It is said the best stories in your life are the ones you gather around your kitchen table. While that may be so, not every tale from every table is going to head out the door and makes it to Nashville. In the case of up and coming country star, Lainey Wilson, that is exactly the story that has unfolded.
Lainey Wilson has quickly become one of Nashville’s most buzzed about newcomers thanks to her fiery live show and prolific songwriting. Wilson’s on-stage swagger garners attention. But her memorable storytelling makes her a mainstay on countless artist to watch lists. So, how did this gift for storytelling evolve? The way Lainey tells it, the talent came from a place with the legs to endure. 4 of them to be exact.
“I feel like I have spent a lot of my life around a kitchen table,” Lainey says. “I’m from a town of 300 people in Northeast Louisiana, called Baskin and there’s not a whole lot to do. Many times we would just sit around the kitchen table and tell stories. My parents would tell the same old stories that I heard my entire life, but they were the kind of stories that got better every single time you heard them. And right there is where I got my love for storytelling.”
The story telling gift showed early. While some girls at age nine spend their time with dolls and coloring books, at nine years old, self-described old soul, Lainey began writing story songs. These works were not about kittens and clouds, but rather dealt with subjects of tequila and cigarettes.
The next chapter happened later that same year. “My parents took a vacation to Gatlinburg that summer,” Lainey said. “On the way home to Louisiana, I begged my parents to go through Nashville. And I remember exactly where I was on the interstate. And I said, ‘this is home.’ And my parents just turned around and they were like, ‘Lainey, come on. You’re nine years old. What do you know?’ But I just knew.
Two years later, when her storytelling was growing and her hands were getting bigger, Lainey’s dad showed her a few chords on the guitar and destiny took over.
A song like Lainey’s hit, “Things A Man Oughta Know,” the one highlighted in NPR’s Best Music of 2019 speaks to the traction Lainey is building. In fact, 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.” Climbing through the Top 20 on Country radio, and reaching No. 1 on Sirius XM’s The Highway’s Hot 30 Weekend Countdown and earning a CMT Music Award nomination, with 65 million streams and counting, “Things A Man Oughta Know” continues to make an impact on listeners—and will continue to do so as she takes it on the road while touring with Jason Aldean.
Maybe the best of Lainey’s stories is the one where she was invited to play the Grand Ole Opry. “The first time I heard about the Opry, I was at my granny’s house and the show was being played on the TV and I was like, wow, that’s, that’s cool,” recalls Lainey.
“I remember sitting there and being like wow.” A few years later, Lainey’s parents took her to the Grand Ole Opry and seeing Little Jimmy Dickens, Phil Vassar and Crystal Gayle made a lasting impression. Lainey remembers exactly where she was sitting out in the crowd and her sister was next to her asleep, passed out on the pew. “I was the one who loved country music so much, but I just, I knew that one day I was going to have the opportunity to be up there,” Lainey explains. “It really is just this crazy feeling. Every single time I walked through the doors of this place I knew my day would be someday.”
Lainey made her Opry debut on February 14th, 2020 and counts it as the best Valentine’s Day of her life. “My entire family showed up to be a part of it and it was crazy,” Lainey said. I was so nervous that could barely even think straight. Life moved at slow motion and fast forward all at the same time. I feel like most little girls dream about their wedding day and walking down the aisle. My dream was stepping foot into that circle. That’s what I dreamed about. And I finally did it. I got to stand in there and look out at that seat where little nine year old Lainey was sitting and think that kid was not completely wrong.”
Since her Opry debut, Lainey has been named MusicRow’s Next Big Thing 2021, become the first Country artist selected for Apple Music’s new iteration of its “Up Next” spotlight program, been featured as a Billboard Chartbreaker and included in Strings & Spurs’ “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.
Though she could list a number of artists that have influenced her career, there is one that clearly tops the list. “I think if we were all a little bit more like Dolly Parton the world would be a better place, Lainey said.” “Not just with her songwriting, but she’s my girl – in everything from her style, to her sense of humor, her personality, her singing and as businesswoman. I love the way that she takes lyrics and makes you believe them just in the way that she delivers them. Whether it is kind of cutting you deep or is happy and upbeat either way you believe Dolly Parton.”
Lainey believes that like everything else, music has to evolve too and that includes hers too. “My roots will always show no matter what because I’m a fan of all of it,” Lainey explains. “As long as it tells a story and it makes me feel something. I don’t think you’ve got to be just a certain specific thing, but I do like where country music is going right now. I feel like people are wanting real and honest and they just want the truth. I’m excited about the direction that’s going in.”
When it comes to her writing, Lainey feels strongly about saying what she thinks while also thinking before she speaks. “Sometimes it’s hard to be honest,” she says. “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 ask, ‘Is this song saying what I’m thinking?’ If it’s not, it won’t make the list.”
Fans and critics alike are interested to see where Lainey’s story goes from here. “I can’t imagine myself doing anything else,” Lainey said. “I’m sure there are things that I could do, but I would not be me without country music. That music was really more than just a genre for my family and me. We lived out the lines to those country songs. My love for storytelling and songwriting is just in me. If I was a school teacher back home in Louisiana, I’d be coming home every single day, writing music because I just got to do it.”
The next time you are at the family kitchen table and the same old stories are being brought out and rehashed, don’t ignore them. Embrace them. Lainey Wilson did. Look where they got her.