Gretchen Wilson’s ‘Country’ Is Just What She Needed
Gretchen Wilson is finally getting ready to release her new album, 'I Got Your Country Right Here,' her first project from her own label, Redneck Records. As the CEO of the company, she oversees every aspect of the album, including recording, mastering, marketing, promotion, distribution and everything in-between. The Redneck Woman mortgaged her property to make this dream happen, and hopes are high she will recoup more than she borrowed.
'I Got Your Country Right Here' is Gretchen's fourth album, her first three -- 'Here for the Party,' 'All Jacked Up' and 'One of the Boys' -- having been released by Sony Music Nashville. When she parted ways with the label last year, she had been working on this new album for a couple of years, but there were times when the end result wasn't completely satisfying. Thankfully, Gretchen was able to leave with all of the songs she recorded, and even though she made a few adjustments, dropping a song or two and adding a couple along the way, she now declares the album "perfect."
Gretchen exploded onto the country music charts with her first single, 'Redneck Woman,' in 2004, which led to her debut album 'Here for the Party' reaching the nearly unattainable five-times platinum mark in sales. Even though she put her heart and soul into the subsequent releases, the chart action and sales didn't reach the same heights as her initial offering. With a couple of surprises, this new album brings the Pochahontas, Ill., native back to her roots, while still showcasing how she has grown as both an artist and as a woman.
The Boot sat down with Gretchen at the recording studio located on her property in Lebanon, Tenn. to learn more about the new album (out March 30). She also explains how the self-described "hardworking woman" has a nearly hidden "girlie side," what she thinks her fans will say about the album, her optimism about the future, and why women can be a little crazy at times.
You have put your blood, sweat, tears and energy into this new album. What are your feelings about finally releasing it?
I have a zillion feelings about it. As far as the record itself, I think it's perfect, and it's because I've had a lot of time to live with it and had a lot of time to work on it, having the studio here on my farm. I don't skip a track when I go through it. I don't have another record that I don't do that on. To me, it sounds like a classic vinyl record the way they used to put it together as a piece, as an album, not just as a track-by-track. Not that they all don't stand alone on their own, they do, but the first song on the album sets you up for the rest of the vibe and pretty much takes you to a southern rock kind of a place. Some of the songs bring you back to Charlie Daniels Band and some of them are really Lynyrd Skynyrd sounding, and some of them are real traditional country. To me, it's the most "me" album that I've made.
It encapsulates all types of country, leading off with 'I Got Your Country Right Here,' which sets the tone.
That song's got a lot of attitude. It mentions various country artists, as well as some rock 'n' roll acts. It's what I think country is. And that's why the 'right here' ... and I know it's a long title, but those two words 'right here' at the end of that make all the difference in the world with what the song really means.
When your fans buy the album, what do you want them to take away?
I think that most of my fans will listen to this record top down, and they'll get a feeling of, 'Dang! She's finally done what she's always wanted to do, what she's always needed to do.' And I think that this is gonna be their favorite record when all is said and done. This feels like that turning point in my career where I feel like I've made the album that separates everything I've done before and sets the bar for what I'm gonna do from this point forward.
You have been able to release this project in probably less than half the time a major company could accomplish.
My record company is really small. Redneck Records started just really a few short months ago, and we've been able to turn everything around this fast and get everything ready to go. I think that says a lot for what a small company can do as far as how fast you can work versus having to get so many people involved in the process.
You were taking a gamble when you created your own record label. What most people probably don't realize is you took out a mortgage on your farm to finance this project. There was a recent quote from you that said, 'If I win...'
I'll dig myself out of this hole.
And 'If I lose...'
I'm gonna lose it all.
You're an all-in type of girl, aren't you?
Yeah. I had the opportunity to possibly shop around town and see if there was another major label that would want to go in with me on this venture, but the reality is, that's not much different than the deal that I was already in before, and I don't want to share. Not only don't I want to share the money, but I don't want to share the creative process, and I don't want to share the decision making.
What's the most personal song on the album to you?
'Blue Collar Done Turn Red' is a very personal song to me just because it talks about a lot of things that are kind of burning my ass right now in this country. Back when I was a little girl, my grandpa used to talk about the way he saw America, and it was just such a different world than we live in now. Government has gotten out of control, and they decide what they're gonna do with our money all the time. [This song is] me spilling it and just going off and telling how I feel. It's almost hard for me to listen to, because I wonder what a lot of people will think. But I've never been one to keep my mouth shut about anything, so it's there and there's nothing I can do about it now ... The future for our kids is what scares me.
People hate to admit they have any kinds of faults, imperfections or even moral dilemmas, especially when it comes down to relationships. 'I'm Only Human' showcases those vulnerabilities ... in a very real and human way.
I think men would like to think that they are in that situation a lot more than women are, but it's interesting to hear it from a woman's point of view. I can be just sitting at the bar and minding my own business and I may not be looking for anything at all, but it could just stumble right up next to you. I've lived enough to know by this time in my life when somebody's lying to me, when somebody's trying to hide something from me. And it's a sad story, as well, because sometimes you think about that poor guy, that man who's trying to hide that ring in the song and you don't even get his side of the story to see what's going on in his world to make him want to do something like that. It's a glimpse into the female's mind and what she might do in a situation like that.
'The Earring Song' is just too much fun to listen to and visualize.
It's a traditional, say it the way Loretta Lynn would say it, kind of song. And it reminds me a lot of 'Homewrecker.' It's almost 'Homewrecker, Part Two.' I wrote 'Homewrecker' with Rivers Rutherford, and then he was one of the writers on 'The Earring Song.' So, you can definitely tell that he's been around and seen a few catfights in his day.
