs, Jonathan Singleton and Randy Montana (and produced by busbee), it’s all about how she was in a serious relationship when she and Ray first met, and how she had to cut that unfortunate guy loose. Speaking with members of the press earlier this week, Pearce was asked how she’s been able to get into the heartbroken headspace when she’s so happy in real life.

“It’s an interesting time to be putting out a heartbreak ballad,” she agreed, “but I’ve tried to answer that and I think the best way is we all have yearbook photos. You can go back and look at those and tap into so many memories, and to me that’s how I relate to my songs. They’re like my yearbook photos of the evolution of who I am.”

Built on a foundation of classic-country duets, “I Hope You’re Happy Now” feels like a throwback in the best sense of the word — much like Pearce’s breakout “Every Little Thing” did — and she said that’s just the music she loves to make. Her second album is in the works and according to her, the new single is exactly what fans should expect to find.

“When Luke and I were in there [writing], we were talking about Reba and Brooks & Dunn, Tim [McGraw] and Faith [Hill], all these songs that just wrecked me back then, and I wanted one of those,” she explained. “I wanted a showstopper moment that is a true duet that makes you hurt, and I got it. … I want to be a country artist. I see my female friends going out and exploring other genres and I respect them, but that is not for me.”

As for the story itself, “I Hope Your Happy Now” is all about the rarely-sung truth that broken hearts are hardly ever made that way on purpose. Sometimes you just get so deep into something you forget what you were looking for in the first place.

“I just word vomited something I had just been through,” Pearce said about writing the track. “I just started to tell my side of something I think so many of us go through, which is sometimes you get complacent in a relationship or you get comfortable, and you’re not really in love with this person — you’re just in love with the idea of being comfortable with someone. Honestly that’s where I was … I was on the back half of realizing over the course of a year of staying with this person and keeping quiet, keeping it to myself I wasn’t happy anymore.”

After meeting Ray, that reality became clear, inspiring the song’s devastating opening line: “It’s all on me, it’s my mistake / I said I don’t love you a little too late.” Pearce and Combs recorded a demo of the track, and then she asked Brice if he could play the role of the other guy, hoping to harness the “gruff yet vulnerable quality” of his voice. Brice was on the road at the time, so he recorded his parts on a moving tour bus.

“I sent her one version of it and she was basically like I love how it sounds, I think it’s gonna be great, but I miss a little bit of you in it,” Brice recalled. “I was hearing Luke, and Luke killed it, but I was kind of channelling what he did because I didn’t know exactly what they wanted. So when she said that, I was like ‘OK, I’ll just go back and sing the parts the way they are — except just be me’ — and that’s all it took I guess.”

“I said, do the ‘Lee thing,'” Pearce said with a smile. “We all know what the Lee thing is, and it was perfect.”

Time will tell if “I Hope You’re Happy Now” has the same impact on fans that Pearce’s “Every Little Thing” did, but to her it feels like it’s coming from the same place of emotional honesty. If there’s anything she’s learned from that breakout success, it’s to stay close to that personal authenticity.

“I think having your first single be so exploiting to my heart and what I went through, in a very beautiful way it made me understand it’s our duty as artists to emote … and be unapologetically vulnerable,” she explained. “This is a very different side of my heart than ‘Every Little Thing,’ but I think it shows I’m a human being who goes through things that everybody goes through, and girls can hurt people too, girls can be the heart breaker. It’s just much easier to me to talk about and put myself into something I’ve lived, and this is the most real single I’ve put out since ‘Every Little Thing’ as far as being right out of my story.”

Pearce’s sophomore album is expected to arrive in early 2020. She and Ray will be married “very soon,” and she recently revealed what it’s like to prepare vows from a songwriter’s perspective.