Pearl Clarkin Releases “Hollywood Love” From Her Upcoming “Girls Of Summer” EP
Pearl Clarkin began performing at live music venues in her hometown of Pensacola Beach, Florida, at the young age of twelve. Clarkin has played at Nashville’s CMA Fest for the last five years and CMT, Big Machine Label Group, and Cumulus Media recently named her one of the top ten unsigned artists in the country.
As an acclaimed singer/songwriter with more than 1,200 live shows, Clarkin has performed at some of Nashville’s most famous venues for original music, such as The Bluebird Cafe and The Listening Room. She serves as an advocate for equality for women in country music and fronts the all-female band Rhinestone.
In 2019, her single “Girls of Summer” hit country radio and charted at 42 on Music Row’s Country Breakout Chart. Her highly anticipated “Girls of Summer” EP is set to be released in the summer of 2020.
How has Janis Joplin’s “Me And Bobby McGee” inspired your music career?
Bobby McGee was a song mom and I would sing together when I was very young. It was just a song we would sing when we were driving around. One day, on the way to daycare, Bobby McGee came on the radio. I asked mom who that was singing it and she said Janis Joplin. I asked her if Janis Joplin was her favorite radio singer and she said “I guess so.” I remember feeling very upset about this and I told her “No, mom…I am your favorite radio singer!!” She laughed and said “But Pearl, you are not on the radio!” and I thought to myself… but I will be.
What was it like to be part of the American Idol camp with Macy Gray when you were 12?
When I was two, I had a horrible accident and cut my chin open and nose almost off. I had some challenges with speech and became very self-conscious about the scars, especially in middle school when the kids can be cruel. But, I never felt self-conscious about singing and started singing stories about my day — like when I came home from school and mom asked what happened that day, I would sing a little song about it. I had always asked for singing lessons, but mom said I had to wait until I was 12 because she was hoping I might grow out of my complete fascination with being on the radio. I was counting the days for my 12th birthday and it came to my attention American Idol was offering a camp for aspiring singers to learn to become a performer. I asked mom if I could go. She laughed and said “Pearl, the few kids they will choose have been training their entire life and you have never had a lesson. But, we will apply.” I sent in a video of me singing “Amazing Grace” and they took me.
Camp nurtures kids' 'Idol' dreams
While at Idol Camp, Clarkin opted to take Soul Sounds, a class that had her singing with an all-camper blues band, and…
When I got there I was very self-conscious that they were all trained and I wasn’t. There were different American Idols and entertainers who came to talk to us about singing. When Macy Gray started talking about songwriting, I wondered what in the world is that? She asked who all had started writing songs and only a few of the older kids raised their hands. She asked “Does anyone make up stories in their head and sing them?” and immediately I thought THAT’S ME and raised my hand. So when she was finished talking to the group she came over to me and asked if I could sing her a story and I did. She listened to 3 or 4 and said “Pearl, you are a natural born songwriter.” She explained that was a gift and a craft and told me to learn guitar or piano and put my songs to music and bring some songs back to camp the next summer. This changed my whole life. I felt like finally I understood myself. I wasn’t weird, I was a gifted songwriter (lol). I will always love Macy Gray — she wrote a song with me that very day.
How did the CMT contest for unsigned artists help bring you to Nashville?
The next year when I went to Idol Camp, I took a song I had written called “Even Though I Want To”. They loved it and made the Idol Camp finale song and told me to take it to Nashville to market it. I said ok, but I was 13 and had no clue what that meant. I saw that CMT was having a nationwide search for the country’s best unsigned artist and they just asked that you submit a video singing your original song. I got the song recorded and had a video made and mailed in a submission. CMT contacted me and asked if I had really written the song and if that was me in the video singing. I had turned 14 by this time, but I looked older. They said “Can you come to Nashville? We want to meet you.” I don’t think they believed I could sing or looked like I did. So we went to CMT, which was thrilling for me. Can you imagine? And they talked to me and I sang a little and they picked my video as one of the top 60 out of thousands submitted. I was in the contest and did very well. Nashville certainly took notice and I was invited to go sing in Nashville venues often. We started coming up from Florida most weekends.
How has Cowboy Troy influenced your music?
