There is a grounded wisdom to Lainey Wilson that radiates when she speaks. Perhaps it was her farm-community upbringing; a childhood lived through a series of jobs given by her farmer of a daddy, assignments given by her teacher of a mama, or the fact that she spent the majority of her formative years on the back of a horse, trusting that she’d be strong enough, calm enough, commanding enough to let the beast know she was in control. Wilson approaches the music business, an equally sizeable beast, the same way she approached farm life in Baskin, Louisiana. Wilson embraces the excitement of what has happened with her career over the last twelve or so months with the enthusiasm of a bright-eyed girl on Christmas morning, but there is a wisdom to her heart and head that cannot be taught; it is simply a part of what makes this Louisiana woman who she is.
As we chatted over the phone Wilson reminded me much of the women who came before her and have successfully navigated our infamously fickle industry to stay relevant for twenty, thirty, forty years. These women – Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline – have kept hold of their claim in our industry because they cut through the daisy dukes and drinking songs to the heart of the matter; real life love, struggle, and heartbreak. Lainey Wilson is no exception when it comes to writing a song that can pierce straight through the noise we so often experience with this newfound love of snap tracks and mid-song raps in country music. Everything about Wilson’s story screams this woman has got what it takes to make it for a long, long time in country music.
Wilson possesses two qualities no one on Music Row can teach: true love and true grit. Born in Baskin, Louisiana, a town of three-hundred (most of whom she claims relation to), Wilson grew up with what she calls “the simple life”. It was this simple life and her experience on the farm that would found both her love for music and her work ethic. “I’m from a farming community. The Walmart is at least twenty minutes away. When I say there’s nothing, I mean there’s nothing; not even a stoplight around. My love of music comes from both sides of my family. My daddy plays guitar by ear and a little piano and my mama loves to dance, so music has always been a way of life in my family and in my community. My storytelling and songwriting comes from our favorite thing to do in Baskin I think- because there isn’t much else to do there- which is to sit around the kitchen table and tell stories over and over again. These are stories I’ve heard my entire life. You know, the stories you never get tired of hearing and never get tired of telling. I think that’s where my love for storytelling really started.”
Though she grew up a farmer’s daughter, Wilson knew from an early age that she had to pursue singing and songwriting as her life’s work. “Music has always been something that kinda chose me, to be honest with you. I didn’t have much choice. I sang my first song at my Kindergarten graduation and I’ve known from that moment that this is what I wanted to do. My parents taught me what hard work meant and they helped and pushed and encouraged me along the way. I knew nothing about this was going to be easy, but I kinda always relate it back to being from a farming community. I say the music business is like farming. You have to get up every single day and work hard and do the same thing. One year you might have a good crop, one year you might not. A storm might roll through and ruin everything, but if it’s your livelihood you’ve got to get up and keep doin’ the thing. That’s what Baskin taught me.”
Here is where it should be known that a good dose of humor accompanies the wisdom Wilson possesses. Where Lainey Wilson is laughter is not far behind, as evidenced in the rest of our interview. From her journey to Nashville to some of her most recent songs, Wilson washes most things down with joy and laughter. “I never knew how in the world I was going to get to Nashville, but I knew I wanted to get there. In the meantime, between Baskin and getting there, I spent some time impersonating Hannah Montana and going on the road with an 80’s cover band while I was in college. I knew, even though I was making a living doing those things, that moving to Nashville and doing the whole songwriting thing was what I wanted to do…so I bought a Flagstaff bumper pull camper trailer and brought it up to Nashville and lived in a studio parking lot out in west Nashville for three years. My grandfather gave a guy from my hometown a couple hundred dollars to move to Nashville and get started, and as a favor in return her let me live in his studio parking lot in my camper! I bummed water, Wifi, electricity, and went to college online in my camper. For a really long time I was known as the ‘camper trailer girl’ around town.”
A healthy imagination coupled with patience and hard work is what led Wilson to the success she has seen this year. So often things seem to happen all at once for an artist, but that is rarely the case. If one takes into account the most recent “success stories” like Ashley McBryde and Chris Stapleton, who seemed to explode onto the scene within a matter of months, it won’t take much investigation to realize it took years for these artists to see the fruits of their labor. It’s an important thing to note; Nashville is a ten-year town and artists don’t pop up overnight with a gleam in their eyes and a guitar in their hands.
When success happens it tends to happen at a rapid fire pace, but not without an often years-long lead. Keeping your head down and staying the course for better or worse is the only way to make it in Nashville. Lainey Wilson is seeing success now because she was smart enough to follow those rules and determined enough not to give up. “I’ve been in Nashville quite a long time and it’s been extremely hard for me to get anybody’s attention on Music Row. I could not get my foot in the door the slightest bit for years and years and years. The past year of my life has been different. I’ve only had my publishing deal for a year, and from outside looking in it looks like it’s all kind of happened at once. I’ve been with Sony ATV for just over a year, and I was never expecting to get a record deal so quickly. Of course I wanted one, and I wanted one as soon as I could possibly get it, but I knew I was probably going to have to be patient and keep my head down and keep writing. What changed things was the most recent EP I released, which my buddy Aslan Freeman produced for me. The EP started as a few songs we decided to cut to take to publishing companies to get a deal. A lot of the companies were like “these are great, you should put them out yourself” so we decided to go on and put them out as an EP. That really opened doors for my record deal. After I released the EP I got good responses from industry folks and fans and started meeting with different labels in town. Not even six months after I signed my publishing deal I signed my record deal, so it’s been a crazy, good year.”
Now with new music on the way in 2019, Wilson is heading out with Morgan Wallen and HARDY on Wallen’s headlining If I know Me tour. As the #1 Lula 1892 Artist to Watch in 2019, we are so thrilled to see everything Lainey Wilson is working on and will continue to keep up with her throughout the year- and, we absolutely know, for many years to come.