By the time Carly Pearce was in first grade, she was already in training to be a country singer — and she owes a lot of that drive and ambition to LeAnn Rimes.

Ahead of tonight’s premiere of CMT Crossroads: LeAnn Rimes & Friends, Carly says that her admiration for LeAnn runs deep.

“When I say I imitated her in my childhood years, it’s the truth. I won talent shows at school singing versions of her songs. My mom had to push to try and find a vocal coach at six, seven, eight years old because LeAnn was a 14-year-old doing it,” she recounts to CMT.

Now, Carly’s one of a stellar lineup of country’s new female acts tributing LeAnn on the special, alongside Mickey Guyton, Ashley McBryde and Brandy Clark.

“When this came up, my little childhood self was so excited,” Carly adds.

The special will review LeAnn’s storied career in country music, dating all the way back to her 1996 breakout hit, “Blue,” which came out when she was just 13. Onstage, she’ll revisit those early hits as well as previewing material from her new album, god’s work, which features Mickey.

LeAnn began her career so young that the artists celebrating her tonight grew up with her music, even though they’re not much younger than her themselves.

“To hear her story of how she put the yodel on ‘Blue’ when she was 13 years old, she’s a mastermind,” Ashley marvels. “She’s a prodigy. She’s been doing what I wanted to do my whole life already for 25 years.”

The CMT Crossroads episode premieres tonight at 8 p.m. CT on CMT.

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