It was one of those invitations to come to Nashville, and this time it was to watch a show by Jeffrey Steele at Hard Rock Café -Cowboy Troy was opening for him. It was Halloween and many of the people watching the show were dressed up as celebrities. I saw someone that looked like Cowboy Troy and I asked him if it was a costume. He laughed and said no, he was CBT and asked me what celebrity I was dressed up to be. I told him that I was the singer. He asked what I had done and I told him I had been on CMT, but I wish I knew how to perform on stage like he did. He is really a master on stage and the crowds love him. He said he would look up my song. Not long after that, he contacted me and said “WOW, that was a great song for a 12 year old” and if I was in Nashville and he had a show he would let me open for him and give me performance and writing tips. So I looked up his schedule and figured out he sang at Hard Rock every so often.
By the time I was almost 16, he let me start opening for him at Hard Rock. He gave me stage tips, but more importantly, he told me great things about being a performer. He said performing is a customer service — It’s not about the crowd getting to hear you sing a song… it’s about making the crowd happy. It’s all about their experience. He said try to be authentic with your fans and make sure you cherish them and treat them right. I took in every word and now look… I have built an Alligator Army. This is due to CBT’s words. I will always appreciate him.
Where did you first perform in your hometown of Pensacola, Florida?
In my church.
What drew you to Belmont University to major in songwriting?
It was a college located in the heart of Music Row.
Which song was your first co-write? What inspired it?
My song with Macy Gray at Idol Camp.
How did the Alligator Army start?
The majority of my fanbase lives from Daytona to Mobile. I had been calling them Team Pearl. When I was 18, I wrote a crazy song called “Alligator Walkin’”. Not radio friendly, but quickly the fan favorite and always requested when I was singing live. Soon Team Pearl was calling itself the Alligator Army — even the fans from all over the country. The Alligator Army became known in the music industry as being able to viciously vote me in on most every contest! When I went on my first radio tour this past summer, every radio station wanted to talk about my Alligator Army. I love this. Cowboy Troy was right — it’s all about your supporters.
Can you describe the moment you were crowned Miss Rutherford County?
In 2018, I was contacted by a Miss America pageant coach saying I was perfect for pageants. The country music industry does not really like to have pageant girls… pageant talent is more Broadway-oriented, so you rarely have crossover. I am just naturally a girly-girl like Dolly Parton — but the music industry is almost all male, so I never had a chance to have many female friends in Nashville. And, I thought … I would love to have a large group of girlfriends — that would be such a treat. I was scared the music industry would not like me being in a pageant and I was afraid I would make a fool of myself trying, as most of these girls at this level had been competing most of their life. Most people don’t realize the skill set it takes to compete in these higher age pageants — you are graded on scholastic scores, physical shape, interview abilities and community service hours — all besides talent and gown. I decided to try — so much to learn and no time, since I was in college and had a full time music career. I had never cared about my grades at Belmont (with a 3.0 — probably bringing down the grade curve lol). I never worked out and my face is scarred from the childhood accident. But I tried and after about 5 or 6 attempts and I won Miss Riverview in 2019. That meant I was one of 36 girls in the state who could compete for the state title as Miss Tennessee Volunteer. What an experience it was and I had told myself I would only try one year. It would be a little treat to myself to enjoy the friendships. Last month, when it was time to give up my title and it was all over, I cried and was so sad to say goodbye. The week after a new Miss Riverview was chosen, it was time for the Miss Rutherford County contest. I just couldn’t stop myself. I followed my heart and entered and WON!! I headed back to Jackson, Tennessee this June with my favorite friends for Miss Tennessee again. This will be my last year before I age out. It will have been 2 years in my life I will always remember. Always, always treat yourself to what makes your heart happy — whether you don’t think you have time or you don’t know if you will be good at it or not. And most wonderfully, the support I got from the Country Music Industry — everyone from old band members to record label heads got super invested and people were watching Pageant Planet from all around the country to watch me compete.
What life lessons were learned while you had the Miss Tennessee Volunteer crown and Miss Riverview title?
What you say and how you present yourself makes a huge difference. I have learned some much needed interview skills.
How did you choose “Fly Me to the Moon” for the talent portion of the contest?
I love singing jazz and never get the chance. Miss Tennessee Volunteer offers the opportunity to sing with a full orchestra and I jumped at the opportunity.
How do your workouts, along with your health and wellness journey, at Boothcamp Gym help prepare you for the contest?
