Though Gretchen Wilson’s songs often depict a life of drinking, partying and other rowdy behavior, life on the road for the country star seems to be pretty tame, from the way Wilson tells it.
That’s partly because she often travels with her young daughter. Wilson describes her tour bus as a kindergarten on wheels, a Disney-ized playland where SpongeBob and the Noggin channel are on a virtual loop.
And as the headliner, Wilson finds more responsibility on her shoulders than when she was the new kid on the block, opening for Kenny Chesney and others while promoting her multiplatinum debut CD, 2004’s “Here for the Party.” As she continues to promote her second CD, the platinum-selling “All Jacked Up,” it’s Wilson who has to pay the catering bills, arrange for the buses and semis that take her crew around, and make sure everything is running smoothly — both on the road and her farm back home in Michigan.
So life is a little more regimented than her freewheeling party days. But Wilson is quick to note that she’s still a “Redneck Woman” — and proud of it.
AP: How overwhelming was it to have such success so fast?
Wilson: I’ve just grown accustomed to the fact that I’m going to be overwhelmed until this is done. In the beginning you’re overwhelmed because you’re clueless, you don’t know what you’re doing, and you’re going as fast as you can ... you’re going on blind faith in the beginning, because you’ve never done it before. Eventually, you ease into it, you warm up to it. But it never ends, really, you just grow comfortable with it.
AP: You said that one of the many tasks you have to do is figuring out when to do laundry — does Gretchen Wilson really do her own laundry?
Wilson: Oh yeah. I’ve got a 4,500-square foot house that I take care of by myself. My aunt is around and she helps, and she kind of maintains my farm. because I’ve got so much going on, I’m building some log homes for some of my family members on my property, and I’ve got eight horses and four dogs and two cats — it’s a farm life out there.
AP: Have you become less of a redneck woman with all the success?
Wilson: I’m always going to be the girl that I’ve always been. You can’t take the country out of the girl. The only difference in me now is that I’m rich. I don’t have the burden that so many people have. It’s amazing the financial burden that people carry around with them, and how it really affects their lives. You don’t really understand it I don’t think until you don’t have it anymore. It’s an amazing lift. You can’t hardly understand how much freer you feel, and how much less burden you feel when you don’t have to think about that any more. It’s been the biggest difference in my life, I think. I still shop at Wal-Mart, I just don’t care how much money I spend there now.
AP: No $5,000 Gucci or Hermes bags?
Wilson: No. I think the most expensive article of clothing I ever bought is that belt that I wear all the time ... it’s just really expensive leather, or some kind of gems and rhinestones that come from some specific place or something, but it was like a $4,000 belt and it almost killed me ... ‘What do you mean $4,000 for a belt — that’s ridiculous.’ Because I think about how far $4,000 could have gone for me. I’m still very much the girl I was. Life changed around me, I didn’t necessarily change.
AP: When “All Jacked Up” came out, were you worried about replicating the success of “Redneck Woman”?
Wilson: I should have been, because I don’t know how many people told me that the sophomore record is the scary one, and that I should be nervous, but I was really wasn’t. I just went into the studio and made the best the record I could, wrote the best songs I could, and that’s kind of all I can do. I feel like the second record was better than the first. Obviously a lot of people will argue that because it hasn’t sold as many units, but to me, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about how I feel when I stand on stage and sing those songs. It’s about how I’m connecting with people. ... I don’t look at the money, I don’t look at the numbers.
AP: You encouraged a lot of female artists to step away from the glamour mode and be more real.
Wilson: The only thing I ever really tried to do is be myself, and I really feel like every record label that turned me down, it happened for a reason. I’m so glad now looking back that I didn’t end up with a record label that wanted to change me or push songs on me that I didn’t believe in. Every one of those doors that shut on me, I look back now and I’m so glad it happened that way. If I encouraged anything in anybody, it’s not to step away from being glamorous ... If you’re a glam girl, then be that. What I’m trying to instill in women is be themselves. Whatever you are, celebrate it. If you’re thin and white and blond and Paris Hilton-ish, and you’re happy with that, than be that, that’s not wrong. But if you’re 20 pounds overweight and you’re black and you wanna sing country music, then by God — beat the door down. Don’t let them tell you you can’t.