Carly Pearce is feeling the loss of her producer, Busbee, more heavily as she prepares to release her new album, which was the last full project he ever worked on. In a recent interview, the country singer-songwriter reveals that his sudden death in September of 2019 came as a shock, since his illness was not apparent when they were working together.

Busbee — whose real name was Michael James Ryan — died at the age of 43 after a stellar multi-genre career as a songwriter and producer whose credits included Maren Morris and Keith Urban. He worked with Pearce on her upcoming self-titled sophomore album just before he was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer called glioblastoma. He died only months later.

"No one knew," Pearce tells American Songwriter. "He had some signs of forgetfulness, but then he had the seizure in July and nine weeks later, he was dead. This is the last full record he turned in. He turned it in ten days before he had the seizure."

Pearce is mourning his loss even more acutely as she prepares to release the album.

"I feel like we both felt like this album would be the one that really put my flag in the ground, and hopefully took me to the next level," she tells PopCulture. "And we had so much fun making this one. I would just tell him, in the last two records, and since the beginning of Every Little Thing, he helped me find my voice. He helped me find my artistry. He helped me get my dream and I'm just forever grateful to that and really, really proud of what we did."

Pearce is hopeful that her new album will "be a part of his legacy," and she plans to carry forward the lessons he taught her during their time together. She even plans to utilize the same team they worked with on her future albums.

"It's important to me because I wouldn't have changed producers," she states. "He was my guy. So just making sure that I keep his legacy alive in different ways, in the ways that I can control."

Carly Pearce is set for release on Friday (Feb. 14). The album's first single, a duet with Lee Brice titled "I Hope You're Happy Now," is currently at country radio.

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