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“Country done come to down,” says Country Music star Lainey Wilson, in her Southern American accent.
The 30-year-old has had quite a year with many breakthrough moments and none of it is lost on her.
She was in London Town for the Country2Country Music Festival that took place 10-12 March between London, Glasgow, and Dublin, quite a fête for lovers of the genre, as it’s the largest music festival of its kind on the continent.
Sitting down with Wilson on the eve of her performance she wore her usual smile and her iconic bell bottom pants with a wide brim hat and a vest. Straight outta Nashville in the British capital.
“I feel just as welcomed this time around as I have the other three times,” says Wilson. She was in London in 2018 and twice in 2019. “Honestly, I mean, the first time I got to come over here was the very first experience I had with people actually knowing my songs, like people in the States do, or my family and a handful of fans at the time. But I’ll never forget playing at Bush Hall with Jimmy Allen and Chase Rice. It was just me and my guitar, and everybody knew every word to that EP that I had just put out. I had just gotten my record deal and I was like, ‘man, this is going to be a taste of what it’s going to be like. This is a pretty cool feeling.’
Country Music has really grown outside the US in the UK, Ireland, Scotland, and much further beyond. France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany all have Country Music radio stations. And people in countries from Egypt, Lebanon, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab nations stream Country Music in high numbers.
But, if you know Country Music, the lyrics can be very specific to the Southern American way of life of riding in pickup trucks, or sitting on a front porch rocking in a rocking chair. So, I ask Wilson if she feels the need to create songs that all listeners to the genre would be able to identify with?
“It’s crazy to really think about, you know, I’m from northeast Louisiana, from a town of 200 people, a little town called Baskin. And I grew up on the back of a horse. I grew up on a farm. My daddy farms corn, wheat, soybeans and oats. My mom is a teacher. And to think that I can write music that people on the other side of the world can connect to and relate to is kind of mind boggling because we do live completely different lives,” she says.
Country is common
“But I think we all actually have a lot more in common than you think. And if you really listen to the words to my song Heart Like a Truck, even though it’s about a truck, it’s actually got nothing to do with a truck. You know, there’s a there’s a deeper meaning there. And I feel like a lot of Country Music listeners can kind of find those different meanings when they really sit down and listen to the lyrics. That’s what I’ve learned about a lot of the UK folks. I mean, they care about what this all means and I feel like they kind of find their own version of what a song means. So, I feel like all I can do is keep writing music that’s real to me. And I feel like when I am the most me is when people are finding things to kind of pull from that, to feel things for themselves, too.”
C2C obviously means a lot to Wilson. “You know, it’s like Country music Christmas where we can kind of all be over here together experiencing this together. When you try to explain it to a Country artist who has never been over here and done it, you’re like, you got to go see it for yourself. This feels our cup when we leave here, we’re like, wow, you know, it just feels like we’re doing our job and we’re just we’re so glad to be here.” For her, when she goes back to the US after performing in Europe, it makes her feel more pumped up.
And there’s a noticeable difference Wilson can see when performing in front of a US versus European audience. “At the end of the day, in the US, I will say a lot of folks just show up to drink a beer and get crazy and there isn’t nothing wrong with that either. You know, everybody wants to have a beer. It’s my job to make you want to laugh and cry and drink a beer. I try to do all three of those things. But I will say over here it’s different. It feels like I’m being respected as a songwriter. And I was a songwriter before I was an artist. So, I really, really appreciate that. And I take a lot of pride in my writing.”
On the up and up
2022 was a big year for Wilson. She was nominated for six Country Music Association Awards, she released her third album, Bell Bottom Country, and she started in Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone. All of this success has enabled her to just buy a farm outside of Nashville. “When I think about everything that has happened since August 1st, 2011, when I moved to Nashville in a little camper trailer, I think every little thing and every big thing I have done has led me to this moment. I wouldn’t get past any of it. I mean, there was definitely times in my life I was like, dang it, why are people moving to Nashville and getting record deals left and right? Because I wanted one, too. But I truly feel like time was a part of my story. And I’m okay with that because I feel like I’ve lived more life, I feel like I’ve got more experiences in my back pocket to be able to connect with people,” she muses.
Last year was also a busy year as Wilson toured most of it without much of a break. And, 2023 is busy as she’s in the middle of her headlining tour that’s sold out. She has been on the constant go, to the point of losing her voice a few days ago, while trying to rest it and by drinking plenty of tea. But she finds time to stay centred and humble.
“I talk to God. That is one of the only things that gets me through, because this can be overwhelming and I’ve got to find my peace wherever I can find it. And it’s through Him. It’s through even just sitting down on a patch of grass. I just I bought a farm outside of Nashville, of 30 acres (12 hectares) where I can just go out there and look into the pasture and feel like I’m home, even if I’m home just for 12 hours, like doing those things that are good for the soul meditating. A lot of stress and anxiety does come along with this job because you got to be prepared for a lot of things. But I’m figuring it out as I go.”
Wrapping up our chat, I ask if she had to do it all again if there’s anything she’d change. She’s clear that she wouldn’t change becoming a Country artist, but she has certainly had her challenges. Ignorance being bliss worked in her favour. “If I knew it was going to be this hard, I don’t know if, like, if I didn’t have that naïve spirit that I did at 19-years-old when I moved to Nashville, I don’t know if I would have done it. So, there is a there’s a beauty in being naive and not knowing how hard things are going to be. I have fought tooth and nail and at the end of the day, if you want something in life, then you just keep your head down and your blinders on and go get the damn thing,” she says.
Wilson’s performance at London’s 02 Arena brought the audience to their feet. Singing her hits Watermelon Moonshine, Hillbilly Hippie, Heart Like A Truck, she brought her larger than life personality and prepared the energy for Thomas Rhett’s headlining set. Wearing mustard yellow bell bottoms and a felt hat, she was every bit the style she’s known for.
The 2023 C2C Festival also featured performances from other big names in Country music from Thomas Rhett, Lady A, the Zac Brown Band, to Midland, Breland, and more.
Video editor • Theo Farrant