Anne Wilson
Christian

Chartbreaker: How Christian Artist Anne Wilson Made History With Breakout Hit ‘My Jesus’

Anne Wilson grew up in Kentucky playing piano and dancing ballet but never considered singing — she dreamed of becoming an astronaut. That changed in 2017, when her older brother Jacob died in a car accident at 23. “I’d never written a song, and I’d never sang in front of anyone until [his] funeral,” recalls Wilson. She performed Hillsong Worship’s “What a Beautiful Name” at the service, and says now, “That was the first moment I felt God calling me to music.”

Prompted by friends and family, Wilson posted a video of herself singing the song to YouTube. The clip gained traction, making its way to Noble Management’s Jason Davis, who reached out at the top of 2018. “You could tell there was so much potential,” says Davis, who signed Wilson as a management client that August. “The vocal tone was there like you hear today. I’ve been doing this for 23 years, and for there to be a career, artists have to have this gift.”

“The root of this started out with a viral video,” he continues. “I didn’t do that, no record label did that. She was just clearly doing what she was supposed to be doing. It’s been like that the entire journey.”

Tracy Allison
Jason Davis, left, and Anne Wilson photographed on September 16, 2021 at Cedarmont Farm in Franklin, Tenn.

After her brother’s death, Wilson processed her emotions through journal entries. She drew upon those when writing the deeply personal breakout ballad “My Jesus” with Jeff Pardo and Matthew West in Nashville last year. “I walked through a really tough season of grief,” she recalls. “I remember having this moment where I wanted to give up on life. When I looked back at my journals, I saw how God pulled me through. I also realized I never referred to God as anything else, except ‘My Jesus.’”

She brought that title into the writing room and, as she remembers, “it turned out that Matthew and Jeff each had that same exact title as an idea, but we had not spoken about it at all. It was a total God thing.” She adds that “My Jesus” was the first song she wrote that broached her loss, saying, “I had written close to 100 songs by that point, but none of them had ever touched on that.”

Davis says he thought Wilson might have “a three or four-year journey before anyone would be interested [in signing her]” — but it took less than one year. After an early Nashville writing session, one of Wilson’s co-writers, Jeff Sojka, met with Capitol Christian Music Group vp Josh Bailey and mentioned her name. According to Davis, Wilson was soon fielding offers from Capitol CMG, Fair Trade Services and Provident Label Group. She signed a recording and publishing contract with Capitol CMG and its publishing division (Capitol CMG Publishing) in 2019.

The label released “My Jesus” this April, and by August, Wilson, now 19, became the first female soloist to top Billboard’s Christian Airplay chart with a debut single since the chart’s launch in 2003. She also became the first female artist to lead Billboard’s Hot Christian Songs chart with a debut single since The Voice contestant Brooke Simpson in 2017.

Wilson followed the song’s success with a three-track collection of the same name, as well as the five-song project My Jesus (Live in Nashville). She’s now working on original Christmas music, as well as her “rootsy” full-length debut album, due to arrive next year.

“I prefer real, authentic sounds in music and I always want to write for a purpose,” Wilson says of her album writing process. “My grandmother was a huge fan of Dolly Parton and I’m a huge Johnny Cash fan, so I’ve let that inspire my music. There are country elements here and there — I love the banjo.”

Wilson (who is booked by Jeff Roberts and Associates) recently made her debut on the Grand Ole Opry and is currently on the road with Big Daddy Weave. She’ll join Zach Williams on his holiday trek later this year.

Wilson can only describe her trajectory as “overwhelming, in a good way.” She says the most meaningful moments so far have been reading and hearing stories from people who have resonated with “My Jesus” while on their own path to healing.

“I've been able to see my family have tragedy with losing my brother, going through all of that,” she says, “and see God turn it to something beautiful.”

Tracy Allison
Anne Wilson photographed on September 16, 2021 at Cedarmont Farm in Franklin, Tenn.

A version of this story will appear in the Oct. 9, 2021, issue of Billboard