Wilson was born on June 26, 1973, and raised in rural Pocahontas, Ill.
36 miles due east of St. Louis, where numerous trailer parks are clustered
among cornfields and pig farms. Her mother was 16 years old when she
had Gretchen, and her father, unfortunately, had moved on with his life
by the time she was two.
L: You've had a hard life. Can you tell us how it's affected you?
"I don't really think about having had a hard life. It was
just my life, and it's all I knew. It made me who I am - all the
good and bad - and it's where all of the songs on Here For The
Party came from. I've lived them all. Even the songs I didn't
write sound like songs I would have or could have written. My
mom was very young, and I have a little brother, and we moved
around a lot when she worked odd jobs - she was a cocktail waitress
and bartender. When things got tough and money got tight a lot
of times we'd just pick up and move to where she could find another
job. It was rough but we loved each other, and we always had that
to go on. I spent a lot of time with my grandma and grandpa -
they always lived in the same place - and it was great to go hang
out with them. My grandma was the one who held us all together.
She was everyone's grandma. Some of my best memories of my childhood
are with her.
L: What memories do you have about your father and how did it affect
you growing up without having him around?
Since he left when I was so young, I never really missed him.
I'm sure it affected me in some way. He was a musician and traveled
with his family's Gospel group, so my music definitely comes from
his side of the family.
L: What's it feel like having a number one song and and sold more
than 1.000.000 albums, how has it changed your life?
The main thing that's changed is I'm incredibly busy right now
with concerts, interviews, radio visits and tv appearances. You
don't realize going into this exactly what it takes to make all
of this happen in addition performing - which is and always will
be my favorite part of this business. It's where I'm most comfortable.
L: Were there a lot of years of frustration and hard work behind your
sudden success or did it really happen overnight? Tell us what it
was like for you.
I've wanted to do this my whole life, and it's really been my
dream since I was 14 or 15. I sang in bands in the St. Louis area
for several years, and we were pretty successful. But I always
knew if I wanted to go further I would have to move to Nashville,
which I did in 1996. I realized real quick I couldn't make a living
singing right away, so I went back to tending bar. There's so
much great talent in Nashville it's hard to make a living playing
in clubs. I would sing with the band in the club where I tended
bar whenever they would let me, and then I'd rush back to the
bar to catch up on my drink orders. I started singing demos for
songwriters and publishers, which kept me busy and helped spread
my name around town. Then I began showcasing for major labels
in Nashville and ended up getting turned down by every one of
them, which was frustrating, but I was trying to be who I thought
they wanted me to be. When I finally decided to just be who I
am, that's when it worked.
L: Your success didn't build build slowly, but exploded suddenly.
Did you find yourself suddenly surrounded by old friends you never
realized you had or have your old friends always been there?
My old friends have definitely always been there. I've been surrounded
by my MuzicMafia family. It's an informal group of singer/songwriters
who get together whenever we all can and have a big jam session.
We call it "music without prejudice, because it doesn't matter
what kind of music you play whether it's country or rock or rap
as long as it's good. It never was supposed to be a big deal,
but a lot of great things have come out of it. We're like a big
L: How have you handled your sudden success and popularity
It's really trying. I don't know what to say other than it's...what
I'm doing is a dream come true but at the same time its work.
It's like anything else. The only time it doesn't really feel
like work to me is when I'm on stage and doing what I've prepared
myself for my whole life which is to stand out in front of a crowd
L: Your Redneck Woman video is pretty intense and physical, was it
hard work or lots of fun?
Both. We shot the video over two days in Nashville. One day
was shooting the performance part at a club, and the second
day was out in a field and inside a mobile home. The fun parts
were riding the four-wheeler through the water and mud, getting
to hang out with Tanya Tucker, Kid Rock and Hank Jr. and having
Big & Rich, James Otto and some other friends and family
in the video. The hard part was all the waiting involved between
takes and when they would set up another scene. We had a huge
wrap party at the end of the second day.
L: You have a special realtionship with Big and Rich. How did that
John Rich of Big & Rich would come in the club where I tended
bar. He and Big Kenny heard me sing one night. He came up to
me with his cowboy hat and duster and said, 'man, you're good.
How come you ain't got a record deal?' I thought he was just
a wannabe cowboy singer, so I just threw a cd and business card
at him and told him I was kinda busy but to call me if he was
serious. I ignored his calls for a few months until a friend
told me John used to be with Lonestar and now had a solo deal.
I finally called him, and he started introducing me to songwriting
friends and friends in the music business.
L: Billy Ray Cyrus' Achy, Breaky Heart was such a monster hit right
out of the chute that it seemed his career peaked and started to slide
right from the beginning. With Redneck Woman being such a big hit,
how are you going to top it.
I'm really proud of this entire album. It's not about any one
song. There's a lot of depth to this album from fun party songs
like "Redneck Woman" to stone country songs like "When
I think About Cheatin' which will be the third single. I made
the best album I could make, and the rest is really out of my
L. Thank you Gretchen for this interview.