The scene was at the Carolina Country Music Festival this past June just off of the Atlantic Ocean in Myrtle Beach. Gretchen Wilson, the Pocahontas, Illinois native who turned the country music scene on its ear in 2004 with the iconic “Redneck Woman,” was returning to the stage after a few years away.
“That was my first show back,” she recalled to Sounds Like Nashville. “It was a ball of nerves. There was a lot of planning, and a lot of rehearsals, and trying to figure out what songs would work. It felt really good to get that first show under our belt.” Wilson, the 2005 CMA Female Vocalist of the Year, had good reason for stepping away from the spotlight for awhile.
“I took a couple of years off to be a mom, and to hang out with my teenage daughter,” she clarified. “Any parent knows that when they get to a certain age, you’ve got to be here for them full-time, one hundred percent. Otherwise, you never know what might end up happening.”
In 2004, things went from zero to two hundred miles an hour for Wilson when she released Here For The Party, and “Redneck Woman” launched her career into the stratosphere. She said that period was a definite blur on her memory.
“It was unbelievable. I don’t know if I even remember everything that was going on at the time,” Wilson confessed. “I remember that Kenny Chesney told me in the beginning to make sure that I had someone on the payroll who was just taking pictures and video. He said ‘Things are going to go so fast that you are going to forget half of it. There was so much happening that I did need to have photographs and video of that time. It was crazy and it took me a while to get accustomed to that crazy life, but it did settle down after a while.”
Now, with her daughter Grace in her senior year in high school and prepping for college, Wilson is testing the waves for a full-scale return to the music business. The singer just released Ready To Get Rowdy, her first album in four years. She says that she enjoyed getting to take the time to make the new record, something she wasn’t used to before.
“I had more time than any record since the first one to actually write for this album. That was a great experience,” she explained. “I felt that there was a lot that I wanted to get out there, and I had a really great time working on it. I got to write with some of the most incredible songwriters in the world for the record, and for the first time in my career, I got to write every song on the album. So, it was very special to me.”
One of the more fun cuts on Ready To Get Rowdy is “A Little Loretta,” which Wilson says stemmed from real life and the take no prisoners attitude displayed in the music of the song’s namesake, Loretta Lynn. “I actually said that one day. I was having one of those mornings that a lot of moms have. I got up at 5:45 and started making breakfast, and packing a lunch. I had four dogs that I had to take out, and I’m pretty sure I just had enough after I stepped in the dog poop. I remember thinking ‘You know what? I’m feeling a little Loretta today! So everybody better get out of my way. I just remember thinking ‘Man, I need to keep that one in my back pocket.” As it turned out, Lynn has heard the song, and gave her a definite stamp of approval. “My publicist actually reached out to her daughter Patsy, and asked her to play the song for Loretta. I got a voicemail not too long ago from Loretta that said ‘You know what, honey? I feel a little Loretta every day, so go on with it. I don’t care!'”
She says the song is definitely a throw-back to another time, which she is glad to represent. “I know that country music has evolved into such a wider place, and I love that. I love the fact that there is a little something for everybody in the format, but I hope we never lose that traditional female country sound that we have had, and that I have loved, for so many years. I feel there are a lot of women who still live and talk that way, and act that way. Heck, I’m one of them. So, I don’t think it’s quite time to leave them out yet. I’m going to continue to write songs like that, because that’s just who I am.”
Somehow, one would surmise that Loretta Lynn herself would definitely nod in agreement with the lyrics of “Stacy,” a woman who both women likely have known. “Women support each other. It’s funny. We’ll go, ‘Look at her, and how she’s dressed.’ But, if somebody treats her bad, a woman will be the first to defend another woman. So, we got to talking about girls, and I guess that everyone has a girlfriend in their life that is a Stacy, and is just a little bit nuts. It doesn’t matter how much that you try to help her, she’s just constantly got a problem going on. Every time that the phone rings, you know that she’s going to be whining and having problems and some sort of dilemma. We were talking about how everybody knows a Stacy, and that we needed to write a song about her. Going back to Wayne’s World, Stacy has always been the name of the crazy girl. I think it’s just one of those names. Plus, it rhymes well,” she says with a laugh.
One song that Wilson is extremely proud of is “Whiskey and My Bible,” which she said comes from a forthright place. “I think that might be my favorite lyric that I’ve written. It’s a very honest song. I wanted to dig deep and get down in there and be real honest. People go through their struggles, and I’m one of them. I’m not going to say that there aren’t things I struggle with in my life, but it’s those struggles that make us who we are, and being able to overcome those things. That’s one of those songs where this person has gotten down to the very bottom of the barrel, and they are looking at themselves while holding on to two things in this world that will heal them – at least in their mind. There’s some freedom in the song, but also some redemption as well.”
Even through the ups and downs, Wilson wouldn’t trade her journey for anything. It has turned out just the way she dreamed, although she admits to being concerned about the empty-nest syndrome that will take place next year when her daughter leaves for college. “Motherhood was my first dream. All my life, I knew there were two things that I wanted. Number one was to be a mom, and number two was to be like Loretta, Patsy, and Tammy. The way that life happened, I got everything – all at once. That’s why things were crazy for me in the beginning. But, I love being a mom. As a matter of fact, my daughter is in her senior year of high school, and we’re looking at colleges right now. I’m starting to go a little bit crazy. It’s going to be a time of adjustment for me because it’s just been us for so long.”