Music

Lainey Wilson Talks Creating New Album ‘Whirlwind’ Amid Chaos: ‘We Had to Cut the S–t’

For the title for her follow-up to her Grammy-winning 2022 album Bell Bottom Country, all Lainey Wilson had to do was look at her the swirl surrounding her own life. 

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Whirlwind, out Aug. 23 (Broken Bow/BMG), reflects what the country star’s life has felt like for the past two years as she has become one of country music’s fastest rising stars.  

“My life has just been constantly changing at a very rapid pace,” says Wilson, who is on the cover of the Billboard’s 2024 Country Power Players issue. “The truth is there is just no slowing it down even if you tried. But throughout all of it, in a crazy way I feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”

Amid the frenzy of the past few years since her breakthrough single, “Things a Man Oughta Know,” became her first No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, Wilson noticed a pattern in her conversations. “Whether I’m running into somebody and they’re saying, ‘Man, your life has been a whirlwind’ — or whether the word’s coming out of my mouth, or I open a book and see the word ‘whirlwind,’ it just seems to be surrounding me,” she says. “Whirlwinds cause turbulence that cause chaos. But at the end of the day, you figure out how to come back to the center.” 

Wilson, the reigning CMA Awards entertainer of the year, describes Whirlwind as “the Western sister of Bell Bottom Country,” and lyrically more “introspective” than previous efforts: “I feel like it’s got a little bit more character [and] cinematic storytelling.” Wilson teamed again with producer Jay Joyce, who produced Bell Bottom Country and its predecessor, 2021’s Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’.

Lainey Wilson
Lainey Wilson, Whirlwind

Because Wilson’s schedule has become so busy, there was no time to leisurely craft songs for the new album. Instead, she had to work with much greater intent and focus.  “I like to be able to pick from 200 [songs] to have my 12. That didn’t happen this year,” she says. “So I had to really focus on quality over quantity, which we did. And we were figuring out what was working — it was bringing people out on the road to get it done — and I stayed pretty inspired.”

Wilson wrote with familiar collaborators, including The Heart Wranglers — the songwriting trio composed of her, Trannie Anderson and Dallas Wilson, who together penned “Heart Like a Truck,” among other hits— as well as new partners, like Jon Decious.

Though she says time constraints meant “there was not a whole lot of trying new things for me” on Whirlwind, it was still very important for Wilson to collaborate with people “who have experienced different things in life and to make sure that the music is well rounded and coming from a lot of different angles. But, yeah, we kind of had to cut the s–t, to be honest with you. We had to get to it.”

Wilson drew from her own life, but also from her fans when it came to digging deep for inspiration for the songs. “My experiences in the past few years have made me more confident in who I am and in my values. When I was writing for this record, I felt like I was writing something that needed to be written and it was something that meant something to me,” she says. “Because I have gotten to know so many of my fans and heard so many other stories in the past few years, I feel like I was writing it for them as well. I am the kind of songwriter to where I don’t have to have experienced it firsthand to write about it.”

Much to her own surprise, Wilson wasn’t intimidated by the commercial and critical acclaim for Bell Bottom Country — including winning album of the year at the ACM and CMA Awards and best country album at the Grammys — when creating its successor. 

“I thought that maybe it was going to because I was like, ‘Oh, shoot, we’re winning these awards and is it going to really freak me out when I get ready to make this next batch of music?’ I think it’s just because I’ve accepted it, but I don’t let it define me as an artist,” she says. While she stresses she is extremely grateful for the awards, and as a little girl dreamt about what she might say on the awards stage, “I wasn’t dreaming about looking at these trophies on my shelf. I was dreaming about writing songs and playing shows — and so that’s what I’ve got to keep doing. “

In a sign of Wilson’s increasing clout, her road band plays on Whirlwind instead of the cast of studio musicians who typically appear on country albums. “We’ve played close to 400 shows in the past two and a half years. I knew they could do it,” Wilson explains. “I felt like that’s where the magic was going to come from this time.” 

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