Lainey Wilson | One Foot On The Ground, One Heart In The Stars

Via Issue 193, The Gold Standard Issue

Written by

Ilana Kaplan

Photographed by

James Macari

Styled by

Caro Jin Park

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LOUIS VUITTON top and pants and CHARLIE 1 HORSE hat.

For Lainey Wilson, her country music dreams can be traced back to one specific place—The Grand Ole Opry. She was nine years old, had just penned her first song, “Lucky Me,” and her parents had driven the family 471 miles from Baskin, Louisiana to the world-famous Nashville music venue. Seated in the audience, she was awestruck by the talents of Bill Anderson, Crystal Gayle, and Little Jimmy Dickens, as they captivated the crowd with their performances. As she gazed at the iconic wood circle on the stage, Lainey experienced a jolt of excitement. She also felt “at home.” “I just kind of had this weird feeling in my stomach that I was gonna do that,” Lainey laughs over the phone, while driving around Nashville.

Her intuition was right. About 10 years later, Lainey moved to Nashville. Nine years after that, in 2020, she made her Opry debut. And just days prior to this interview, Lainey had a full-circle moment, as she was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. As she stood on that “sacred” stage that bewitched her as a child in a glimmering, gold pantsuit, Lainey tells me she unlocked her lifetime achievement—one that crystallized her status as a country megastar and her impact on the genre. “Out of all the incredible things that have happened in the past few years, being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, for me, is the highest honor,” she reasons.

FENDI coat, THE FRANKIE SHOP pants, LOUIS VUITTON shoes, CHARLIE 1 HORSE hat, and BVLGARI sunglasses.

And that’s saying something because, during the last few years, the 32-year-old musician has had no shortage of honors. She’s earned seven Country Music Association Awards, a Grammy, and nine Academy of Country Music Awards—including Entertainer of the Year. She’s led a handful of collaborations, teaming up with the bourbon brand Barmen 1873 for a pop-up bar in Nashville called “Hold My Bourbon” and entered a multi-year partnership with Coors Light. Not bad for a bell-bottom, cowboy hat-wearing gal from Baskin.

Growing up in a 200-person town, country music was a way of life for Lainey. “You eat, sleep, and breathe it,” she declares. “And you live out all those country songs. I felt like I knew the people on the radio.” She found herself surrounded by a passion for music. As her father played guitar by ear, Lainey, her mother, and sister would dance along to his jam sessions. But it was her grandmother who discovered that she had a knack for singing.

GABRIELA HEARST coat and shirt and CHARLIE 1 HORSE hat.

From five years old until she wrote her first song at nine, Lainey took any and every opportunity to sing—including belting a song to her parents’ friends and acquaintances they’d run into at the local Walmart. It was really two years after her songwriting debut that music became all-encompassing: the first time she picked up a guitar. “My songwriting world opened up when I had an instrument to use along the way,” she recalls. She got her first taste of touring from an early age. At 13, until she was a senior in high school, Lainey moonlit as a Hannah Montana impersonator. She’d perform at parties, festivals, St. Jude’s—she’d even open up for herself. “Really, I toured my whole life,” the country star says.

At 19, Lainey bought a Flagstaff bumper-pull camper trailer and hauled it to Nashville. “It’s just been one of those things for me where I’ve never really had a Plan B,” she states. While she cut her teeth songwriting and performing around the city, she released her self-titled album in 2014, which she followed up with the 2016 record Tougher and her self-titled EP two years later. Lainey landed her first major label record deal in 2018 when she signed to BBR Music Group and dropped her first major label release with Redneck Hollywood a year later.

GABRIELA HEARST coat, shirt, and pats, CHARLIE 1 HORSE hat, stylist's own belt, MATTHEW HERRING ring (right hand), and STEPHANIJSTYLE ring (left hand).

It was the project’s third single, “Things a Man Oughta Know,” that really moved the needle for Lainey. Over the course of two years, the single topped Billboard’s Country Airplay chart and took the No. 3 spot on the Hot Country Songs chart. It notably ended up on Lainey’s next album, 2021’s Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’. She earned her second Billboard No. 1 when she teamed up with Cole Swindell for the impassioned country duet “Never Say Never” that year. But it was the release of her countrified classic rock breakthrough Bell Bottom Country in 2022 and its nod to her 70s hippie flair that catapulted her to fame and made her a critical and commercial darling. (A team-up with Jelly Roll last year for a remixed version of the bluesy ballad “Save Me,” which earned the duo their first No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart was an added bonus.)

Lainey, who is still processing the blinding spotlight, can remember precisely when her career shifted into overdrive. After her history-making wins at the 2023 CMAs, she had alone time in the back of her tour bus, traveling from Florida to play a festival. It was there where she was finally able to take it all in. “It just hit me like a ton of bricks of like, ‘Man, do you realize what is really happening?’” she gasps. “And it’s a good feeling, a scary feeling, a lot of feelings that you wouldn’t expect come along with it.” That also meant wariness concerning imposter syndrome and a looming sense of anxiety that this might be as far as she could go. The measured part of Lainey, however, quieted those thoughts and let her “accept the gift” of her career growth. “I don’t let the awards and accolades define who I am as a person or as an artist,” she says, “but I’m grateful for them and just kind of have to shift my energy to something else.”

Luckily, Lainey says, “the 10 years of nothing happening for me” prepared her for the sweeping success she’s been experiencing. In short, staying humble hasn’t been particularly challenging. “I have a lot of people in my life, whether it’s my family back at home or my family that I’ve made, even here in Nashville, who have helped me keep one foot on the ground,” she says.

