with Fame and Riches, Wilson Says She's Still a "Redneck
By Amy Green
is the first week of January, and Gretchen Wilson has taken down
her Christmas lights.
that doesn't mean Wilson no longer is the "Redneck
Woman" she proclaimed to be on her triple-Platinum debut
album that has set records for its meteoritic rise in the
charts. It means only, she said, that she is remodeling her
suburban Nashville, Tenn. home.
has built her career on being herself - with her
autobiographical song material and stripped-down image - and she
is not about to change now that she is a star. Not only does she
still shop at Wal-Mart and dine at McDonald's, but said she has
begun work on a new album that will be the same kind of
no-frills Country that made her first one such a standout.
could go back home to Big O's and jump behind the bar and just
stay there all night with everybody, and I'd feel right at
home," Wilson, 31, said of the rough hometown bar where she
sang and served drinks as a teen.
Wilson opened this year's Super Bowl, seen in 250 countries,
with her album's title song, "Here for the Party." She
headlined a tour with Big & Rich in November and December
and will tour with Kenny Chesney beginning in March. On Sunday
she was in Los Angeles for the Grammy Awards where she was
nominated for Best New Artist; Best Country Album of the
Year; Best Song, Country ("Redneck Woman"); and Best
Female Country Vocal Performance ("Redneck Woman"),
for which she took home the award.
late February, she will tour Australia, and she plans to
co-produce her new album with Mark Wright and John Rich of Big
& Rich, who produced her debut. The album's release date
hasn't been set. Wilson is also scheduled to appear during the
2005 CMA Music Festival in Downtown Nashville, Thursday through
Sunday, June 9-12. For more information and to purchase tickets
Wilson is eager for a change in pace. After a year that started
with performances in Wal-Mart parking lots and ended with the
CMA Horizon Award for best new artist and major Grammy success,
Wilson says she is looking forward to more time at home with
Grace, her 4-year-old daughter with her longtime boyfriend, a
Nashville nightclub owner.
home, which Wilson bought not long after her album was released
last May, is her first that is not rented.
is a relief to no longer live paycheck-to-paycheck," she
said. "I think the main thing that's changed, I feel like a
big burden of big worry has been lifted. I don't think people
realize how much stress that adds to your life.''
daughter of a teenage single mom, Wilson grew up in tiny
Pocahontas, Ill., moving from trailer to trailer every time
money ran out. She dropped out of school when she was 14 to tend
bar with her mom at Big O's. Eventually she began singing there
for tips. She moved to Nashville in 1996 but was rejected by the
record labels until Rich visited the downtown bar where she
served drinks and heard her sing with the house band. Rich
mentored her, co-produced her album and helped her write many of
the album's songs.
for the Party went double-Platinum in nine weeks, the
fastest for any debut Country artist. It went triple-Platinum in
November. It also was the first by a debut artist to enter the
Billboard Country albums chart at No. 1 and The Billboard Top
200 chart at No. 2. The album's breakout track, "Redneck
Woman," in which Wilson sings of keeping her Christmas
lights "on my front porch all year long," had the
longest stay at No. 1 for a debut female Country artist since
she exploded, when she rose to the top we had to do that,
too," said Lisa D'Addario, Wilson's personal
assistant and tour manager. "We just had to rise to the
occasion or we would be gone."
team pulled together to face the instant fame, all pitching in
on such mundane tasks as looking after pets when travel and
performance schedules got hectic.
the team had to scramble to prepare for Wilson's tour with Big
& Rich in eight weeks, we saved time and money utilizing the
in-house resources of Morris Leasing allowing us to pull the
tour together in a fast and efficient manner," said David
Haskell, Wilson's tour manager. The team worked to let Wilson
make the final decisions but had her confidence to make some
calls when a situation merited it. Wilson said she needed
guidance on her contracts and other business decisions.
you grow up singing in bar bands you can't imagine people having
conference calls from New York to L.A. to Nashville all about
you," she said. "It helps an artist to really trust
her management. Even a seasoned artist ... can make some big
said she has kept grounded by making time at home with her
daughter, running the vacuum and doing laundry. She no longer
can do her own shopping at Wal-Mart but still sends someone
there with a list of the groceries and household supplies she
needs. When she can, she shops in the middle of the night and
buys clothes there. When she can't be at home she travels with
her daughter, boyfriend and other family members. She is good at
locating the nearest McDonald's no matter where in the world she
is, said Marc Oswald, her manager.
hasn't changed at all," Oswald said. "I see her
becoming more sophisticated because she has to deal with so many
things now, but she was always really smart."
said she is not intimidated by the idea of maintaining her
success through the coming year, but she does not take it for
granted. She is working hard to write the same sort of
no-nonsense songs that made her stand out among Country's more
glamorous female artists, including Faith Hill, and she hopes to
make an even bigger impact now as the second performer on
Chesney's tour roster, which also includes Uncle Kracker and
is looking forward to being part of a new record label put
together by the Muzik Mafia, the group of Nashville musicians
she still gathers with when she can to write songs and perform.
She eventually hopes to mentor other musicians the way Rich
does she envision herself in the years to come?
pacing the floor, talking to someone on the phone about my
career and making records," she said. "You try to take
that dream as far as it will get you. I want to do it all. I've
only begun to scratch the surface of what I can accomplish in
2005 CMA Close Up News Service
the web: www.gretchenwilson.com