To get to the heart of Lainey Wilson’s new Bell Bottom Country album, skip ahead to track No. 6, “Me, You and Jesus.” The soft-spoken, mid-tempo, acoustic lyrical showcase doesn’t scream radio hit, and it might go unnoticed on the first listen through these 14 songs, but …
“The only things that get me through hard times are my faith and my people,” she tells Taste of Country, exhaling after one heck of a year.
Wilson — whose “Heart Like a Truck” is one of her two songs approaching the country Top 20 — has had a few hard times in 2022. Fans will learn about a breakup through another co-write called “Weak-End” (Wilson wrote all 13 originals) and they’ll learn about her “Deddy” in “Those Boots.” While not inspired by her father’s medical scare from last summer, those events certainly shape a first listen.
“He spent two months in a hospital from a fungal infection that completely took out the left side of his face,” she admits, detailing what happened for the first time. “They had to remove his eye and they had to remove some bones in face. He had a stroke on top of all of that. He had nine surgeries in a month-and-a-half. He’s not supposed to be here.”
A significant role on Paramount Network’s Yellowstone (Nov. 13), an industry leading six nominations for the 2022 CMA Awards and a collaboration with Hardy on the top-selling “Wait in the Truck” have been Wilson’s headlines, but with it has come more work than she ever imagined, quite a bit of personal heartache and fewer than a dozen nights in her own bed this year.
“I feel like I’ve had the best moments of my career in my past three months, but also the hardest time on a personal level,” she tells Evan Paul during a visit to the Taste of Country Nights studio.
“A part of me feels like bad stuff happens to me just so I’ll have something to write about. I’m like, ‘Lord, we done been through this. Why you doin’ this to me?'”
The Bell Bottom Country album closes with a song that nearly begs for change. It’s a cover that finds the Louisiana native pulling back the veil. “What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes presents as an anthem, when really it’s a cry of frustration.
“Twenty five years and my life is still / Tryin’ to get up that great big hill of hope / For a destination,” she sings, doing the song justice 30 years after its release by Linda Perry and co.
During a rare breath between life’s highs and lows, Wilson answers questions about Perry, Yellowstone and Kevin Costner, her father, the CMA Award she’s hoping to win and — of course — Bell Bottom Country, which drops on Friday (Oct. 28) on Broken Bow Records.
Taste of Country: Which of the six CMA Awards nominations would mean the most to win?
Lainey Wilson: Oh my gosh, just to be recognized is just so cool. I used to stand outside of Bridgestone (Arena, where the CMAs are held) in line for hours just to get a little wristband to get in the pit. I’d go buy me a dress and everything to make myself feel like I was going to the CMAs.
That’s hard. I’ll say Song of the Year, of course. As a songwriter I take a lot of pride in my writing, and “Things a Man Oughta Know” won ACM Song of the Year. It’d be pretty dang cool to see it win again.
Does it finally feel like you’ve “made it”?
It’s so weird. I don’t think this means that I’m not appreciative or content or anything like that, but I don’t know if I’m ever going to feel like I “made” it. And I kind of hope I don’t. I hope I’m the kind of person who is always like, “This is incredible. What a huge blessing, but what’s next?”
Which song on Bell Bottom Country was the seed song that the rest of the album grew from?
We kind of just built it around Bell Bottom Country in general, which means country with a flair. It’s about finding whatever it is that makes you you, and different. It could be where you’re from, how you were raised, the way that you talk, your accent, your story … just leaning into it as much as you can.
There is some great word play on “Weak-End.” What inspired that?
First of all, I love double entendres. I did it with my song “Dirty Looks.” There’s just something so cool and creative about that, and writing it is so much fun because it’s like putting together a puzzle.
During that time I was on a weak end of a heartbreak. You know, you gotta go through the bad to get to the good, and that’s where I was. It was just a real song in that moment.
As a songwriter, do you get any kind of excitement when bad things happen because you know you’ll have material for songs?
Not in the moment, but a part of me feels like bad stuff happens to me just so I’ll have something to write about. I’m like, “Lord, we done been through this. Why you doin’ this to me?”
But I agree with you. There’s times where I’m like, OK I need to capitalize on this feeling because at the end of the day, if I’m sharing my experience, I know good and dang well that I’m not the only one who was in it in the moment.
You were just one year old when 4 Non Blondes released “What’s Up?” What made you decide to cover that?
I’ve been covering this song for years. Like I played it when I was playing in the ArkLaMiss area (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi). It was a song that, it didn’t matter what was going on, when this song came on and the chorus hit, everybody’s arms went in the air and everybody’s swaying back and forth.
Linda Perry, she’s just cool. I got to sit down with her last fall and just kind of got to know her and talk to her.
She’s written some hits!
She’s just cool — and intimidating. I was terrified, and I don’t get scared. I was like, “You scary!” But she means business and I love that about her … I just look up to her. She just does what she wants to do when she wants to do it.
We just spoke to Thomas Rhett and he told us to ask you what Kevin Costner is like. And he said he wants the real deal, don’t sugarcoat it.
Well, this is the thing: I was in several scenes as Kevin, but I never got to shake his hand. He’s such a busy man, I think they pretty much put him in the scene and then pull him out. He’s the only one on the cast and crew that I didn’t get to know.
Beth, she’s a dear friend of mine now. She is bad to the bone, but also the sweetest person in the world. So, Thomas Rhett, I’m gonna have to do my research, buddy (laughs)!