Lainey Wilson: The Next Queen Of Country Music

5 April 2023 | 9:00 am | Mary Varvaris

"Never in a million years did I think country music would take me places like that..."

(Pic by Alysse Gafkjen)

More Lainey Wilson More Lainey Wilson

2023 is Lainey Wilson’s year. Her fourth album, last October’s Bell Bottom Country, makes a statement - she’s proud to be devoted to country music, but those bell bottoms indicate an affinity for ‘70s soul and rock music (as well as fashion!). 

Across its 14 tracks, Wilson wrote 13 of them, aside from a cover of the Four Non Blondes’ classic, What’s Up? Bell Bottom Country draws its name directly from the manifolds that have come to use to describe the Louisiana native’s unique sound, style, and aesthetic — it’s country music, but with a flare. 

The album reflects Wilson's depth and multifaceted character with dynamism and makeup as a woman who is wise, fun, empowering, vulnerable, badass, unceremonious, tenacious and above all else, honest.

The album debuted at #3 on the US Top Country Albums Chart and landed at #16 on Australia’s Digital Albums Chart. 

Finding even more success, Wilson has joined the cast of Paramount Network’s mega-hit show Yellowstone for its fifth season as Abby, a character Taylor Sheridan (co-creator) crafted specifically for her. The role allows her to perform new original music written and recorded by Wilson herself.

This week, Wilson won big at the CMT Music Awards, taking home the awards for Collaboration Video Of The Year with Hardy for Wait In The Truck and Female Video Of The Year for Heart Like A Truck. She was also the most-nominated artist of last year's CMA Awards, with six awards up for grabs. She won two - Female Vocalist Of The Year and New Artist Of The Year.

To talk to her now feels like the perfect moment in time - soon enough, Wilson will undoubtedly be a part of the upper echelon of country music, making her unstoppable. 

When we catch up with Wilson, she’s just won the Rulebreaker Award at this year’s Billboard Women In Music Awards. “It [Winning the award] was insane. I felt so honoured to be recognised, especially amongst all the incredible women that were there,” Wilson says from her tour bus. 

Pointing at a Billboard magazine in front of her with Wilson as the cover artist, she chuckles, “I’m smack bang in the middle of this thing! Never in a million years did I think country music would take me places like that, so it means a lot.”

Country music has also transported Wilson to our television screens in Yellowstone. “The cast and crew have been amazing. They're just incredible people; I've learned that I just really like being creative, whatever that means, kind of stepping outside of my comfort zone and doing things that are a little scary because I feel like if you're not doing that, then you're not growing,” she shares. 

“And I love it. No matter what, songwriting is going to be my number one because that's what got me here in the first place. But I'm not scared to try it again, especially if it's an opportunity for me to share my music with the world; then you’re damn right I'm gonna do it.”

In case you haven’t guessed yet, Lainey Wilson is humble in her achievements, and her persistence knows no bounds. She’s worked hard to get here, but accepting that award wins, and television appearances are part of her life now? That’s almost too much to get used to. 

“The Rulebreaker award, to me, means that I've gone against the grain and done things how I want to do them, kept my blinders on and didn't worry about what everybody's doing on either side of me,” she explains. “You know, I have a really hard time being anything other than myself. 

"I didn't even realise that I was breaking the rules, but I guess we were. And it feels like all that hard work starts to pay off.” 

Wilson has found a sense of freedom in knowing she’s only ever been herself, bringing her to where she is today. “At the end of the day, if people don't like you, for you, then they're not supposed to be in your life,” she affirms with the advice, “you’re supposed to cut those people loose.”

That advice has been with Wilson throughout her entire career - if people in the music business didn’t understand or appreciate what she was doing, she’d wait until she found the right people to get her. “I truly believe that timing is everything. What I do now was not cool then [at the start of her career in 2011]. I'm grateful that it has taken this long for me.”

There was no way that Lainey Wilson would be unprepared for the machine that is the music industry. She was fully prepared - “ I can't imagine what it would feel like if I had not already spent 12 years trying to do this thing,” she says, recalling her childhood singing days in Nashville. 

“I’ve been working on this thing since I was nine years old, and this year, I will be 31. [Music] has been my life; I have dedicated my life to it, and I love it. I eat, sleep and breathe it, and it's hard. But it's a very rewarding job once you get past certain stepping stones.”

How would nine-year-old Lainey Wilson feel about her 30-year-old self accomplishing lifelong goals? “I think she'd be absolutely tickled!,” the Hillbilly Hippie singer exclaims. But on a reflective note, she adds, “What's really weird is I think nine-year-old Lainey knew that she was gonna be doing this the whole time.”

When Wilson was nine years old, she went on a holiday with her family to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a few weeks after writing her first song. They were in the car on the interstate in Nashville, heading back to Louisiana. 

“I remember exactly where I was; I remember the way that I was feeling. I told my family, ‘this is where I'm supposed to be,’” she details, knowing full well how crazy that sounded coming out of a nine-year-old’s mouth. 

“But I really did have this weird sense of peace knowing that I was going to be a part of the country music world. I didn't know how in the world I was gonna get there, but I had this weird sense of peace that felt like it came from the Lord. I feel like he gives us gifts, and we're supposed to use them.”

“I feel like I learned something about myself with every song I wrote [on Bell Bottom Country],” Wilson says. Really, though, she learned something about life in general. “I think you can tell that [I’ve grown] throughout this record - I’m pulling back the layers to who I truly am. 

"I'm a little more vulnerable than I have been in the past with this record, but I still think the record makes you want to lie down, cry and drink beer; it's a little bit of everything combined. 

“But Bell Bottom Country had to be the name of the record because that's what we have used to describe my style, whether it's musically or aesthetically,” she continues. The title simply alludes to country music with a flare. “And whatever it is that makes you, you, and makes you different. It could be where you're from; it could be how you were raised; it could be how you talk, your accent, or the way you dress. 

"It's about finding whatever makes you you and makes you different, leaning into it as much as possible, and being unapologetically yourself. That's what I'm learning how to do every single day.”

Bell Bottom Country is out now. You can listen to it here.