Wilson talked to Music Mayhem about how she wrote more than 300 songs to create her new album, how the meaning of “These Boots” has evolved since her father’s health issues, which of her six CMA Award nominations means the most to her, and more.
Most artists usually don’t have much time to write their second record compared to their first, but Wilson found a silver lining during the pandemic and used the extra time to create her sophomore album.
“During the pandemic I wrote 300 plus songs,” says Wilson. “I wanted to make dang sure that all of my bases were covered.” She added, “I wanted to make dang sure that you could see that growth. And I feel like not just as a singer and a songwriter, but really just as a person too. I feel like I’ve done a whole lot of growing over the last few years.”
While the Louisiana native focused on what she wanted to say in her music, she trusted her team, particularly her producer Jay Joyce, to shape the sound of the album.
“He really hit the nail on the head with trying to figure out what Bell Bottom Country is,” says Wilson. “He’s got his own idea of what Bell Bottom Country sounds like and I focus on the writing part. I allow him to be creative at the end of the day.” Although she’ll speak up if there’s something she wants to change, she trusts her team to make the best calls. “I feel like I trust my team. I trust everybody. I let everybody do their job and I do mine and try to focus on that.”
That trust included her co-writers, who brought her the idea of “Hold My Halo” specifically with her in mind. Wilson wrote the track with Derek George, Monica Criswell and Lynn Hutton, who held the “hold my beer”-like concept for her.
“They said they knew that I work hard and I bust my tail trying to do this stuff, but I also really enjoy cutting loose and letting my hair down,” says Wilson. “At the end of the day we were all day in, day out busting our tails, trying to get somewhere in life. And every now and then, I think it’s okay to enjoy life, work hard, but have fun.”
One of the stand-out tracks on Bell Bottom Country is “These Boots,” an autobiographical song about the Louisiana native’s dad. “It took us about four separate times to write the song,” recalls Wilson. “It just felt like we knew it was special when we started it and we wanted to do it right. It wasn’t just gonna be this one time, you know, we set it up on the shelf and that’s it. We knew it was worth fighting for.”
Wilson described the unique living arrangements of her childhood and the morning routine that inspired the song. “My parents lived in this little uninsulated house in Baskin [Louisiana], my hometown. Instead of adding on cause they needed extra space, my parents are a bunch of rednecks and they ended up buying a portable building and cutting the side out of it and attaching it to the house,” she laughed.
Wilson continued, “So me and my sister, we lived in a little portable building part that was attached to the house. And every morning before my daddy would go to work, he would call my name and I remember running from the portable building into the house and helping him pull his pants leg, his blue jeans down over the top of his boots. And that was a childhood memory of mine and that made me feel special, it made me feel important, like I had a job and I always thought back to that memory and that’s really how the song idea sparked.”
Since writing the song, Wilson’s dad has faced serious health issues and is now recovering at home. “With my daddy’s health issues and stuff over the last few months, it brought a completely different meaning to the song,” says Wilson. “I think sometimes you forget how much you love somebody until you feel like you’re about to lose ’em.”
The “Heart Like a Truck” singer is nominated for six CMA Awards this year, including Female Vocalist of the Year, New Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Musical Event of the Year, and Music Video of the Year. She’s grateful and overwhelmed by the support of her peers, sharing the one nomination that means the most.
“I think Album of the Year is really special because it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy, it doesn’t matter if you’re a girl, it’s no lines like that,” says Wilson. “It gives a moment to the entire team. It gives a moment to the producer, it gives a moment to the songwriters who made the record, the players to the labels, to the publishing companies. Like, to me that would feel like one big old win for everybody.”
In addition to having the most nominations at this year’s CMA Awards, Wilson will be part of a special tribute to Alan Jackson, who will receive the 2022 CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. Wilson was delighted to discover that Jackson chose her to be part of the performance.
“This really just made my day, I was told that they had sent over some names to Alan [Jackson] and he got to choose who was honoring him and he chose me,” says Wilson. “He was a soundtrack to my childhood. My mom and daddy bought me and my sister this little Suzuki and we were probably 13 and 14 years old, and they would let us drive it out in the pasture just so we could learn how to drive. And we would crank up, ‘Daddy let me drive,’ and we’d run around in that thing and put it on two wheels. I have so many fun childhood memories and when I think about country music, I think about storytelling and that’s what Alan Jackson is. He is a storyteller.”
The “Heart Like a Truck” singer has announced the Country with a Flare Tour, presented by Stella Rosa® Future Is Female. Her first headlining tour will begin on January 4, 2023, in Spokane, WA, hitting 27-cities with stops at Irving Plaza in New York City and Brooklyn Bowl in Nashville, before concluding in Columbus, OH on March 31st. Joining her on tour will be newcomer Ben Chapman as well as Meg McRee and Leah Blevins on select dates.
“It’s time for us to kind of start building our own thing,” says Wilson. “We are gonna be playing most of this new record. It’s just gonna be a good time. We are so pumped and I know my band is pumped. There’s a big difference between getting to play a 30-minute opening set and actually being able to get on stage and take your time and get to know the crowd and them get to know you. I think that right there is pretty special.”
Wilson will also be making her acting debut on season 5 of the smash hit series Yellowstone, which is set to premiere on the Paramount Network on Sunday, November 13th at 8/7c. Throughout the upcoming season, she will perform original music from Bell Bottom Country.