Regarded by so many as one of the brightest stars emerging in Nashville that has been tipped by pretty much every major publication Stateside, Lainey Wilson is ready to be “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’” with her first full length release as a signed artist. The Jay Joyce produced record looks set to widen the reach of her signature “Bell Bottom Country” to a new level.
In addition to being named a member of CMT’s Next Women of Country class of 2019, the journey to this album has found her being an instant hit on this side of the Atlantic following on from stunning performances at C2C Country 2 Country, The Long Road Festival and as part of London’s annual country music week. Ahead of the album’s release we hung out with Lainey to get the full lowdown from the Louisiana native on this eagerly anticipated new release.
Whenever Lainey had previously been over to Europe or doing press with UK based outlets, we had somehow managed to pass like ships in the night, so this amazingly was the first time that the two of us had actually spoken. To coincide with the release of her first complete body of work as a signed artist seemed a destined time to hang out for the first time and naturally, she was incredibly excited to share this project with the world: “Oh my gosh! I am so proud of this thing, we have worked so hard on it, I mean I’ve been writing this record for years. I can’t believe it’s here, I’m just so honoured and excited. It’s been really cool to see how people have connected with the songs that are already out so I can’t wait to just put it all together because for me just having a body of work like that is so much cooler. When you can listen to it from top to bottom and really get the gist of the entire thing, this record is truly who I am, what I believe, what I want to say and really how I want to say it. It’s just unapologetically me!”
In case anyone hadn’t yet noticed, times have changed and so have ways of working through all aspects of the industry, whether than be writing, recording, interacting, performing or releasing new music so we touched upon whether the pandemic had affected the creation and release of this project. “This has been such a difficult time for everybody. At the end of the day I feel like more than ever people need music, the healing and power of music is just pretty special, so I was at the point of wanting to give the people what they need. Like I say, we’ve worked on this for a long time and it’s ready. We’ve crossed every T and dotted every I, it just feels good. Even though times are tough and hard, normally we would be on the road hugging people’s necks and getting to know people so we’re just having to do things a little different but the timing for me truly does feel right, it feels good!” For fans, receiving new music is the beginning of a chapter yet we often don’t consider that when you put the shoe on the other foot and consider the artist’s perspective it is actually a crossroad or a junction. There is a shiny new toy going out in to the world for them to share and enhance yet equally it rounds off a chapter and allows them begin working towards the future. “I write every day, it’s just a part of who I am and I’ve been writing songs since I was nine years old so I’m ready to put out the next five records, especially during this whole quarantine from COVID thing I have dove into that. I know there will become a time where I am not this still, when I don’t have as much time to write and be creative. I’ll just be trying to get to the next city so it does feel like a chapter and here it is with a little bow wrapped on top so let’s move on to the next thing but that’s how I am with everything in life. I’m always thinking heck yes, this is great but what’s next?”
Although “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin” as a full project has just been unveiled, for die-hard fans of Lainey there are only a small number of tracks that have not been previously available to hear. Despite this, the project reiterates the aim of the title and we went down the road of combining a release strategy with a cohesive body of work. “That was the goal. We did put it out in pieces but when we went in to record this record I already had the title track “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’” and based every single song off the idea of was it saying what I’m thinking? Whether that was “Dirty Looks” or “Things A Man Oughta Know” or “WWDD” we asked ourselves the question is this saying what I’m thinking? If it didn’t, it didn’t make the list. That process right there made it really fun, really interesting and a lot easier because we had whittled it down to two hundred songs and after that, down to fifty and deciding on the name of the record kind of just saved a lot of time.”
This record was produced by Jay Joyce, a man that after speaking to other artists that have worked with him refer to him as a real-life wizard who practices magic! Eric Church is well, Eric Church but when you throw Jay into the mix, I don’t think there is anything more to add! T.J. Osborne and Tenille Townes had talked to me so positively about working with him but I asked Lainey to try and pinpoint what exactly it is that makes him so special to work with? “He’s a mad scientist and that’s what I tell everybody! Before I went in there, a lot of people would say he is intimidating, he wears these black trench coats, he lights his cigarettes on the toaster and that didn’t scare me. I was like, hell yeah! That’s cool, let’s do it, that’s my kind of people! Before we made the record, he really got to know me, my personality and really figure out what I wanted to say. We really just bonded and it’s kind of like we were kindred spirits, so when we got into the studio to cut this record it came organically and it was what it was supposed to be with the magic of Jay Joyce mixing it all into a pot, then coming out with something cool. That’s just how he is, he would literally walk up to people’s guitars and untune them whilst we were playing just because he didn’t want it to be perfect. I’m not trying to be perfect and I think really and truly that is why it worked!” We read and hear about Jay’s imprint on a project, yet I personally had never appreciated at what point his impact began on a project so this was one of the key things I wanted to find out from Lainey: “The label, my management and me sat down where we had got it down to fifty songs then we sent those fifty over to Jay too. Strangely enough whenever we decided that these were our twelve picks, he was on the same page. He took songs that I already loved and believed in, then sprinkled his little Jay Joyce fairy dust on it to bring it to life and he’s really helped me find my artistry.”