LOEWE coat, STELLA MCCARTNEY jumpsuit, ISABEL MARANT shoes, CHARLIE 1 HORSE hat, TIFFANY & CO. bracelets, and JACQUIE AICHE hand chain.

What’s also helped is finding guidance from one of her idols—Dolly Parton. When she was in the thick of her road to fame, she went on a “magical” trip to Dollywood to spend time with the music legend. “People say, ‘Don’t meet your heroes...’” she pauses, “but Dolly Parton don’t count. She truly is even better than you could have imagined.” Lainey’s conversation with Dolly made her pay closer attention to the nuances of her own life as it was speeding up. “I asked her, ‘I know you get asked to do a million things: How do you decide what to say yes to and what you pass on?’ And she said, ‘I know it seems like I’m doing a lot right now, but it’s truly because I am passionate about all of it. If it’s not a big ‘yes’ for me then it’s a ‘no’ or a ‘not right now,’” the country singer-songwriter says with gumption. “Because you can’t do it all.” The overall lesson Lainey learned from her? To stay true to herself.

It’s something she’s grappling with—particularly right now—on the precipice of her third studio album with BBR Music Group, aptly titled Whirlwind. While the meaning of the title is emblematic of the many palpable changes in her life, it’s something she believes is universally relatable. “It just looks different for a lot of folks,” she notes. “I mean, you think about a single mom raising three kids, you think about the dad who is trying to make a living for his family. You think about people who go through things, just living life and being human. I’m not the only one living in a whirlwind, but at the end of the day, when things are kind of stormin’ all around you, it’s about coming back to that center and finding peace.”

STELLA MCCARTNEY jacket and pants, CHARLIE 1 HORSE hat, TIFFANY & CO. necklace, bracelets, and ring (right hand), and YVONNE LEON ring (left hand).

Making Whirlwind has helped Lainey find that “peace.” The album is teeming with songs about being centered and “keeping one foot on the ground,” and of course, love—not the “gushy” kind but the type “that makes you want to be a better person.” Of course, there are heartbreak anthems, too. But overall, Lainey is deeply leaning on Western themes and sounds—the kind that were inherently a part of her roots. The album, she says, will make listeners feel like they’re in “the Wild Wild West.” “I love how all of a sudden, not just country music, but the Western way of life has kind of become pop culture,” she says. For a girl who grew up on the back of a horse in a pair of jeans, she feels right at home.

For Lainey, the record’s first two songs—the bouncy “Country’s Cool Again” and the freewheeling, retro-tinged “Hang Tight Honey”—pay homage to artists across genres embracing country influences in their music. “At the end of the day, for me, country music makes me feel at home, and I think everybody wants to feel that way,” she says. For Lainey, those two singles have that “down home feeling” that Whirlwind conveys.

The singer-songwriter, however, is looking well beyond her next project. She may have fulfilled one full-circle moment with her Opry induction, but she’s hoping for another. “I would love to do something with Miley Cyrus,” she laughs. “[Since] I used to impersonate Hannah Montana, it would only make sense we had the best of both worlds.” Considering the first song she learned to play on guitar was Billy Ray Cyrus’s 1992 hit “Achy Breaky Heart” and Brandi Cyrus remixed her song “Wildflowers and Wild Horses,” it seems like it might just be in the cards for her.

ZADIG & VOLTAIRE jacket and pants, CHARLIE 1 HORSE hat, DOLCE & GABBANA shoes, and TIFFANY & CO. bracelet and ring.

Lainey has also been considering her goals and dreams in a larger sense—particularly looking at the women in country music she’s admired most like Dolly and Reba McEntire. “I think about those ladies that continue to stay true to themselves, but weren’t scared to step outside the box and drop things that sound a little scary, at times,” she says. “You kind of get thrown into the fire and figure it out, and that’s what I’ve decided to do.”

Still, she believes she has “big shoes to fill,” but for her, being one of the best in country music comes with paying her respects to the women before her just as Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Wynonna, Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert have done. “The only reason I am where I am is because of the people who have paved the way,” she says proudly, “so it’s really important for me to tip my hat to those people and continue to blaze down those trails for the girls and women who are coming up behind me.”


While Lainey’s heart will always be in country music, she’s looking beyond it. She wants to take risks. That means voiceover work, more acting, and songwriting for other artists. It means starring in her own Hulu special, Lainey Wilson: Bell Bottom Country. It also includes the restaurant business—in May, she opened up a honky tonk in downtown Nashville, fittingly called “Bell Bottoms Up”—and soundtrack work (she’ll be featured on the soundtrack for Twisters.) For her, it’s all about staying open: “As things come my way, if it does not go against my character and who I am and what I stand for, then I’m gonna take the risk, I’m gonna take the opportunity.”


Photographed by James Macari at Art Department

Styled by Caro Jin Park at CLM Agency

Written by Ilana Kaplan

Hair: Marz Collins at Forward Artists

Makeup: Jess Berrios using Makeup By Mario

Nails: Jasmyne Parker

Location: Nick Brown

Flaunt Film: Ives Salbert

Digital Tech: Liz Lucsko

Photo Assistant: Derrick Hood

Lead Stylist Assistant: Stephani Fohrman-Jacobson

Stylist Assistant: Madeline Harrington

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Flaunt Magazine, Issue 193, The Gold Standard Issue, Lainey Wilson, Ilana Kaplan, James Macari, Caro Jin Park, Fendi, The Frankie Shop, Louis Vuitton, Charlie 1 Horse, Bvlgari, Gabriela Hearst, Matthew Herring, StephaniJStyle, Loewe, Stella McCartney, Isabel Marant, Tiffany & Co., Jacquie Aiche, Yvonne Leon, Zadig & Voltaire, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy, Michael Kors Collection