You gotta respect the hustle from artists who do it the right way.
Nashville’s always been known as a “ten year town,” meaning that it takes artists 10 years from the time they get to Nashville before they have any real level of success.
But now we’re living in a time when singers can post a video on TikTok, have it go viral, and all of a sudden they have a record deal and are opening for whichever tour their label can get them on.
When you see those artists in concert though, the crowd (or whatever crowd they can manage to draw) usually knows one or two of their hits and that’s about it.
Then there are the artists who spend years and years grinding it out, writing songs and seeing what works, and building fans who know every word to every one of their songs.
Those are the artists that I really respect – artists like Lainey Wilson.
The queen of “bell-bottom country” has become on of the biggest artists in country music over the past couple years. In 2021 she had her first #1 single with “Things A Man Oughta Know.” She won the CMA New Artist of the Year award at the 2022 ceremonies, and “Heart Like a Truck,” the first single from her sophomore album Bell Bottom Country, is climbing the charts and sitting inside the top 10 thanks to some help from TikTok (and Lainey’s…well, her bell bottom).
If you just started following her career, it probably seems like Lainey’s had a meteoric rise since the release of her major-label debut album back in 2021.
But what you don’t see is the years of hard work that it took to get there.
Lainey actually started out at a young age…as a Hannah Montana impersonator. And when she would perform as the famous Miley Cyrus character, she would “open” for Hannah Montana as herself so she could play some of her own music.
Then she began playing with a local band in her home state of Louisiana. But when she decided that she wanted to make a career out of music, she bought a camper and moved to Nashville – and lived in the camper for three years.
“When I decided I needed to be here full time, I ended up buying a camper trailer and moving it to Nashville. I lived in it the first three years I was here and finished college in it…
It was a Flagstaff, it was like a 20-foot bumper pull. It did have a shower, but I flooded it at one point and then the floor started rotting out. I was always having problems with it.”
Luckily for Lainey, she had one connection in Nashville when she moved here – and he let her park her camper in his studio parking lot.
“I moved here in August of 2011…There was a guy from my hometown, his name was Jerry Cupit. He had some success in the ’90s with like Ken Mellons, Kevin Sharpe…
And crazy story, my daddy’s daddy has always loved music, just wanted to support it any way he could. So in the ’70s he gave Jerry Cupit a few hundred bucks to help him move to Nashville and get started.
And as a favor in return, Jerry let me live in his studio parking lot for free for those three years.
So he was really my only contact that I knew.”
But it wasn’t an easy road.
Lainey talked about the struggles of living in a camper in a new city while trying to chase her dreams:
“There has been some dark days for me. I was very lonely. I didn’t know hardly anybody in town.
Tornadoes would roll through, the tornado sirens would be going off. The winters were cold, I’d have to sleep in three or four jackets, three pairs of socks just to stay warm.”
See, it’s not all glitz and glamour.
And Lainey admits that if she had known what it was going to take to “make it,” she’s not sure if she would have done it:
“When I look back, honestly, if I had known it was going to be this hard, I don’t know if I would go and do it again.”
But it was also while she was living in the camper that Lainey met another aspiring artist – a guy named Luke Combs – and he started coming over to her trailer to write songs.
So yeah, it takes a while for artists who want to “make it” in the music business. But it’s nice to see it pay off for people like Lainey who made the sacrifices and put in the work and did things the right way.
And more than 10 years later, she’s sitting here as the reigning CMA New Artist of the Year with a #1 hit, a role in the top TV show in the world, Yellowstone, and two killer albums under her belt.
Like I said, Nashville’s a ten year town – but I would guess that if you asked Lainey, she’d say those 10 years were worth it.