When Gretchen Wilson blazed her way to the top of the charts in May 2004 with her debut single, 'Redneck Woman,' she was hailed as an artist leading country music back to its roots at a time when the genre had been gravitating more toward pop.

At the time, Gretchen says she resented the pop direction country was taking. But since then, she's come to believe it's actually been good for country music ... because it's making room for everyone, artist and fan alike.

"Country music does an 's' all the time around what's straight and traditional," Gretchen tells American Songwriter. "There were times when I was bitter about how pop country had become. But I've realized it's a great thing. It's opened up the format to everyone. It's the only genre of music that is family music. You can't listen to a rap station with your kids, or even some of the pop stations."

"Having the diversity of Taylor [Swift], Carrie [Underwood], Miranda [Lambert] and Martina [McBride] is great," she continues. "I think it's awesome that we can go so far in different directions. It makes me believe that there's a place for this kind of country music."

While Gretchen certainly doesn't see herself as a pop artist, if she did decide to take her music in another direction, she admits things could get pretty heavy.

"If I ever crossed over, it would be to the dark rock and roll side," she reveals. "I'm good friends with the gals from Heart, Alice in Chains and Ozzy [Osbourne]'s band. If I were to go into the studio and do a different kind of album, it would be a rock album."

Having launched her own record label, Redneck Records last year, Gretchen is finally getting to make the music she's always wanted to -- and performing what she describes as "female southern rock."

"I have learned over the last six years that the most important thing is the show itself, not all of the drama, not whether you can paint yourself up like Lady Gaga," Gretchen tells The Boot. "You need to kick their butts with the music and the energy, and that's what we do with this group. You wouldn't call it an easy show with Gretchen Wilson; It's more like a Lynyrd Skynyrd show that leans toward southern rock energy. We play songs they are familiar with, new songs and really rock 'n' roll."

Gretchen also imagines another place she would love to take her music someday ... singing a duet with someone.

"I've always wanted to sing with George [Strait]," she reveals. "And Tony Bennett came to one of my shows ... how cool would it be to sing with Tony Bennett? I'd [also] like to try a full on Tammy [Wynette] and George [Jones] duet with John Rich."

Gretchen released her latest album, 'I Got Your Country Right Here,' on her own Redneck Records label in March of this year.