Lainey Wilson still can’t quite believe this is her life. The Louisiana native has had five consecutive No. 1 singles, just won three People’s Choice Country Awards, including for Female Artist of the Year. She is also nominated for an astonishing nine CMA Awards, including the night’s highest honor, Entertainer of the Year.
“It’s crazy,” Wilson tells the New York Post, speaking of being the most-nominated artist at this year’s CMA Awards. “I mean, there’s a few categories where I’m competing with myself. It’s wild. If you would have told little Lainey that this would happen this soon into my career, I would have told you you were lying.”
It wasn’t long ago at all that Wilson was still a country music outsider, trying desperately to get her foot in the door, with the CMA Awards as her own personal benchmark.
“I used to wait outside just so I could get a free wristband, hoping that I could be in the pit,” Wilson remembers. “Or I’d save up my money, and I’d buy a ticket in the nosebleeds. And I would go buy an outfit just to get all dressed up and feel like I was a part of it. And I would look down on the floor, and I would see all of these artists who I’m inspired by.”
Last year marked Wilson’s first time as both a nominee and a winner, when she won both Female Vocalist of the Year and New Artist of the Year. For Wilson, who for years and years believed in herself — even when no one else did — the night became a sort of welcoming party for her in country music.
“When last year happened, I just felt like I was a part of the community,” Wilson says. “I felt very embraced. It made me feel like, ‘Wow, I’m really starting to gain the respect of my peers and the people that I look up to in this industry.’ And when that happens, it just kind of lights another fire under you.”
If there has even been an artist that has reached their goals by pure tenacity and hard work, it’s Wilson, who refused to take no for an answer — over and over again.
“I got here in 2011 in my little camper trailer, and it was 12 years August 1st,” Wilson recalls. “But I feel like I’ve only had my foot in the door for a couple of years. Some people just show up to Nashville, and it just happens and that’s it. But I have always truly had the mentality of, ‘Okay, if this takes me longer, that’s fine.’ That means that I’m going to have longevity, that I’ll be here till the cows come home.”
Ever since Wilson broke into country music with “Things A Man Oughta Know,” she has become one of the biggest and brightest lights within country music. While it may seem like it has all happened quickly for her, the 31-year-old says it was her endurance in the beginning that made what is happening now possible.
“I feel like the stars have just aligned,” Wilson concedes. “But the truth is, I think we worked so hard on the front end of this. It’s been brick by brick for me. It’s been song by song. It has been team member by team member. It has been fan by fan.”
Wilson is very much in her own lane, both with her music and her bell-bottom fashion sense. It’s a lane she is proud to own, even if — or especially if — it isn’t occupied by anyone else.
“I know who I am. I know what I want to say. I know how I want to say it,” Wilson maintains. “And it’s cool to think that I’m not being anything other than myself … if that’s what the magic is.”
Wilson is currently back in the Top 10, for her “Save Me” duet with Jelly Roll. She is working on a new album, one that will include plenty of love songs, thanks to her relationship with former Pittsburgh Steelers player, Devlin “Duck” Hodges. She will also join Morgan Wallen next year on his 2024 One Night At A Time World Tour. Find music and tour dates at LaineyWilson.com.