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Interview: Lainey Wilson discusses “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin'” and her special relationship with UK fans

We caught up with the breakout star to talk about her new album.

Lainey Wilson
Credit: Alex Berger

Lainey Wilson seemingly came out of nowhere to be the talk of Country Music Week in 2018.

The Louisiana singer-songwriter has worked hard to build a solid fanbase here in the UK and she’s definitely one of the most popular Country artists on the live circuit when she plays here. Following the release of a few EPs and singles, Lainey today releases her album “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’”.

I spoke to Lainey on Zoom this week to talk about finally getting the album out there, to discuss some of the highlights on the record, and to find out about the special relationship she’s built with her UK fans…

The last time we saw each other was backstage at Union Chapel when you were supporting Josh Turner. That seems like so long ago now…

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Oh, it seems like years. Really and truly, how long has it been?

It was towards the end of 2019 wasn’t it?

Wow! That’s nuts. I’ll tell ya, I’ve learned so much about myself during this time, things that I didn’t probably want to learn (laughs) but I think when it comes back, it’s gonna be better than ever.

We are so ready for it. Here in the UK we can leave for exercise and essential shopping but that’s it…

For us, there are a few places that are open but you have to wear your mask and socially distance. In Nashville right now we’re iced over and snowed in. We haven’t been able to go anywhere for a few days, which is crazy for Nashville. Nobody was prepared for this.

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The curveballs just keep coming for Nashville. The city has been through such a difficult 12 months…

They have but the cool thing about Nashville is the people come together at the end of the day. We’re gonna get through this, but dang it I wish it was today (laughs).

You’re releasing your album “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’” during the pandemic. That must be an interesting experience?

Very interesting. It’s been a wild year but I truly do feel like the timing is right. The timing feels good. People need music. People need to feel something and feel like they’re not alone. I’m hoping that people can listen to this record and do that.

Lainey Wilson
Credit: BMG / Broken Bow Records

It’s a really great record and a strong collection of songs. You must be so excited to get these out there as one body of work…

I am! We’ve been working on this thing for years and I’ve been writing for this record for years. This is my first record underneath a major label where there’s so many hands on deck and so many people just diving in to make sure that this thing does what it’s supposed to. It’s been a cool process. I’m so excited and honoured and humbled. To be able to create a record that truly is who I am, and what I want to say and how I want to say it, and how I want to do things. For me, it feels like a good foundation to really start on and be an introduction of who I am.

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I love the title. It’s pretty much my life motto…

I love it!

Why did you decide to go with that title?

Probably a little bit like you (laughs) I’ve been saying what I’m thinking my entire life.  was born that way. I just honestly say whatever I want. Of course, I think before I speak, I’m not down to hurt people’s feelings, but when I was little my parents were like, ‘we need to put a muzzle on this girl.Oh my lord!’ I figured since I’ve been sayin’ what I’m thinkin’ my whole life, let’s just name the record that. We actually decided that “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’” being the title track would determine which songs made it onto the record. With like ‘Dirty Looks’ or ‘Things a Man Oughta Know’ or ‘Neon Diamonds’, we asked ourselves the question, ‘is this sayin’ what I’m thinkin’?’ and if the song was not sayin’ what I’m thinkin’ it didn’t make the record. It ended up being a good foundation for us to build off of.

‘Dirty Looks’ is the song I keep gravitating back to. Sonically and lyrically it’s a little different from the other songs on the record. What’s the story behind that one?

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I’m from a town of 300 people in North East Louisiana. It’s nothing but blue collar folks there. It’s nothing but hard workin’, get up with the sun, go to bed late at night, just roll your sleeves up hands on kind of work. I’ve watched from afar (and seen) the pride that these men take in working hard for their families and providing for them. I’ve also watched how women love a hard working man. I just figured it’d be cool to really create these characters and write a story about that, and draw a picture of this blue collar couple. The guy’s been busting his butt at work all day and there’s nothing sexier in my opinion than going to grab a beer after that. It’s definitely one of those sexy songs.

The sentiment of ‘Keeping Bars in Business’ feels more relevant now than perhaps when you wrote it, because hospitality is struggling during the pandemic. What was your inspiration for that song?

