On November 8, Nashville will play host to the 57th Annual Country Music Association Awards. It is the biggest event of the year for the industry and showcases the brightest stars in the genre. Stalwarts such as Luke Combs and Morgan Wallen have multiple award nods. Icons Chris Stapleton and Carrie Underwood are again nominated for Entertainer of the year. But on a night when the legends of country music shine, no star burns brighter than a small-town country girl named Lainey.
Lainey Wilson hails from the tiny Louisiana community of Baskin, which hovers around a population of 200. It has been a slow ride to instant stardom for the 31-year-old singer/songwriter. After leaving Louisiana for Nashville in 2010, Wilson found recognition just out of reach. Remarkably, she continued to grind away until her talent was identified by the right people, releasing her first album on a major label in 2021. At last year’s CMAs, Lainey landed Female Vocalist and New Artist of the Year. She has also branched out into acting, securing a recurring role on a little series called Yellowstone. The 2023 CMA Awards cap off an amazing year for Wilson.
Lainey leads the entire 2023 CMA Awards field with nine total nominations, including Entertainer of the year. This also makes her the only artist to top the CMA nominations list in her first two appearances on the final ballot. It seems Wilson’s success has finally caught up with her talent. It is the kind of success that only occurs when accompanied by hard work and perseverance. Qualities that have been engrained in Lainey from day one. They have taken her from bucolic beginning to international superstardom. Wilson speaks about her roots and shares the foundation responsible for her success.
“Not even a stoplight”
“I’m from a town of 200 something people. Probably 190 now. It’s actually called The Village of Baskin. If you’ve ever heard of Monroe from the Duck Dynasty show, that should explain a little bit. Why I sound the way that I do. A very blue-collar town, not even a stoplight, we have a caution light, and that’s about it. You see a lot of corn fields. All 200 people are pretty much family, and that’s a blessing and a curse. They’re there when you need them and they’re there when you don’t need them”.
“The kind that gets better every time”
Wilson’s ability as a storyteller has set her songwriting apart from her peers. She believes this as a direct result from where she grew up: “I love where I’m from and I truly think being from such a small town like that, there’s not a whole lot to do. Except to sit around and tell stories. And hear the same old stories that you’ve been hearing for years. But the kind that gets better every time you hear them or every time you tell them. And really, being from Baskin is what made me want to be a storyteller”.
“I just get it honest”
Lainey calls her father “still the hardest worker I know”. As a farmer, her dad had to put in some major hours. Wilson states, “I remember as a little girl, he was up before the sun and the sun had to be down before he came in…I think I just get it honest; I really do. And my Mama is the same way. My Mama is a teacher and she’s just got a heart of gold and she is a very passionate person. I am who I am because of the people who raised me, there’s no doubt about that. Because of the folks who raised me, but also because of the town that raised me”. Lainey gets semi-autobiographical with her tune “Smell Like Smoke”, released in 2022 off her Bell Bottom Country album. Bell Bottom Country is nominated for this year’s CMA Album of the year.
“I thought it was a way of life”
Glen Campbell was a favorite of Wilson’s father growing up. Lainey admired the likes of Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, The Chicks, and Shania Twain. She goes on, “Where I’m from, I did not even realize as a little girl that ‘country music’ was a genre. I thought it was a way of life. I mean, we eat, sleep, and breathe these songs. Grew up in the 90s, I was born in ’92 and, of course, voices like Lee Ann Womack and Tim McGraw”.
The McGraw Factor
“Tim McGraw actually grew up right down the road from me and my step-grandmother used to babysit him. As a little girl I kind of looked at him. Was like, ‘man, Tim McGraw is from my neck of the woods, and he did it, maybe I can do it too’…That is the beginning of I think the stars were kind of put in my eyes”. In middle school and into high school, Lainey booked gigs as a Hannah Montana impersonator. She would open for herself, of course.
“I am going to be on that stage”
On a family vacation when Lainey was nine, she convinced her parents to return home via Nashville. The Opry was calling, even then. “When they took me to the Grand Ole Opry that night, we saw Bill Anderson, Crystal Gayle, Little Jimmy Dickins, Phil Vassar. I remember exactly where I was sitting. Remember looking at that circle on that stage…And I remember also having that crazy feeling of, ‘I am going to do this. I am going to be on that stage’. I still have the little ticket stub from the Grand Ole Opry that night”. Wilson wrote her first song the same year.
Song of the year and Single of the year
“Heart Like a Truck” is Lainey Wilson’s smash single, released in 2022. It is nominated for both Song of the year and Single of the year at the 2023 CMA Awards. The video, directed by Elizabeth Olmstead, has already won Female Video of the Year at the 2023 CMT Music Awards.
“I had no other option”
“I did the things that all the other kids did. Cheered, I played basketball, I played softball. I ran track. But at the end of the day when I would come home, I would pick up my guitar. I would go to the bathroom, where the acoustics were the best. And I would sit in there for hours, and hours, and hours and write songs. It was one of those things that tracked me down and chose me. I had no other option but to do it”.
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