According to Wikipedia, the world “pearl” refers to “something rare, fine, admirable, and valuable” due to the gemstone’s iridescent, smooth nature and the fact that the actual object made from calcium carbonate and hidden inside the shell of a sea creature. But pearls were meant to be discovered and displayed for the world to see. It is only fitting that Florida beauty, Pearl Clarkin, has been breaking out of her shell long before she graced the stages in Nashville with her raw talent and mesmerizing aura.
Her upcoming EP, Florida Tales, is slated for mid-summer and the first single, “Girls of Summer” released to radio Spring 2019. Pearl wrote the song based on the stories of her mother, Vicki, and her mother’s girlfriends in their “glory days” being carefree on the island.
“I do believe every woman has these memories of being in high school or college and having fun summers on the beach/lake/river with their girlfriends. Sometimes when I sing it, a woman in the audience will get a tear of happiness in her eye and they tell me their own stories from twenty years ago. It’s about life being timeless.”
Pearl’s memories of college come from Belmont University, where she will graduate with a songwriting degree within the year. An impressive resume already in hand, Pearl has penned songs with writing giants such as Anthony Smith and opened for household Country music artists Charlie Daniels, Michael Ray, Montgomery Gentry, and Jake Owen, just to name a few. Well known among Nashville’s tight inner circles, Pearl has participated in Summerfest, CMA Fest, Storme Warren’s Nashville Navy, the “NASH 10 Minute Tune” on “The Ty Bentli Show” and often performs in writer’s rounds on famous stages like The Commodore and Bluebird Café. She was also a recent Top 10 finalist in the NASH NEXT national competition, hosted by Big Machine Label Group at the Wildhorse Saloon in Music City.
No stranger to competitions, a CMT contest for the top unsigned artists in the country is the wave that a then 14 year old Pearl rode right to the heart of Nashville. Pearl already had visions of being on radio when at 4 years old when she heard Janis Joplin’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee” in the car. As an elementary student in Pensacola, she was making up songs about her day and by the age of 12, she convinced her mother to enroll her into an American Idol camp. It was there she got her first taste of the business, when Macy Gray joined the camp as a special guest and took an interest in Pearl’s natural ability to write and tell stories. The next year, camp counselors echoed Gray’s sentiments and pointed Pearl and her mother north to the home of country music, where they saw a home for Pearl’s music. Exposure from the CMT show caught the attention of Cowboy Troy, who took the budding starlet under his wing and introduced her to the Hard Rock Cafe Stage. For the next five years, the driven artist would pay her dues, singing covers and originals in Nashville all while attending Belmont. Her eclectic and swampy original tune “Alligator Walkin’” has become so popular that her fans call themselves the “Alligator Army.”
With a degree on the way, Broadway now behind her and the Alligator Army stronger than ever, Pearl is ready to take it to the next level! Her all female band is hitting the road this summer to promote the new single and EP produced by Bill McDermott. When she’s not on the road or on radio tour, the sun kissed beauty can be found near the sparkling blue waters of the Redneck Riviera, surfing, paddle boarding, and fishing. Pearl will also be headlining local hot spots in her home turf of Pensacola Beach and hosting ticketed “spaceship parties” at the famous Futuro landmark.
“I always have to work on keeping it up when I get to the island and every second weekend in July, you will find me up on the deck of the spaceship watching the Blue Angels fly. . . no matter what.”
The spaceship may be her haven, but the stage is her home. Her tenacious drive, infectious energy and humble attitude light up a crowd as much as her bright blue eyes. It’s no wonder a top publisher once compared her to Bobbie Gentry, which Pearl will tell you is the best compliment she’s ever received.
We chatted it up with Clarkin for a Rapid Fire Round to learn her favorite venues, what it’s like to hang out with her celebrity friends, and where she does her best writing.
When was the first time you felt like you made it in the industry?
I was able to sit in the artist section at the CMAs for the 50th Anniversary. Dolly Parton was sitting so close and I thought… I am here at 20 and I will be here at 70 when it is the 100th Anniversary. I hope I can be accomplished like Dolly. I love country music history and at that moment I knew I was living in a few hours of absolute history. I had the no doubt feeling I was going to make it and would be telling 50 years of tales at the 100th CMA celebration. It was surreal.
Favorite venue to play? If no favorite, what is your dream venue to play?
The songwriter round where the crowd is talking too loud, drunk and rude. I LOVE to capture their attention and hold them captive.
Which of your songs is hardest for you to remember the lyrics to when you’re on stage?
The ones I’ve changed from the original thought, idea or lyric. Most of my songs do get changed over and over.
When and where do you do your best writing?
In my head. Songs just come to me. Sometimes there are way too many to write between my daily activities so they live in my head until I can get to them. I take them to the shower when I’m ready to work on them. I like to stand under the water and fill the songs out with words. But these songs live for years in my head until I take them to rounds to sing.
Which of your songs gets the best crowd response?
Six years ago I wrote a song called “Alligator Walkin.” It came from a real experience where I was traveling from a gig in Florida to an event in Atlanta and I went up a backroad shortcut in the middle of the night. There were a lot of tin roofed shacks amidst the swamps. Just as I was coming up on the Florida-Georgia state line I saw an alligator crossing the road in front of my car. I stopped in the road and could see the rhythmic movement of the alligator so clearly it was immediately a song. The bright full moon was shining through the clouds so strong there were moon-doggies in the sky and reflecting off the scales of the alligator. I noticed a man sneaking out of his house and into another one. A night bird called out his actions. The world stopped as the alligator took his time crossing the road and the song came alive in my mind. I started adding the song to my rounds and you could see the descriptive wording told the tale in each listener’s imagination. Soon, if I didn’t sing “Alligator Walkin” at a round people would ask for it. Everyone would ask…. what does this song mean? I made a video, somewhat in fun, capturing the spirit of the old swamp movies of the past, to help explain the song. But people still ask for it and about it. Now my fans and supporters are known as the Alligator Army. The obsession with the song does not go away!
If you had to choose between a private plane or your own yacht, which would you choose?
Boating is one of my very favorite things to do. I have an old boat I love and take care of that is my “yacht”.
What is your biggest irrational fear?
That my scary dreams will come to life. When I was a kid I had a lot of nightmares.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
To heal. How cool would that be?
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?
I would run an orphanage. I love kids so much.
Do you feel like you’ve gotten used to being a celebrity, or do things still surprise you?
I‘m not a celebrity but many of my friends are. I’ve gotten used to this. Its completely comfortable until my friend turns into a celebrity and they become stuck up. I never get used to that. Its hard to see that change in someone you know or care about.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Catch the Nashville rising star at a show and follow her on all social media, @pearlclarkin. Follow Pearl on her website at www.pearlclarkin.com and look for The Girls of Summer music video coming soon!