I was on the road, I had just gotten off of tour and my dog, a little Boston Terrier Bulldog called Pudding, was staying with my parents in Louisiana. While I was on the road, I just wasn’t home enough to really take care of her. She ended up getting sick and they had to put her down. This was my dog, this was the dog that moved to Nashville with me in my camper. The one that would lick the tears off my face. You know how it is, if you have a pet you understand just how special they truly are to you. I got to the co-write write that day and they asked me how I was doing, and they’re like, ‘I see you’ve been on the road, you’re killing it’ and I was like, ‘actually I’m kind of on the struggle bus, I just had to put down my dog and it was like the sister’. Everybody that was in the writing room that day, they were going through something, and we got to really talking about that and opening up and letting our walls down. Even though we were struggling with things that day, or just during that season of our life, there’s somebody right down the road, or on the other side of the world who is truly having the best day of their whole life. Maybe they got married, maybe they had a baby, maybe they’re graduating college… whatever it is. In my opinion, those are the things that keep the world spinning and keep life interesting. At the end of the day, whether you are celebrating or your heart’s breaking, we’re all keeping bars in business with the exception of 2020 (laughs).

You mentioned at the start of this conversation, that you’d learn some things about yourself this past year? What things did you learn and have you picked up any hobbies over that time?

I’m normally running 90 to nothing. I’ve still been pretty busy. I’ve kept myself busy, I’ve made sure of it, I didn’t want this time to go to waste. I really leaned into the writing and I’ve been writing every day. There will be a time in my life where I’m so busy and I’m trying to just get to the next city that I’m not going to have a lot of time to really focus on my creativity. I want to be locked and loaded, ready to go whenever I do get ready make another project.

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I’ve done a few things around my house, like painting my kitchen table, and trying to do cool things around here in the space that I have to be all day long. I painted my bathroom these weird designs and every time I walk in there now I feel like I’m having a seizure so I probably need to cover it up (laughs). I’m telling you, I’ve learned so much about myself. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be still. I definitely don’t enjoy it but it is okay and you should let your mind rest a little bit. I’ve learned that it’s all about the ride. It’s all about holding on. I feel like I’ve kind of always known that but especially during this time. It’s just ups and downs and ups and downs. People who have never struggled with depression or anxiety are feeling it. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together, and that’s one thing that keeps me going too, because I’m like, ‘you’re not the only one struggling’. I will tell you, I think some good things are gonna come out of this, at least for me in my personal life and in the growing that I’ve tried to do.

You’re gonna have another album ready before you can get on the road to tour this one..

I’m telling you, I’m ready. I’m ready to do the next five!

Lainey Wilson - Sayin' What I'm Thinkin'
Credit: Alex Berger

I can’t wait for you to get back to the UK when you’re able to. The relationship you’ve built with your fans here is so special and I know that UK fans are always bringing your name up when they’re talking about artists they’ve seen live and love, or artists they can’t wait to see again. What’s your experience with UK fans been like?

Oh, you’re about to make me emotional just because my fan base pretty much started over there. I did have some hardcore fans here in the States but I had never experienced the kind of love that y’all showed me over there. Literally from the first time I played, in October ’18 for Country Music Week, and I had never been over there. People didn’t know me from Adam but they looked me up and they learned my stuff. I felt appreciated and I felt like people really did care about the work that we put into every single line and syllable of our music, and that’s special. That doesn’t happen everywhere. I mean, of course, there’s some people over here that are like that, too but at the end of the day, I feel like everybody that I’ve met over their, brands and fans and all of it, I feel like a lot of y’all are my family now. It’s not taken for granted. Every single time, everybody is so excited that we’re there and it’s just a mutual feeling of being on the same page. I love it.

You played at Bush Hall during Country Music Week didn’t you? I remember theminute you started singing, the whole place fell silent and that doesn’t happen often. That must have felt pretty special?

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Yes, it was overwhelming. Even looking back on it, it’s still overwhelming for me. To be honest with you, I didn’t even know people liked Country music in London. It just goes to show you that we’re all a little more alike than we think we are. We can relate on a whole lot. Just being from a town of 300 people and going somewhere so huge like that and people caring about what I have to say is kind of wild.

I think what people connect with you, and what I definitely connect with, is you’re just so authentic. You know that when you’re watching you and you’re hearing what you’re singing and listen to your music, you know that that’s coming from a place of truth. Some artists are polished to within an inch of your life but you’re always genuine, and that’s why you’ve resonated here…

Thank you. As long as I can continue being myself and doing whatever I want and sayin’ what I’m thinkin’, wink wink, I’ll be good.

What are you hoping to be able to achieve by the end of the year?

I’m just ready to be back on the road. I miss my band. I miss the feeling that you get from live shows. When I tell you it does something to my soul, I can’t even explain it. The past year it feels that a part of my heart’s been missing. I’m ready to get that part of my heart back. I’m hoping to just see people and have that human interaction. I won’t take it for granted. I’ll say that much.

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Lainey Wilson’s album “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’” is available to stream and download now. Watch the video for ‘Neon Diamonds’ below:

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