As much as her traction as an artist has been growing over recent years, releasing an album during a global pandemic and the inability to play shows does pose some problems: “It has been difficult, I feel I have made most of my fans through shaking their hands, hugging their necks and really getting to know them because that’s where it starts. That’s how you build up, brick by brick. We have though figured out how to stay connected in other ways and Thank God for technology during this time because I don’t know what we would be doing. I’m very grateful for it and of course there is nothing like one on one human interaction but I can still get the interaction that I need to keep moving forward and that day will come and I think it will be better than ever!”
Writing and recording digitally during the last year seems to be a completely marmite process, which people either love or hate with not much middle ground, but which side of the fence does she position herself on regarding this? “I feed off people! I will tell you though that during this time because we have been forced to sit here and think on our own feelings, I have written some songs over Zoom that I’m going to cut! I’m going to record them at some point in time so I won’t give Zoom too much of a hard time but I can’t wait to be back on Music Row doing my thing. I am thankful for it and at the end of the day you are not chatting on there asking how’s your mom or things, you are there to do your job so it cuts the bullshit but cutting it out kinda takes the fun away too!”
Wilson has found the United Kingdom very warm to her music and personally a regular place on her tour schedule. Touring the UK as an American artist has costs in terms of finance and battling the time difference along with being away from home, yet it is something that she has been adamant needs to be persisted with: “I came over there for the first time in October of 2018 when I had just signed with my label. I had heard through them that country music was a huge deal over there and they were saying you could do the whole international thing but never in a million years, did I think that little old Lainey Wilson from Baskin, Louisiana would be in London singing country music. When I got over there, people didn’t know me from Adam but they saw my name on a flier, they went and looked up my music, they learnt every single word and I gained so much respect for everybody over there. I was like Wow! It sounds so silly but you guys truly do listen to the music and take into account how much hard work you really do put into every single line and syllable. That means the world to me and to be honest, I had more of a fanbase over there than I did here at the time, I will never forget that and it will never go unnoticed, I kind of feels like I have my own little family over there and we’re all just a little more alike than we even know it! It really is unbelievable and that’s what I love about Europe, it just makes me excited. If I could get on a plane right now, I would have my ass over there! I miss my people!”
Some of her most prominent appearances in the UK have occurred at our major festivals such as C2C and The Long Road, but how does she see them comparing to the transatlantic compatriots? “It is so different. You are up there and they have got their eyes on you, they are there to watch a damn show. Of course, everyone wants to have a drink and have fun but they are there for the music, they are not there just to say they’ve been at a festival. They are truly there to listen, have fun, connect and to me, that’s what live shows are all about anyway. For me to get up there or even if I’m just in the audience watching somebody, I want to feel like I’m not alone, I want to feel like we’re on the same page whether we are trying to have a good time or my heart is breaking, I want to feel like I’m not alone. That’s my job and over there I truly do feel like no matter what, I’m looking at them and they’re looking at me where we’re on the same page.”
Then finally, as a regular tourist to these shores she will have noted that it is very different to how things are across the pond. As a female artist, has she felt the impact of this specifically and are things getting better in Nashville for the girls? “I feel like a lot of my fans absolutely love female country artists and see so much overwhelming support and it seems like over that the girls have got it even more than the boys which is kind of a cool thing. Then over here if these boys ain’t ready, we’re coming, y’all better watch out! It is getting better here. I’ve always been the type of person where I don’t let that bother me, I just keep my blinders on because at the end of the day I’m gonna work my ass off. I don’t have a plan B! It’s plan A and that’s it, it has to work, this is it, this is the only thing I know how to do, it’s my life! I’ve always been like tunnel vision, even if it is a little bit more difficult or harder for us I’m not going to sit around and talk about it, I’m just gonna work as hard as I can and I’m gonna whoop some ass when I need to!”
“Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’” TRACK LISTING: (Produced by Jay Joyce) 1. “Neon Diamonds”— (Lainey Wilson, McV, Matt Rogers) 2. "Sunday Best” — (Lainey Wilson, Brice Long, Shane Minor) 3. “Things A Man Oughta Know” — (Lainey Wilson, Jonathon Singleton, Jason Nix) 4. “Small Town, Girl” — (Lainey Wilson, Chris Yarber, Dallas Wilson) 5. “LA” — (Lainey Wilson, Hannah Dasher, Frank Romano) 6. “Dirty Looks” — (Lainey Wilson, Smith Ahnquist, Brent Anderson) 7. “Pipe” — (Lainey Wilson, Luke Dick, John Pierce) 8. “Keeping Bars In Business” — (Lainey Wilson, Jordan Schmidt, Matt Rogers) 9. “Straight Up Sideways” — (Lainey Wilson, Reid Isbell, Jason Nix, Dan Alley) 10. “WWDD” — (Lainey Wilson, Casey Beathard, Michael Heeney) 11. “Rolling Stone” — (Lainey Wilson, Tammi Kidd, Brent Anderson) 12. “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’” — (Lainey Wilson, Jay Knowles) “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’” the new album from Lainey Wilson is out now through BMG/BBR Music Group and you can listen HERE with a physical CD/vinyl release to follow on April 16th. For more information and upcoming tour dates, visit www.laineywilson.com or follow on InstagramTwitter and Facebook.
True country music is honesty, sincerity, and real life to the hilt. Garth Brooks