Gretchen Wilson expresses her versatility on two new albums with a third on the way. She performs at the Tropicana in Atlantic City Friday, July 5.
You might be a redneck if … you are comfortable in your own skin and you don’t try to be anything but yourself.
At least that is Gretchen Wilson’s take on the phrase that catapulted her to instant stardom in 2004 when she released a song she co-wrote with John Rich, “Redneck Woman.” The album that followed, Here For the Party, sold five million copies and made her an overnight sensation. Wilson was the first artist with a debut album to enter at No. 1 on the country charts and No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200.
Of course as is often the case, “instant stardom” means years of rejection and making ends meet before finding that one song that gets you noticed. It has been nine years since she exploded onto the music scene and in that time she has continued to release albums at a brisk pace including All Jacked Up and One of the Boys.
With the single “Work Hard, Play Harder” and the album that followed, I’ve Got Your Country Right Here in 2010, Wilson became a record mogul with her own label, Redneck Records. She has already released two albums in 2013, Right On Time, a diverse country release with a lot of southern rock and even jazz in the mix, and Under the Covers, featuring mostly rock anthem covers including “Hot Blooded” and “Bad Company.” And she is working on a third release, a holiday album, for later this year.
When she isn’t in the studio or hanging out with her daughter Grace, Wilson is on tour including a stop at the Tropicana Showroom this Friday, July 5. In an interview with Atlantic City Weekly, Wilson talked about her new albums, her definition of “redneck” and her take on country music these days.
You have always been an artist who doesn’t take too much time between recordings. This year you’ve released two albums Right On Time and Under the Covers. Why two albums at once?
I’ve always questioned why everybody else waits so long [between albums]. All the records we are putting out this year are very different from one another. They aren’t going to be in competition with each other. If the music is done, why not package it and get it out there? When you own your own record company and you are the producer, the business manager and you are doing the artwork, it is amazing how much quicker you can actually get things done. The biggest headache I had being with a major label was that everything took so long.
Talk about Right On Time. It seems to showcase your versatility.
I feel like I’ve always done that on all my records, even back to the beginning, showing different sides of me. There are probably more sides than ever shown on this record. With full creative control I was able to just let the songs speak for themselves. I think a lot of Nashville record producers try to make a record sound the same from the first song to the last. My way of producing is to just let each song have its own space. That allowed me to jump from country to rock to jazz to blues.
Was it frustration that made you decide to create your own record company?
It’s very frustrating when you have a contract. There are many wonderful things about having that experience, but at the same time there is a lot that goes on that you don’t have any control over. I can only speak for myself, but most of the [recording artists] I know want to be more involved with their own career. Not being included in the meetings and decision making for that long, it did eventually just start to rub me the wrong way. Once I started asking questions and really taking a look at the financial system, I decided I could do this better for me. I’ve been doing this for nine years. I became a mom at the same time my career took off. This has been about finding balance, doing my first job first, raising my daughter and having a career. I work when it makes sense for me and I’m home when I need to be home. I almost have to do it myself. It doesn’t make sense to those guys in the suits when I tell them I can’t take that date because it’s the sixth grade Christmas play.
Talk about how music gets to the people these days on-line, downloads and social media, and is radio airplay still important?
“When I get up there onstage, I turn into something I wish I was.”
Atlantic City had quite a fireworks show on July 4th. The next night there were fireworks of a different sort when Gretchen Wilson took the stage at the Tropicana.
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To paraphrase the wisdom of Tina Turner, if you like your country nice and rough, Gretchen Wilson is your redneck woman.
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