Long before Lainey Wilson had any idea what being a country music artist really entailed, she knew she wanted to be one. The Louisiana native first rode through Nashville when she was a child, on her way home from a family vacation to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and felt an unmistakable, unforgettable pull to Music City.
“I remember on the car ride, I had this overwhelming feeling that telling stories is what I was supposed to do,” Wilson tells People. “Being from a town of 200 people, there’s not a whole lot to do except sit around the kitchen table and tell stories—the kind of stories that get better every single time that you hear them. That’s exactly how country music is for me.”
In a now-familiar story, Wilson moved to Nashville right after high school, firm in her commitment to be a singer-songwriter. It was the determination that fueled her, for years and years, when she received rejection after rejection, while living out of a camper trailer.
“I would walk up and down Music Row in Nashville and pass out my demos and my CDs,” Wilson remembers. “I had a lot of folks slam the door in my face. There were some hard times, there were some rough days, times when I should have probably packed it up and went home, hooked the trailer to the back of the truck and said, ‘I can’t do this.’ But I’ve always had a really weird sense of peace knowing that this is the only thing I know how to do.”
Far from bitter about her sometimes achingly slow path to success in country music, Wilson has been vocal about her profound gratitude for those hard, lean years, all stepping stones to becoming one of the biggest current hitmakers within the country music genre.
“I’m very grateful that it has taken me a long time [to get here],” Wilson acknowledges. “There are moments where I wish things would’ve happened a little sooner, but the truth is I wasn’t ready. I think time was supposed to be a big part of my story.”
Wilson recently won four ACM Awards, and is on duets with Cole Swindell, HARDY, Jelly Roll, Lauren Alaina and more. If anyone has earned the right to have a bit of an ego right now, it’s Wilson. Fortunately, those closest to her would never, ever let that happen.
“When I go back home, they treat me like the same old lady,” Wilson says. “They’re like, ‘You ain’t that cool. So don’t act like you’re too cool.’ They keep me humble.”
Now 31 years old, Wilson struggled through a lot of her 20s to prove her staying power in country music. It’s a struggle that is a distant memory for her now, who has even bigger dreams and ambitions in the next decade.
“I have a lot of plans and a lot of hopes for my 30s,” Wilson hints. “I feel like my 30s are gonna be a lot better than my 20s were. I feel comfortable in my own skin. I feel like I’ve got a story to tell, and I want people to see my journey and know that they can do anything they set their mind to.”
Wilson’s latest single, “Watermelon Moonshine,’ is out now. The song, from her sophomore Bell Bottom Country album, is just a small part of Wilson’s big goal: to make music that matters.
“I’ve always just wanted to make people feel something with my music—whether it makes you want to laugh, cry or drink a beer,” says the singer. “For years I’ve tried to prove a lot of people wrong, but the truth is there’s a lot of people that I need to prove right.”
Wilson will join Luke Combs for select dates on his World Tour this year, as well as playing fairs and festivals, and headlining her own shows. Find “Watermelon Moonshine” and all of Wilson’s music and tour dates at LaineyWilson.com.