Lainey Wilson has been sayin’ what she’s thinkin’ since her car seat days. The breakout country artist points to her earliest “outburst” on a family road trip. Strapped in the backseat, Wilson recalls begging her parents to stop at McDonald’s for a Happy Meal. When her persistent requests were denied, a young Wilson announced, “I’m tired of this shit,” as her parents—stunned by their child’s advanced vocabulary—continued down the highway.
In Wilson’s hometown of Baskin, Louisiana—population 300—folks are expected to mind their manners, be polite, and watch what you say. So, her rural community was not surprised when the starry-eyed 19-year-old hitched a camper trailer and hauled her dreams nearly 500 miles to Nashville.
First and foremost, Wilson considers herself a songwriter. She penned her first tune at nine years old. Much to her parents’—neither drinkers nor smokers—dismay, it was about tequila and cigarettes.
“They were like, ‘girl, where in the world did you pick this up?’” Wilson laughs. “But I was just soaking it up. I knew that’s what I heard in the country songs. I didn’t really know what it meant, but I knew it sounded cool.”
Though still “cool,” her songwriting has evolved over the years to reveal raw moments from personal experience that set her apart in Nashville. Insisting authenticity, she swears by “just telling it like it is.” Now, at 28 years old, Wilson has become the candid storyteller exhibited on her new album, Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’, released February 19.
With unreserved emotional perspective, Wilson bears the miles between Nashville and Baskin with humor and grace. She co-wrote all 12 tracks, which encapsulate her thoughts, feelings, and wisdom she has picked up along the way. Some writing dates back to 2017, the same year Wilson signed her publishing deal with Sony/ATV. “That’s when I started figuring out who I was more—what I wanted to say, and how I wanted to say it,” she says.
Writing is one of those things Wilson just “has to do.” As a result, there was no shortage of content when it came time to record an album. Steadfast in her self-awareness, the artist began sifting through her songbook, stopping only for the tracks that passed her truth test: “Is it sayin’ what I’m thinkin’?”
Honesty threads through the entire collection and beyond, into her earlier discography. “I think it’s because my parents really drove that into me,” says Wilson. “I take pride in it and surround myself with people who feel the same way.”
She shared several singles sporadically over the last year, teasing the concept of a Broken Bow Records debut. Songs like “Straight Up Sideways” and “Sunday Best” boast a playful irreverence. “Small Town, Girl” and “LA” are shameless pop-filled nods to her backroads roots. “Things A Man Oughta Know” is a more soulful indication of the “don’t need no man” sentiment conveyed in her anthemic album-opener, “Neon Diamonds.”
Of the three new tracks, Wilson describes “Pipe,” as her “redneck rulebook.” She co-wrote it with John Pierce and Luke Dick, who she lauds as “unapologetically himself.” “Keeping Bars In Business,” a pre-pandemic prospect, broadens the scope. Her first dog, Puddin, who moved to Nashville with the aspiring artist, had to be put down while she was away on tour.
“It just ripped me to shreds,” she admits. In a writing room shortly after, she shared her loss, and they began talking about what each of them was facing. An irony they clung to was that they were all struggling that day, while someone down the road was probably having the best day of their life.
“Those are the things that keep the world turning,” she says. “Whether your heart’s breaking or you’re celebrating something, we are all keeping bars in business—with the exception of 2020.”
The title-track, “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’,” ties up the collection, addressing the theme head-on. To be honest means to deliver truth to everyone, including yourself. The song, co-written with Jay Knowles, lacks the sass that has become characteristic of her styling. Instead, “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’,” puts into practice what the previous 11 songs are preaching. As referenced in her song “Rolling Stone,” Wilson dated her childhood sweetheart for seven years before concluding that the paths they had envisioned for themselves would never cross.
“I spent so much time being dishonest with myself, about ‘this ain’t really goin’ anywhere,’” she admits. “It didn’t happen at a certain moment or day, but my give a damn just busted. From there on out, I knew this is how it’s gonna be. It saves a whole lot of time, energy, and effort. Sometimes it’s hard to be honest with yourself, and with the other person. But, at the end of the day, that’s what sets you free.”
Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’ was produced by Jay Joyce, her “bucket list producer.” Wilson describes the two as “kindred spirits.” Their creative synergy resulted in a harmonious arrival—the advent of a shaker among the abundance of Nashville stars.
“This is a big moment for me,” she shares. “This is the first thing that I am proud of all the way around. And until the day I stop writing songs, which will probably be the day I die, I will always accidentally insert my values and morals into my songs. But the more I go through, good and bad, and the conversations I have with people, things are growing. Every song I write just keeps getting better and better and more connected, so even more people can relate.”
Listen to Lainey Wilson’s new album, Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin‘, here.
Photo Credit: Alex Berger