Lainey Wilson has fast become one of Nashville’s most buzzed about newcomers thanks to a fiery live show and prolific songwriting. Wilson’s on-stage swagger combined with her memorable storytelling makes the singer a mainstay on countless artist to watch lists. On the Jay Joyce-produced Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’, the Louisiana native’s debut on BBR Music Group’s flagship imprint, Broken Bow Records, Wilson boldly introduces herself as a country artist unafraid to speak her truth while empowering listeners to do the same through her vulnerability. It is music with a message, delivered subtly and humbly.
A self-described old soul, Wilson has always been ahead of her time. At the age of nine she began writing songs about tequila and cigarettes. A family trip to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry that same year solidified her decision to one day move from her home of 300 people in Baskin, Louisiana, to Music City.
“I remember exactly where I was on the interstate in the backseat,” she says nostalgically in a warm Louisiana drawl. “I was staring at the Batman building and little Lainey at nine years old said, ‘This is home.’ I’ve always known it and I don’t know if it’s because I spoke it out loud and it manifested itself, but I’ve always known that I’d be here.”
Wilson’s childhood home was filled with music. Her father, a farmer who dreamed of a career in country music himself, would play Glen Campbell, Hank Williams, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Buck Owens, while her grandfather would take Wilson to bluegrass festivals. All these influences combined with Wilson’s unapologetic honesty and descriptive lyrics can be heard throughout Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’.
“I feel strongly about saying what you think, saying what’s on your heart, but also thinking before you speak,” she says. “Sometimes it’s hard to be honest, but at the end of the day it ain’t doing anybody any good to not be. Every song we put on the record we basically asked, ‘Is this song saying what I’m thinking?’ If it’s not, it didn’t make the list.”
Current single “Things A Man Oughta Know” reflects this honesty and self-conviction. “I can hang a picture same as I can take it down/ And how to keep it hidden when a heart gets broke/ Yeah I know a few things a man oughta know,” she croons on the track. Written with Jonathan Singleton and Jason Nix, “Things A Man Oughta Know” had the collaborators discussing the characteristics their parents taught them to look for in themselves and others.
“It’s really a song about having good character and a song about treating people the way that you want to be treated — something that we all should know,” she explains. “It’s about standing up for what’s right. I would like for people to hear that through my music too.”
“Things A Man Oughta Know” was highlighted in NPR’s Best Music of 2019. Journalist Jewly Hight says the song, “proves [Wilson] capable of blending a thoroughly countrified vocal approach with digitally sharpened contemporary production, thanks to the suppleness and body of her honeyed, crystalline twang.” With 26 million streams and counting, “Things A Man Oughta Know” continues to make an impact on listeners.
Meanwhile, the rollicking, guitar-driven “WWDD” — aka What Would Dolly Do — has Wilson sharing her personal compass and delivering sound life lessons with listeners. Wilson says she always looks to Dolly Parton when she’s at a crossroads and unsure how to proceed. “She handles everything with grace, but she also does it with some grit too,” she notes.
Wilson’s own grit shines through on the ear-grabbing album opener “Neon Diamonds” where she immediately lets folks know who she is and what she wants as a traditional gal who doesn’t take herself too seriously. The song acknowledges her forthcoming maturation, embraces self-awareness and celebrates living in the moment. A prominent tv booker compared this song to one of the all-time greats saying he hadn’t “heard a more perfect ‘grab-you-in’ start to an album since Thriller with ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Something.’”
The singer-songwriter’s work ethic and authenticity are apparent in each song and are further evidenced by her accolades. In 2020 she made her Grand Ole Opry debut, a dream come true for nine-year-old Lainey. Since then, she has been named MusicRow’s Next Big Thing 2021 while Strings & Spurs included her on their “Country Artists to Watch in 2021” list. An alum of CMT’s Listen Up Class of 2019 and Next Women of Country, the singer-songwriter continues to garner recognition for her distinctive music.
More recently, her music was featured for the third time in the hit television show Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner and it’s easy to see why. The striking and quietly haunting track “Rolling Stone,” would also blend seamlessly into to the ranch-based drama series with its sweeping string features and breathtaking vocals reminiscent to that of an old Western. A song about not being tied down, Wilson warns: “Baby my heart runs wild and free/ You gotta know ’fore you fall for me/ Like a feather in the wind I could be gone/ You don’t give a rock to a rolling stone.”
“Every time I play it, I feel like I’m in a movie,” Wilson says of the song. “Jay Joyce worked his magic on it and it truly makes me feel like I’m watching a movie from the beginning all the way through to the end.”
Wilson describes her music as bell-bottom country. “Country with a flare,” she explains. “Fresh, but also familiar.” Each song blends vivid country storytelling with strong female characters as heard on the deeply confessional title track “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin.’” It’s no surprise that Wilson’s music is culled from her own life and the way she was raised with strong family values.
“I was raised to go after what you want. I’m very strong-willed and I’m one of those people that I’m not going to give up no matter what. A lot of my values and why I’m the way I am, comes from my people,” she says, sharing her father’s strong work ethic as a farmer. “I get up and not every single day is the same, but it’s what I do. It’s what I love. It’s my life. It’s really one of the only things I know how to do … If you are gifted with something you need to use your gift.
“As an artist, we’re there to create something that everybody can relate to, or to create something that will make people feel something at the end of the day,” she continues. “When I listen to music, whether it’s making me laugh or cry, I just want to feel something. … If I can bring light in any kind of way, I think I should try to do it.”
In her own words, Lainey Wilson promises to continue Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’.