Gretchen Wilson

Gretchen Wilson has always kept her eye on the ball when it comes to the things that matter in her life. She does what she has to when it comes to her family, even if it means putting her own career on hold.
Last time she came through Laughlin in 2014, she had just made life-changing decisions about her career—parting ways with her label to start her own Redneck Records, becoming her own producer in addition to being a singer, songwriter and musician. After releasing three albums on her own, Right on Time, Under the Covers and Christmas in My Heart, she made another tough choice to stop touring so she could be a full-time mom to her daughter, Grace. Taking that break helped Wilson become more focused as a parent, as well as a stronger songwriter and individual capable of digging deeper for more meaningful lyrics, while also finding humor in the strangest of places.
Well, Wilson is back in the saddle with a new single and a new album and a nationwide tour that’s been a long-time coming. Ready to Get ROWDY will be released Friday, June 16, her first single “Rowdy,” has been out for a little while now and it’s been making some serious noise, which usually happens any time Wilson lends those killer vocals to anything.
Gretchen Wilson exploded on the country music scene in 2004 with her single, “Redneck Woman,” which spent six weeks at Number One. Her debut album, Here For The Party, sold more than five million copies and she won across-the-board awards including a Grammy and Academy of Country Music, Country Music Association and an American Music Association award for Best Female Vocalist. Her subsequent albums also scored high on the charts.  The title track to All Jacked Up debuted at No. 21 on the Hot Country Songs charts, setting a record for the highest debut ever made by a female artist. She also became a darling of TV, appearing on “60 Minutes,” “Dateline NBC,” “20/20 Primetime,” and CNN’s “People In The News.”
Wilson’s independent streak saw her butting heads with her original record label, and thus starting her own company in 2009, Redneck Records.  Her first album on her own label, I Got Your Country Right Here, in 2010, debuted at Number #6 on the album chart. One of the singles from the album, “I’d Love to be Your Last,” was a Grammy nominated “Song of the Year.”
This time when we talked with Wilson, one thing still remains the same, she’s as down-to-earth as she’s ever been, a strong survivor of the shark tank a.k.a. Nashville, and she has a collection of new songs that could be her best yet. We talked about her career, her music, her ever-present sense of humor and the show she’s bringing to town. Here’s her take…

It had to be a tough choice for you to give the career up to spend time with your daughter. What are your thoughts about that?
Wilson: I think I consider myself really fortunate to be able to take a three-year hiatus and just be mom for a while. Not a lot of people get to go on semi-early retirement for a few years. I just feel blessed and fortunate that I was able to do that. Single parents out there know there’s never a good time to be gone, but I think for a teenaged daughter, those years between 13 to 17 are critical. I feel like if you’re not here 100 percent of the time, they start getting their direction and their way of life from different sources. I just think it’s important for you to be here and be ever-present in their everyday decisions.

Break time is over…
Wilson: I can’t believe I’m going back to work. I don’t know, three years off and you just kind of forget —first of all, at my age—how to walk in high heels. That’s one thing you forget to do. I’ve been barefooted for almost four years now. Putting on those high heels is just not something that I see in my future so I’m having to rethink the whole thing. What am I going to wear? I’m gonna be 44 in June—while I’m out there in the middle of this tour—and I am not comfortable unless I’m in my pajamas or my sweatpants.

We’ll if you’re “ready to get rowdy,” you know you’re going to have to prove it.
Wilson: Yeah, I know. I’m might have to get rowdy in some cutoffs and some bare feet, I’m just not sure.

Why this project now at this point in your life? What makes it different from your previous work and what does in mean to you personally?
Wilson: First of all, it was just time. I knew it was time. This kind of sounds corny but I feel like when I took that break it was a break I had been wanting to take for a while, but I couldn’t find a way to tell my band and my crew. After you work with people for so long they’re like family and I just didn’t know how to tell them that I needed a break. So I probably went for two years longer than I had planned. Then I found a hole in the schedule where we were not working for three months, and I thought, if I’m gonna do this, this is the time to do it. It was hard for me to tell them all, “hey, I need break and you guys are all wonderful and I’m sure you’ll land on your feet.” But God finally just stepped in and said, “Hey, stop doing everything because of somebody else. You need to do what you need to do for a little while,” so it was something I had to do. But in the same respect, about a year ago, I had that same feeling coming from somewhere beyond that was like, “Okay, that’s enough of a break, it’s time to start writing and time to get back out there.” It didn’t hurt either that my daughter was like, “Mom, please go find a life.” So I started writing about a year ago and this was incredible because every other record that I’ve ever made it was a hurry, hurry, hurry up and get this record done. This one I had all the time in the world so, it was the first time I actually got to write every song on the album.

