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  • Writer's pictureSophie Schillaci

Behind the Headline: How I Made the Most of This Interview

Interviewing Carly Pearce on Feb. 19, 2019

Carly Pearce and I had a lot to talk about.

I've been a fan of the Big Machine Label Group singer since her huge breakthrough in 2017, and I've been wanting to interview her ever since. I love her energy, I love her story, I love her voice.

I told her this immediately after this photo was snapped: I love that she smiles unapologetically in photos. She smiles with teeth -- big and beaming and beautiful. Celebs so rarely do that.

When booking this interview, Carly was newly engaged. I was (still am) a new mom. I pitched her publicist that we do an interview while getting manicures, to get us out of the studio and doing something fun. Any newly engaged woman will tell you that manicures are of the utmost importance, while any newly minted mother will tell you that she has zero time to get to the salon. Pro tip: Always find a way to combine work tasks with personal errands when possible. (Carly was thrilled for the free mani, too. Checked one task of her to-do list, as well!)

Not to toot my own horn too much, but this was also a brilliantly sneaky way to get more time for our interview. With acetone-soaked fingernails, I was pretty much guaranteed that our time wouldn't be cut short, and she wouldn't walk away at any point before the service was completed. Carly generously dedicated a full hour of her time for our shoot, allowing more than enough space to capture plenty of content, and to stop-and-start every damn time the salon phone rang.

But here's what excites me about this story: there was more than one to tell.

In my work with ETonline, I write. I write breaking news articles, trend pieces and, when possible, feature articles.

I also host interviews and produce all my own video content.

It's not incredibly common that people in my position are responsible for all three of these roles. I do it not because it's mandated of me, but because I love it all and choose not to be pigeonholed into one category. I do it because I believe all three skills are valuable and I want to exercise each of them.

That said, they each require a different compartment of my brain. Dare I say, it's something like managing three children: They're all buzzing around each other and occupying my thoughts, but each one requires a certain amount of individual, undivided attention and love to flourish on its own.

Once we had a time blocked off, I set about booking a salon to do the shoot, negotiating to waive their location fee, requesting a three camera crew, and creating a set of questions. The latter involves plenty of research and communication within my company (CBS, which airs the ACM Awards for which Pearce is nominated).

The interview itself went well, aside from the bad hair day I was experiencing. I am often responsible for doing my own glam, and it honestly does not always go well. This was one of those days. C'est la vie.

After completing this particular interview, I chose to focus next on the writing. I knew that I wanted to create something more substantial than a few paragraphs and quotes, but I wasn't totally sure what it should say. Do I lean heavily on the wedding details? Or the hints she gave about the brutally honest lyrics on her upcoming album? About her dream come true as an ACM nominee? Her shoe shopping addiction? (She wore leopard print booties to our interview -- the same ones from her "Closer to You" music video -- and I was in love.)

While reviewing a transcript of the interview, one quote jumped out and hit me like a ton of bricks. When talking about how she chose her wedding dress, Carly said:

"I'm a girl who knows what she wants when she sees it -- and I don't get overwhelmed."

That's my opener, I thought. What a killer quote! (And how very Taurus of her, am I right?)

With or without context, that quote is everything. It illustrates, in my mind, the ferocious femininity that I admire in her. It exudes confidence.

She's ooey-gooey, hearts-in-her-eyes in love... and she's all business. She has a whimsical, bohemian wedding on the books... which she's planning all by herself, while launching her sophomore album and touring the world. She's warm and kind and big-hearted... and not someone I would mess not with.

Later in the piece, I would write about the juxtaposition of head and heart that's so apparent in her personality and her work. I wrote about her achievements, her bucket list goals, and her fresh perspective on the age old topic of being a female in country music. You can read it here.

I had a wonderful editor work with me to rearrange some pieces of the story, to flesh out bits that needed more, and to trim what needed less. Once I was happy with that piece, I moved on to the video.

Interestingly, writing the script took me in an entirely different direction. Watching her eyes light up while talking about her fiance and even more so re: her new album, that was the clear direction for the piece.

I led with the wedding details. "I would have married him the first night we hung out," she told me of her future husband, fellow country star Michael Ray.

We dished on the proposal, we talked about the heartbreak that inspired some of her music, we talked about how awkward it is to get busy in a car while a crew of men are filming your music video. We had girl talk. And that was the right story for that platform.

I planned to publish the piece on a Friday morning as part of a lead-in to ET's ongoing coverage of the ACM Awards next month. For Carly, it happened to fall within the voting window for the awards.

I get a lot of questions about my job. To many of my friends and family, there seems to be something mysterious and intriguing about what I do all day. I'm sharing this peek behind the Instagram highlights to show some of the process that largely goes unseen. But please, read and watch the finished product and let me know what you think -- and what you'd like to see more of. You can always find me on Instagram, and sometimes on Facebook and Twitter, depending on my mood.

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