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 tells The Boot. "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, who will turn 30 in April, 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."

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