Is there one that is particularly personal or meaningful for you?
Wilson: There are a couple of songs on there that are just tongue-in-cheek, just silly songs that I think are just fun for anybody. They don’t have a whole lot of meaning. I mean the final song on the album is called “Big Wood Deck,” and yes, you did hear that the way you were supposed to hear it. But if you sing it with a country accent, it sounds nasty. It’s really just about sitting out on the front of the trailer on the big wooden deck and having a beer. How do you even describe a song like that?
But there is a lot of depth on the record, I mean, there’s one song I wrote with Danny Myrick, it’s called “Whiskey and My Bible.” You’ve heard people say they’ve gotta hit rock bottom before they’re ever gonna be able to fix what’s going on with them. That’s a song that was written from the perspective of rock bottom and how you have to go through pain and suffering sometimes to find your redemption and your healing and what it is that’s going to make you a survivor. There is stuff like that. One of the other powerful songs on the album is called “Mary Kay and Maybelline.” It is a song about how women will go to great lengths to cover up and hide and mask and paint over their hurt and their pain and the things going on in their lives.
I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of singer/songwriters say this, but, I think it’s the best record I’ve made ever. I think it’s the best sounding record I’ve made, too, in a very long time. I got to work with a good friend of mine, Blake Chancey—we’ve produced other albums in the past together—but the last three before this I did by myself. So I reconnected with him to work on this project and its always nice to have another ear in the room, and another set of ideas and thoughts. I think we worked really well together.

Is the new album a little too rowdy?
Wilson: We released “Rowdy” a while ago (the album will be released June 16). “Rowdy” is pretty rowdy, so a lot of country stations were like, “Wow! That’s a straight up rock song.” In turn, I’d like to say to them, “well, what’s the matter with that, because most of what you play is pop, not country?”

With those powerful vocals of yours, you easily jump the fence between traditional country and rock, and you blend the two quite well.
Wilson: Well, I was raised in a part of the country that was really traditional country music and southern rock—and rock and roll kind of goes hand-in-hand with it. My sound is sort of how I was raised. It’s what I was brought up on. To me, it seems like the perfect kind of country music because that’s where I’m from. I get the feeling there’s a lot of people that feel like that. When you go out there and you tour with people like Kid Rock and ZZ Top and some of those shows I’m booking this year are with Skynyrd, and Hank, Jr. There are fans that cross that country-rock line and I think they grew up just like me. So it works for a lot of people—maybe not young kids, but my goal is to bring them back around to my kind of country.

Where do those powerful vocals come from?
Wilson: Years of singing. I started singing when I was 14 years old and back in the day it was always covers. I didn’t start writing songs until I moved to Nashville. The audience used to judge how good you were based on how much you sounded like the artist you were covering. I can remember these people used to walk up and say “Oh, my gosh, you’re so good ’cause you sound just like Ann Wilson,” or “You’re so good ’cause when you sing that song, you sound just like Melissa Etheridge.” So it’s almost like being one of those people—what do you call ’em—an impressionist. You know what I mean? When you’re in a cover band like that for years you sort of just learn how to make all these different voices. It’s still like whenever I sit down to write a good ‘ol country song, the twang just comes out and I cannot help it. That’s how I get away with doing a song like “Big Wood Deck.” I had to put it last on the album, because it’s just that silly.

Any upcoming duets in your future?
Wilson: Well, there is a duet on this album with Kid Rock. I had been wanting to do a duet with him for a long while. Whenever I’m at his show, or he’s around mine, we always do “Picture” which he did with Sheryl Crow, and that’s fine, but I kinda got sick of that and I said, “Man, I’d like to do my song with you. I don’t want to do Sheryl’s song with you.” So one of the songs I wrote for this album, was about Kid Rock. I ran into him one night and I could tell he was feeling down, and I was like, “ah, what’s going on?” We talked for a little bit, and then for about three weeks after that I just had this song in my head. It was like coming from a empathetic place being his friend, I wondered if he’s feeling like this. I ended up writing it with Desmond Child, who’s a big-time songwriter and he wrote a lot of songs for Aerosmith and Bon Jovi. The other guy I wrote it with is Marti Fredericksen, and he is very well-known producer and songwriter and singer as well. As a matter of fact, he is the band leader of the band I’m going out with this year. I told Kid Rock the whole story, I asked him if he would sing it with me and he said yes. It’s so cool. It is a very different sounding track. It’s kind of like if Otis Redding met Kid Rock and Gretchen Wilson. It’s very old-school blues, it’s got a big horn section on it—it’s kind of a blues rockin’ number but really Bobby (Kid Rock’s name is Bob), sang his butt off on this track. I was expecting him to sing it in an octave lower than he did but he wailed it. He brought it. So it’s a really cool track and it’s called “Bad Feeling.”

Talk about the show this time.
Wilson: It’s a little bit of everything. I don’t want to disappoint fans, so obviously I put in as many of the old songs that they know all the words to as I can. They’ll hear “Here For the Party,” “Redneck Woman,” “Work Hard, Play Harder,” “When I Think About Cheatin’,” “Homewrecker,” and all the ones they can sing along with, but I’m also excited about the new album, so I’ve got a few of those sprinkled in, and I always do a few rock covers, and what’s cool about this year is I ended up getting to work with a band that’s already a band. They’re called the Loving Mary Band. They are a group of girls and guys and this is will be the first time ever—my drummer, my bass player and my keyboard player are all girls. It’s so cool to have other females on the stage and they’re supporting you and working with you and they rock. I mean, they’re so good. We’ve had a couple of rehearsals already, we’re rehearsing more this weekend and it’s sounding great—and they sing. I’ve never had this good of singers in my band so the vocals are incredible, the band is so tight because they’ve always worked together and so we’re going to get to go out and do that. The show is gonna be what it’s always been, it’s a little bit of the old, a little bit of the new, a little bit of rockin’ out, and a lot of fun.



The Edgewater E Center

Saturday, June 17, 8 p.m.; doors open 6:30 p.m. (See Showtimes for tickets)