Unsuspecting bar-hoppers on Nashville’s Lower Broadway got the ultimate surprise during a band’s encore rendition of Lainey Wilson’s smash-hit anthem, “Heart Like A Truck,” on Tuesday afternoon (October 3). As local singer-songwriter Jennie Wynn covered the Bell Bottom Country single, Wilson herself appeared by the edge of the stage, swaying to the music and waving to the crowd.
Wilson said “it’s a party every single time I get to come down here,” as she briefly took the stage during the surprise pop-up after Wynn’s “Heart Like A Truck” performance. That’s where she surprised the audience on the second floor of the historic Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. She invited everyone to A Night on the Ranch with Lainey Wilson & Friends, an exclusive intimate show hosted by Lone River Ranch Water at a Nashville event venue where attendees could raise a can and enjoy live music later that evening. Wilson headlined the event, which also featured performances by Ian Munsick, Jake Worthington and Meg McRee.
“It's fun for me to be able to just come down the Broadway and see and surprise people. I'm rarely in Nashville nowadays,” Wilson said, amid a whirlwind year of performing on her inaugural headlining tour, joining Luke Combs to play massive stadiums and arenas on his world tour, playing her first-ever show at the iconic Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre in Colorado, and other unforgettable moments.
Wilson took a seat on a barstool as she caught up with iHeartCountry after her surprise moment at Tootsie’s. Though “home” will always be northeast Louisiana, where she was born and raised (and ignited her passion for country music for the first time), Nashville is her chosen home, “where I repack my bag. This is where I do my laundry. This is where I've been for the last 12 years. Being able to [surprise fans] here, it feels like (I’m) at home. It’s really cool to be able to invite people into your space, into your town, and be like, ‘Hey, come on. This is how we do things. Let's love on each other and let's have a good time together.’ …everybody just seems so excited to just feel like a part of something. I think everybody just wants to feel a part of something.”
'Timing Is Everything': From Childhood Dreams To Being Embraced In Country Music
The award-winning singer-songwriter — who released her sophomore album, Bell Bottom Country, nearly one year ago, on October 28, 2022 — admitted she doesn’t know that she’ll “ever get completely used to” the the shock she notices when she surprises and meets her fans. After spending about a dozen years in Music City building the career she always dreamed of, Wilson scored a hit single, “Things A Man Oughta Know,” that seemed to kickstart her ubiquitous presence in country music.
“It kind of seems like once the stars started aligning, it seemed like they aligned over and over and over again, and it feels like we got lightning in a bottle,” Wilson said. “That's the best way that I can describe it. I will say that if it would've happened when I wanted it to happen, right when I first moved to Nashville in 2011 in my camper, I don't know if I would've been ready. And I don't know if I would've lived enough life to tell the kind of stories that I'm supposed to be telling. So, I believe timing is everything.
“It's cool to be able to write your story and your truth and get vulnerable and have people appreciate that. …The truth is, I mean, preparing for something like that is really scary,” she said later, when asked what it’s like to observe how her fans receive her music after spending so much time writing and recording it. “You're like, 'well, I mean, all I can do is do what I do and hope that folks like it.' But it seems like I just keep on getting surprised, and people are finding little pieces in each song to connect to and relate to. And a lot of people have shared their stories with me on why they love each song and why it means something different to them. And that's what country music's about. It's about making people feel like they're not alone. And I've known from a very early age that I was supposed to be doing this, and it feels really nice to just be embraced.”
Wilson was 9 years old when she wrote her first song, and when she took her first trip to Nashville. She remembered going to the legendary Grand Ole Opry for the first time, where she saw Little Jimmy Dickens, Phil Vassar, Crystal Gayle and Bill Anderson. That’s where she remembers having “an overwhelming feeling” that she would become a country artist someday. Wilson credited “speaking things into existence,” and having a strong support system of people who believed in her dream and helped her to achieve it.
Nashville 'Has Broke My Heart Many A Times,' But Teamwork, 'Heart And Soul' Powers Through
Now, Wilson is focused on paying that forward to other artists. She’s opened up about the importance of supporting others through the inaugural Emerging Artists Program she curated earlier this year, calling attention to Broadway bands, and collaborating with some of country music’s biggest singer-songwriters. Most recently, Wilson teamed up with HARDY on the chilling duet, “wait in the truck,” with Jelly Roll on the soulful “Save Me,” and will debut a collaboration with beloved country legend Dolly Parton on the A Tribute To The Judds compilation album, set to release on October 27. Wilson and Parton joined forces on The Judds’ 1980s classic, “Mama He’s Crazy” on the album’s star-studded track list.
“It kind of makes you feel like you've got that stamp of approval when other people in the industry are like, ‘I'd like to do a song with you,’ and especially with a Dolly collab, and especially with it being a song of The Judds, I mean, it's crazy how those worlds have kind of collided,” Wilson told iHeartCountry. “I grew up listening to both Dolly and The Judds, and now we're doing a Judds song together. Dolly has taught me so much. The truth is, without even knowing her that well, she has taught me so much about life and just getting to work with her. It makes me feel like, ‘OK, if Dolly agreed to do a song for me, then she believes that I can do it.’ And that's kind how I feel with every collaboration. And that's what I'm ready to do for other people, too. I'm ready to be able to take them under my wing and be like, ‘I believe in you and love you and support you,’ because that goes a long way whether they realize it or not.
“I mean, this is Country Music City,” Wilson continued. “There are so many people here who have huge dreams, and the truth is only a handful of people will actually end up where they want to be. But this is a very — it's a magical place. It has broke my heart many a times, but I'll tell you what, I'm the type of person that I’m like, ‘knock the dust off, get back up and do it again.’ If it's your livelihood, if it's in your heart and soul, then you have to choice to do it. If music is in you, whether that means you're playing (for) thousands of people or whether that means you're playing a little hole in the wall bar, and it doesn't matter. If you have to do it, you got to do it.”
How Wilson Remains Grounded As She Focuses On What's Next
Wilson said she’s learned to “channel [heartbreak] into everything. …It’s therapeutic.” She performed some of her biggest sings during A Night on the Ranch with Lainey Wilson & Friends, including “Things A Man Oughta Know,” “Watermelon Moonshine,” “Smell Like Smoke” and “Heart Like A Truck.” She gushed that she’s ”such a fan” of Munsick, Worthington and McRee, and looked forward to listening to their performances that evening. Wilson also nodded to Lone River Ranch Water's founder, Katie Beal Brown, who launched the West Texas business in 2020 and who Wilson hails a ”powerful” female CEO who pursued her goals from the ground up. Looking ahead, the nine-time 2023 CMA Awards nominee is looking forward to the highly-anticipated awards show, continuing touring with HARDY, performing during the annual New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash and more, all while getting back in the studio to record new music.
After jokingly saying she was “faking it,” when asked how she keeps her energy up during such a busy schedule, Wilson said, “the truth is, actually, I was talking to Keith Urban earlier today. I ran into him somewhere downtown, and he was telling me... 'these are the days that you dreamed about it and you prayed for and you've wanted for so long, and you’ve worked for,' and he said something that I was like, ‘I'm going to keep that forever.’ He said, ‘no whining on the yacht.’
“That's the mentality you got to have,” Wilson said. “The truth is, just like every job. I mean, you get tired. We played a lot of shows this year. Last year I slept in my bed 15 nights. This year, I've probably been home about 30 nights total. But you just learn to deal with it, and you just try to keep both of your feet on the ground.”