Well, I just started and we will see if I can stick it out. In Nashville, everyone knows that if you are serious about getting in shape, Boothcamp is the place to go. I’m naturally thin but I’m nowhere close to being in shape. Those are two different things. I was pretty nervous about going there because a lot of people I know work out there and they are all in such great shape. They have been very welcoming, though, and I’m very excited. I am proud of myself for getting outside of my comfort zone. If the trainers at Boothcamp can get me in shape for the state contest I will be forever grateful. And surprised haha.
What’s the story behind pizza and your legendary retro PJs?
The Miss Congeniality pajama pizza party is something the girls hold each year at state competition and its super fun. My retro PJs were a big hit. They were mom’s from the 60’s and she had never worn them. Somehow they got saved and when the day came, she found them she thought… I should save these for Pearl. She might think they are cool and one day have somewhere to wear them. The day came.
Ending 2019 at the top at ReverbNation, national radio tour, landing on MusicRow Magazine’s Music Breakout Chart, what’s on your goals list for this year?
In 2020, I am releasing another song to radio and will tour again in May. In June, I am releasing my first EP on iTunes and want to chart. I am writing my second EP. I have already reached another goal. This week I got to sing on the Whiskey Jam stage and become part of that very elite family. My life is a dream.
What is the backstory to “Hollywood Love”?
When I was 18 and singing in Nashville, one day I met a guy who played on a professional sports team in Los Angeles. He asked me out. I was super attracted to him (and that rarely happens) but, our schedules didn’t give us time to go on a date. So, we started texting and the next time I was visiting LA, he asked me if I wanted to go to dinner and we planned on it. All my friends told me be careful Pearl…those professional athletes have a wild life lol. Sure enough, when it was time for him to come pick me up he called and said “Hey… I just came from a party and shouldn’t be driving. Can you just come to my place tonight?” I thought well, I’m just not one of those girls looking for 15 minutes of attention. So I said no. Funny thing was we stayed in touch and even though we have just had a friendship through the years the attraction was always there. We just never figured out how to meet in the middle of our careers. So I wrote a song about it all.
What was it like to play your new song at Whiskey Jam on release day?
What a gift — what a fabulous gift. Ward let me know on Tuesday I could sing on Thursday for my release day, so I had no time to promote and let my friends know…much less get the band together! When I showed up to sing, practically everyone I know was there. Everyone was so happy for me. The place was packed out and I was so humbled. It was that feeling of knowing absolutely how blessed I am and wondering how I deserve my life. So grateful.
How did the all-female band Rhinestone come together?
When I was 19, I was chosen out of a worldwide search for a new girl band called Highway Women. It was my first record deal. Several years later, the owner sold the label and I asked to be let out of my contract because I just didn’t know who the new owner would be and how understanding they would be about my college demands. By this time, I really liked the girl band thing, so I started a new independent girl band and we named it Rhinestone. At the time there were no all-female bands trying to make it in country music. I have been a huge advocate for females in this town and thought this would be a perfect way to get the ball rolling on more bands hiring female players. People love seeing an all-female band!
Plans to tour with the band?
Right now, we are being considered for our very own reality TV show — so we are focused on that primarily. Once we figure out whether or not we will be filming, we will pick back up on booking. It’s so exciting how many venues are eager to have Rhinestone play. As of now, though, we aren’t booking a whole lot for this summer.
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Pearl Clarkin's new single "Girls of Summer" hit country radio in the summer of 2019 and charted in the top 50 on the…
To date, favorite venue to play at and why?
Bands on the Beach in Pensacola Beach, Florida because it’s my hometown, it’s on the beach and thousands of the Alligator Army show up. We are scheduled for this gig again July 21st. I hope everyone can show up!
What can fans expect on your “Girls Of Summer” EP out later this year?
Life before Nashville. The songs are all about growing up in Florida, on an island in the Redneck Riviera. It’s all about chilling on the beach, being on vacation, fishing, flirting and alligators… you know… the salt life.
The title track has had a strong following on Spotify. Can you describe the feeling as you see the increasing number of streams?
It’s a GREAT first streaming effort. It feels great! This won’t mean much to most people, but a HUGE percentage of my spins come from a Spotify algorithm that only comes from people randomly hearing my song and saving it or listening to it again. It has brought me so many spins and I really appreciate Spotify for bringing me an avenue for new fans, and I appreciate these new fans for supporting my music. Its looking good for my music.
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing or performing?
When is that? ;)