EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: In a genre dominated by men, Gretchen Wilson put women back on the map with her Grammy Award-winning single “Redneck Woman,” back in 2004. She’s taken on a couple more responsibilities since then like label head and producer. Right on Time is Wilson’s fifth album, her first in three years and we think it’s the best since her first album, Here for the Party. Nashville.com recently caught up with Wilson and here’s what she had to say.
Nash: How would you define this record?
Wilson: It’s hard on this album. When we were trying to get it uploaded to iTunes we were like “What is it?” There are three or four country songs on there, a couple of rock songs, there’s a forties sounding song, there’s a pop song, there’s a blues song. We cover all of that on this record. I don’t want to just be in the country category.
Nash: Unlike past albums, you only wrote one song on this album. How do you pick your songs?
Wilson: I’ve got to record the best songs. They have to move me and sometimes I write songs that don’t move me that much. You’ve got to be honest with yourself with stuff like that.
Nash: Still Rollin’ is a great song. It has a real seventies Jackson Brown kind of feel. Is that what you were going after?
Wilson: Being the one song I co-wrote on the album, it has a lot of my influence in it. Every band you heard in the seventies is an influence in that song. There was no demo on that song and there wasn’t even a scratch vocal to play for the band. When we got in the studio I just picked up my guitar and said, “it goes like this.”
Nash: Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Wilson: I do. It’s a Bekka Bramlett song called The Gypsy in Me. There are not too many songs anymore that are just that . . . naked. That’s the best word I have for it. It’s stark, alone and real. It reminds me of Les Miserable. The moment when Ann Hathaway shows up with absolutely no make up on and sings that song. You’re frozen for four minutes. Because she really looks like hell and it doesn’t matter . . . it’s beautiful.
Nash: Did The Gang of Outlaws Tour with ZZ Top and 3 Doors Down last year have any influence on this album since that was your first tour with non-country artists?
Wilson: I’ve done shows with Kid Rock, Skynyrd and 38 Special so I’ve played to that audience before but yes this was the first like this. It was a great opportunity for me to jump on a tour like that because unless I get out there and cross-reference this for people, some of them may never even know that I can rock. Sometimes little things like I’m classified as a country star get in the way. You can’t go into the rock section and find Gretchen Wilson but the same people that like Kid Rock and ZZ Top like Gretchen Wilson. For me it was an opportunity as a record label and an artist to reach more people.
And I feel like ZZ Top has influenced me from the first album. They’ve always been an influence on my life. They influenced me more personally on the tour. Just to know they’ve been doing it this long and they still love it. They still make it work. You always wonder in this business “when am I going to be to old?” It’s just in your face all of the time.
Nash: What was it like starting your own label and going from being just an artist to doing everything?
Wilson: It took a lot of time to figure it out. You don’t know where to start when you have to buy a barcode. There’s so much to it legally and paper work and setting everything up. I kind of just took it on like everything else in my life. I’m either out of the music business or I’m gonna figure this out and quick like. I’ve always done my best work when I was up against the wall, had very little time and I was stressed out. That’s usually when I make it happen. And I’m fine working under that kind of pressure. The more time I have, I’ll end up screwing it up. Or talking myself out of something I should have done. The real difficult part was the financial aspect of it. What a lot of stars do that I didn’t is partner up with another company and call it Redneck slash whoever. And the reason people do that is it’s a huge risk to take with your own money. But I did not want to have to sit in a room and ask someone else if a song was good enough to go on the record. I felt like I owed myself the opportunity to make the record I had been hearing all these years without having to ask someone who doesn’t have a musical bone in his or her body. Sorry, was that too harsh?
Nash: No I get it.
Wilson: And you know what? Redneck records will probably never sell 4 million copies of anything out of the box but the good news is, I don’t have to. I’m also not in a twenty-story building paying 400 employees that don’t know what the hell they’re doing. In my mind, all I have to do is make enough money to make more records, an then I’ll be happy.