Wilson — who was born and raised in Baskin, La., “a hard-working, blue-collar town of 300 people who love country music” — says mining her upbringing was a natural process while writing alongside Jason Nix and Jonathan Singleton. She started talking about her childhood and soon relayed what her parents taught her early on, from catching a fish to hitching a trailer to starting a fire.
Wilson moved to Nashville in 2011, at the age of 19, arriving with a Flagstaff trailer full of her belongings attached to a pickup truck. She parked outside a family friend’s recording studio and lived in it for three years. “I was known as that crazy girl with the trailer back then,” she recalls. By 2016, she independently released her debut album, Tougher, which hit No. 44 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart, and followed it up with a self-titled EP.
All the while, she was determined to “meet the right people who could help connect the dots on the way to success. I changed management a few times and made a few mistakes while figuring out exactly what the formula was that would work for me.” By March 2018, she scored a publishing deal with Sony/ATV, and by that August a contract with indie label Broken Bow Records. The label released her four-track EP, Redneck Hollywood, the following year, which included “Things A Man Oughta Know.”
But as the label was gearing up to release her major-label debut full-length — Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’ arrived this February — much of the world was in lockdown due to COVID-19. Thanks to her grassroots start in Nashville, though, Wilson was familiar with navigating uncertain times.
“Lainey didn’t let the pandemic stop her from engaging with fans on social media and industry professionals in the Nashville and country communities,” says Jon Loba, president of BMG Nashville. “She’s that rare artist who is [simultaneously] respected by consumers, industry gatekeepers, and other artists.”
It helped that, prior to the pandemic, the label arranged for Wilson to meet with key radio and DSP players. Loba says iHeartradio, for example, met Wilson over a year ago and because she remained visible throughout 2020, was eager to work together, naming her a 2021 “On The Verge” act. Spotify followed a similar path, adding Wilson its its inaugural Hot Country Artists to Watch list.