Growing up in the rural farming community of Baskin, Louisiana (with a population of just 300), Lainey Wilson always dreamed of life as a country star living in the big city. Now, as her stages and fanbase continue to grow, the singer says she’s taking a little of Baskin with her wherever she goes.
“When I moved from Louisiana to Nashville, everywhere I’d go, I’d open my mouth to speak and people would say, ‘Where in the world are you from?’ I’d say, ‘Well, I’m from L.A.,’” Wilson recalls to Country Now. “They’d say, ‘With an accent like that, there’s no way in the world you’re from Los Angeles. When they heard L.A., they heard Hollywood, but I heard Louisiana.”
The singer titled her newest EP, Redneck Hollywood, after that misunderstanding. The project proudly carries the mantle of her small-town experience, Wilson goes on to explain, summing up the nuanced blend of down-home and starry-eyed that has always felt true to her personality.
“To be honest with you, ‘redneck’ is a word that outsiders would call us, but it was also a word that we would really proudly call ourselves,” she points out. “The ‘hollywood’ part comes from, well, from a very early age, I have always had stars in my eyes. I’ve always dreamed of going places and doing this thing, being able to travel the world, and get to see and meet a lot of people.”
After she moved to Nashville and while she working on the EP, Wilson lucked into meeting one of her dream producers. “I wrote my song, ‘L.A.,’ on the album with a buddy of mine, Frank Romano, and Hannah Dasher. Frank was good friends with Jay Joyce. They lived right down the street from each other,” she explains. “I know Frank had thrown my name out of him a few times. Then he connected us and we became friends.”
The pair got to know each other over a couple of informal studio meetings, and eventually, Wilson broached the idea of working together on her forthcoming project. “I said, ‘I’m not sure what you had in mind, but I would love to have the opportunity to work with you,’ and he said, ‘Let’s do it,’” she relates, adding that not only did the connection allow her to work with an iconic industry member, but it also scored her some major ‘cool’ points at her label.
“When we first signed, they were like, ‘If you could work with any producer, who would it be?’ And I said, ‘I would love to work with Jay Joyce.’ And they were like, you know, ‘We can see. He’s pretty hard to get in touch with,’” she laughs. “So I was able to go back to my label, and he made me look a lot cooler than I really am! Because I got to go back and say, ‘Well, actually, I’ve already talked to him.”
Cool factor aside, working with Joyce opened Wilson’s eyes to new, exciting musical possibilities. A “mad scientist” in the studio who went over each of Redneck Hollywood’s four tracks “literally a hundred times” to find the right mix, he also brought some ideas to the table the singer says she might not have ever otherwise thought to try. In addition to the songs on Redneck Hollywood, the pair completed a full record due out in 2020, and Wilson says she especially notices Joyce’s influence on that forthcoming project.
“In a few of those songs, he really utilized bass solos. I never would have thought of that!” she says. “Everything kind of drops out, and you have the bass, you know — it’s just really cool. That’s something that I never would have thought about to do, and it’s become kind of a signature thing for me.”
Wilson’s forthcoming record will continue to find new “signature” sounds and moments for the emerging artist. While it’s clear from her EP that she feels at home in the kind of rhinestone-studded, swagger-heavy, matter-of-fact lyrical style championed by peers (like Jenny Tolman) and icons (like Dolly Parton) alike, the singer says that she plans to connect with fans on a deeper level.
“Of course you have to have your sassy songs on there, but also I have my more vulnerable side, you know, just getting real with people,” she relates. “The more I put music out, the more I realize that being vulnerable is what people attach themselves to. So a lot of the songs on the album are just about getting real, and hopefully opening myself up so that people will be able to relate and latch on.”
In the meantime, Wilson has been fulfilling her dreams, traveling the world and meeting people whose own hometowns are increasingly far from her own. She toured in the UK in 2019 with Josh Turner, along with playing some dates in Germany alongside Eric Paslay. Though the fanbase she plays to across the Atlantic might not share her thick Louisiana accent, Wilson says she finds plenty of common ground with even the most geographically far-flung audiences.
The songstress also spent some time on the road with Morgan Wallen and Hardy in early 2019. She felt right at home with those fans.
“[Wallen]’s fanbase is just great. I mean, you look at him and he’s a big ol’ redneck with the mullet and the cutoffs,” she says, cracking up. “I feel like those are my kind of people. I feel like when my audience builds, that’s probably gonna be the kind of people that I really connect with and relate to.”
She can find those kinds of people all over the world. “The more I travel and the more I meet people, the more I realize that we are all very similar,” Wilson adds. “I think we were probably taught a lot of the same things growing up. And I think ultimately, we all have the same morals and values. That’s what country music is to me.”
Wilson’s debut single, “Dirty Looks,” impacts country radio October 21.