Lainey Wilson: Raised on Faith, Family and the Outdoors
Lainey Wilson added a lot of accolades to her resume in 2022 with a pair of CMA awards, top-charting hits, a new album and an acting gig on the popular series, Yellowstone.
But long before her music and acting careers turned red hot, Wilson banked on her love of the outdoors to make some extra cash.
Back home in the small town of Baskin, Louisiana, when Wilson, 30, and her older sister, Janna, were starting college, they needed to pay for rent and books. To cover the costs, Wilson and her sister became “dove guides,” arranging hunts on the family farm as hunters travelled from all over to the dove hunting mecca of Baskin.
“Momma and daddy came up with the idea because it seemed like a lot of folks were starting to come up to go dove hunting in the area,” Wilson says. “We would have hunters come from everywhere, and we’d map out the fields, put them in different locations and charge by the weekend or day.
“There were tons of doves, and everyone wanted to be in Baskin.”
The family still hosts dove hunters every season, but Wilson hasn’t been able to help out with the enterprise. She’s been too busy establishing herself as one of country music’s top female artists.
After leaving Baskin for Nashville in 2011, Wilson rose to the top this year with a pair of CMA awards for Best New Artist and Female Vocalist of the Year, a chart-topping album, “Bell Bottom Country” and a role in the new season of Yellowstone.
While those guided dove hunts back in Baskin may seem like a distant memory, Wilson’s heart still yearns for those simple lessons and family bonding she grew up with on the farm. Success hasn’t changed who she is.
“It’s important for me to remember how I grew up and how I was raised,” Wilson says. “I will always be a farmer’s daughter.”
Her father raises corn, wheat, soybeans and oats on the farm, where family, faith and the outdoors are paramount to everything else.
Growing up, Wilson fondly recalls jumping into the tractor cab with her dad, listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd as he worked the fields. She cooked in the kitchen with her mother to the sounds of Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire, had picnics by the creek, rode horses through the fields and, sometimes, just had a good time playing in the dirt.
And then there was deer hunting – serious business on the Wilson farm.
Ten years ago her father bagged a 16-point whitetail buck near the creek where Wilson played as a kid. Her biggest deer was a 7-point that was a trophy regardless of the size of the antlers.
“It was a big-bodied deer, and at the end of the day deer hunting was our way to keep meat in the freezer,” Wilson says. “My daddy’s a farmer and my momma’s a teacher, and sometimes you need a little extra meat.”
But deer hunting wasn’t always easy. Some years they were plentiful, she says, and other times they just couldn’t be found.
“Kind of like farming. You have good years and bad years, and every now and then you get real lucky,” Wilson says.
Still, despite the years when the hunting was slow and the farming tough, growing up a true country girl actually shaped Wilson’s path to stardom. There were times when a tornado would blow away crops or machinery would break down during harvest, and it taught her that nothing comes easy, and often times you have to take matters into your own hands.
Aside from raw talent, the do-it-yourself mentality that Wilson learned on the farm compelled her to hitch up a camper trailer and move to Nashville in 2011, hoping someone would give her a chance.
She wouldn’t quit, even when living in a camper trailer parked in the lot of a Nashville recording studio, year after year, started to take a toll.
“There were times, looking back, when I should’ve packed it up and headed home, but giving up never crossed my mind,” Wilson says.
And even though she has finally found success – and plenty of it – the lessons from the farm and the memories of the outdoors still play a predominant role in Wilson’s career.
Those early influences are evident in the lyrics in many of her songs. In “Things a Man Oughta Know,” Wilson sings about knowing how to shoot a shotgun, and in “Dirty Looks” she reminisces about long, hot days of hauling hay. If Wilson lived it or learned it on the farm, it’s going to be in a song.
But beyond those memories and lessons, there’s a common denominator from her life that has a way of flowing into the lyrics naturally: faith and family.
Success has managed to change a lot of things in Wilson’s life, however. The roots she knew back home in Baskin have been replaced by a frantic schedule of touring mixed with time on the Yellowstone set. She guesses she slept in her own bed about nine times this year, and for the last two years performed three nights a week during nonstop touring.
Wilson proudly states she’s been working hard so she can work harder, but now she wants to make time to get back to the things she cherished before the fame and success.
Go for a ride on her horse.
Jump in the tractor with her father.
Carry her rifle on another deer hunt back home.
“The things I write about, I’m ready to do them again. I love every part of my job, but I want to get reacquainted with those things I miss terribly,” Wilson says. “Those are the things that bring me happiness.”
But it doesn’t mean that Wilson is going to back off her booming career, either. The music, acting and awards will continue because this country girl from the family farm learned long ago to keep the tractor at full throttle.
“Being raised on a farm and learning that discipline has really come in handy when it comes to chasing this dream,” Wilson says. “When I do take a step back and look at everything we’ve done, and everything that’s coming, I get very excited. I will make dang sure I enjoy this ride.”