Denton’s Carley Bearden is keeping her head up. She knows she can always be vulnerable with her fans, whom she considers family, and she and her fans have been checking in with each other and lifting each other's spirits through the COVID-19 crisis.
Bearden started playing guitar at age 12, although she temporarily put it down to focus on playing sports. At 16, she decided to put sports aside and shift her focus back to music. That same year, she began writing original songs and posting videos on Facebook.
Last year, Bearden released a song called “Headspace,” which she wrote about her girlfriend letting go of her inhibitions so they could be together.
“She grew up in a family that abided by all ‘go to college, get married and have kids’ traditions,” Bearden says of her partner. “We met in college and she told me that there was something different about me. We hung out all the time, and she said she really liked me, but was afraid of what her family would think of her.”
At 20, Bearden has already built a considerable following. She has nearly 25,000 followers on Instagram and over 107,000 on TikTok. She now wants to use her voice and her platform to participate in conversations about mental health.
Bearden has a separate Instagram account, called @rosecoloredindividuality, where she records motivational videos for her followers.
“I've always wanted to be known for something bigger than just music,” Bearden says, “which sounds cliché, because that's what a lot of people are about these days, which is awesome. But I knew what I wanted to do with it, and what I wanted to do was speak vulnerability and speak real to my audience, not only through my songs, but through me as a person.”
Earlier this month, Bearden released a song called “Ghost," which she wrote about a friend. Bearden and her girlfriend had previously set her friend up with a man, who suddenly stopped communicating with her.
“We were going on double dates, getting ice cream, going to Six Flags, doing everything,” Bearden says of the former couple. “And then one day he just left. He ghosted the hell out of her, and it hurt her really bad.”
Bearden first performed “Ghost” this past February. She says she sang the emotional lyrics with her eyes closed, and when she opened them she saw that the 200 people in the audience also had their eyes closed — and were holding hands.
“It was just a moment where everyone was going through their own personal experiences in their heads,” Bearden says.
A self-described “old soul,” Bearden cites Stevie Nicks as one of her biggest influences, but more as a personality. In terms of music, Bearden greatly admires multi-instrumentalist Tash Sultana.
Bearden says her Christian upbringing also played a big role in shaping who she is today. As a Christian and as a member of the LGBTQ community, she believes that God’s love is unconditional.
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“When people ask me ‘How are you a Christian?’ I like to say that sometimes a lot of people put words to God's mouth, and the overall thing is just that he loves you because he made you for you,” Bearden says. “My relationship with God is valid, and when anyone tries to tell me otherwise, I just kind of smile and let them say what they want to say.”
Like many other local acts, Bearden misses performing and being on stage. She admits that the quarantine has been a struggle for her, but talking to her fans has brought her moments of joy.
“It actually took a toll on me pretty heavily the first couple of weeks. ... I was like, ‘Dude, this is going to be easy money. This is great. I’m going to have all this time to create. I have nothing stopping me,’" she says of the pandemic. "But what also came along with that is not being able to play SXSW and not being able to go on tour in the summer and not being able to do a lot of the big things that were milestones for me in my career.
And that really hit me because we don't know when this is gonna be over. I don't know when I can get back to doing what I love and being on stage.”