And catfights aren't pretty!
They're the worst. [But] the kind of fights I've been seeing on this bar tour I've been doing lately, they're not really catfights. You can call them that. They'll even call them that, but they're going after it! They're getting hauled out two-by-two. [laughs]
So, apparently, the bar tour you're on has been quite fun.
It's a blast. It's like a rowdy country bar full of rednecks and hillbillies, and they're just having a ball. They're late shows, and we're breaking beer sales at all these clubs that we're playing in and selling out. It's really neat when you can look out and see every single person that's there. I mean I can call somebody out if they start pushing and shoving, right when I'm singing. On 'All Jacked Up' when I'm singing, 'don't start no stuff in no bar,' I can actually point them out and spotlight them. [laughs] And if somebody shouts something out, I can hear it, I know where it came from, and I can really have fun with them.
Speaking of barroom brawls, 'Outlaws and Renegades' seems to channel a little bit of the late Waylon Jennings.
I love this song because of the groove. I even sing it like I'm Waylon Jennings. I don't know what came over me. That was a song that was written by Chris Stapleton, and he is an amazing songwriter and singer and he has his own thing going called The SteelDrivers ... they are so good. In fact, he's singing background on the chorus on the record with me. It's an attitude song. It's just raw from front to end and talks about what things used to be like compared to what they are today. It's talking about the gas prices and the politicians -- I know that there are some genuine politicians out there because I've met a few of them. But we live in such a media-driven world that they just don't even get a chance to be who they really are or want to be when they get up in front of the cameras or the microphones for fear of the media calling them out on something. One of these days we're gonna have a president and we're gonna have a lot of people up there that we can really truly trust, because they're just gonna say it like it is and not worry about the little nit-picky things and worry about the big issues.
And again, it calls out the fact that I wished we still had a lot more traditional country music mixed in with all the new stuff that we hear today. It'd be great if just every once in a while you could hear that old Merle Haggard song sprinkled in or that Johnny Cash song sprinkled in to everything that's up-and-coming now. It'd be a great mixture, and it would be a true testament that country music is alive and strong. And it would be nice to show the rest of the world that we still listen to really traditional country, and we still respect it and honor it.
'Love on the Line' seems to turn the tables on men just a little bit.
Straight up, two-lines in the song, cheating song. You'll miss it if you're not listening close to that first verse. This is a song that I just heard and fell in love with. It didn't bother me that it was written from a male's point-of-view to go ahead and just turn it around and sing it from a female's point-of-view. Girls have the same kind of things going on through their head that guys do, and we all make mistakes. It's a song about a battle going on in this one girl's head about whether or not she should discuss or forget the things she's done, or if she should move on and make a change. I was talking to somebody just the other day and I was saying, 'Everybody is really envious of those relationships where they met in high school and they got married right out of college, and they're the only one that they've ever been with and they lived happily ever after, still together holding hands. That is amazing and we are all envious of that. But what do you think those two people feel like?' I bet somewhere in the back of their mind, even though they have it all, they've always been a envious of everyone around them that have gotten out there and lived a little bit. Like everything else, it goes back to the little girl with red hair and freckles wants to be blond-haired and blue-eyed, and my blond-haired, blue-eyed girl wants to be redheaded with freckles. The grass is always a little greener on the other side, and that's just life.
'As Far As You Know' starts off sweet and gentle, but then the chorus runs over you like a freight train!
Lyrically, it's that song that shows the two sides to every woman. I know I have two! When a woman gets to a certain place with a man, it's just easier to smile and nod your head and just wait for that door to close ... and then you turn into a steam engine and smoke just starts pouring out of every part of you -- your eyeballs, your ears, your nose -- and you kind of go nuts for a minute. And that's what this song is, it's just how we can hold it back, but you never know what might be getting unleashed behind that door after you say goodnight. You don't know what you're walking into the next day, because we can talk ourselves into or out of anything all by ourselves. And it's amazing what we can do. My favorite line is 'I'm just so freaked out right now that I'm going to take a bath and take control because I'm good to go, as far as you know.' You can go crazy. A woman can have a complete conversation with herself and talk herself in and out of things that you wouldn't believe. And by the time you get up the next morning, you've decided it's done. It doesn't matter how crazy it is. Or at least that's the way I am.
The last track on the album, 'I'd Love to Be Your Last,' is probably going to be played at many weddings once fans are able to hear it.
That's such a beautifully written song. I can't listen to it without tearing up, the hair on my arms standing up. There aren't many songs in your lifetime that you connect with like that. I don't want to offend anybody, but I call it the modern day wedding song. Like with 'Love on the Line,' not too many people are only with one person their whole life and when you face somebody you've truly fallen in love with, chances are you'll be looking at them through worn eyes. And this song really encompasses everything about what it is to be reborn; what it is to start over with somebody and to not look back. Because I think a lot of couples have a hard time with what was in the past, instead of building upon the moment you met and into the future. This song is not really my style, but something I felt like I had to share with my fans, and I just wanted them to hear it so bad.
You say it's not your style, but...
But I slip in and out of those moods. They don't come too often, but I do have those moods. I have those moments where I light candles and take a bubble bath and listen to Billie Holliday. I know a lot of people don't see me that way. I have my girlie moments, but I don't have that much time for them, so they're very few and far between. Because I'm just a hardworking woman and I'm constantly moving.