It’s been two years since Gretchen Wilson released her last single, “Chariot,” taking a couple of years off to raise her now-16-year-old daughter, but the Illinois native is back with a new party anthem, “Rowdy.”
The single—written by Gretchen, Shane Minor and Trent Tomlinson—is about showing the kids today how to party like it used to be done. “Rowdy” is an uptempo rockin’ party song in the same vein as past hits like “Redneck Woman” and “Here for the Party,” which are both referenced in the new single.
Nash Country Daily sat down with Gretchen in a very open interview where she talks about the new single from her upcoming album, what she’s been doing with her time off from music, raising her 16-year-old daughter and what the future holds for country’s redneck woman. Here’s what she had to say.
NCD: Can you tell us about your new single, “Rowdy”?
Gretchen: “Typical, typical Gretchen fashion. I sat down with a couple of friends of mind, Shane Minor and Trent Tomlinson, to write kind of my comeback song. I’ve taken a couple of years to hang out with my daughter and this was all bottled up inside of me. I think it’s a statement song. It’s not really just a drinking, party song. It’s also a I’m ready to get back in there and show you how we used to do it on Saturday night. It kind of reminds me a little bit of Hank Jr. and that partying doesn’t have to be about just drinking, even though I do mention it in there. It’s about getting back out there and showing everybody how we used to do it.”
NCD: Is “Rowdy” going to be the first single off an upcoming album?
Gretchen: “It is the first single off of an upcoming album. I don’t really have an exact date for that release yet because I’m still writing. This is the most time that I’ve had free to write in a long time. Taking the time off the road really did open the doors for me to want to get more creative and to spend more time writing. Before, I was on the road for four nights every week. I’d come in on Sunday and I was leaving again on Tuesday night or Wednesday. The last thing I wanted to do with my little bit of time that I had in town with my daughter was go write a song with a bunch of musicians. Taking the time off has really made me want to write again. I’ve written a lot for this album, over the course of the last year. I kind of want to go in one more time to the studio and cut four, five, maybe six more songs. Just to make sure that, when I put this record together, in its entirety, that I have the right pieces.”
NCD: Do you know what sound you’re looking for? What we can expect from a new Gretchen album?
Gretchen: “Well, I’ve never really been one of those that feels like every song has to match. I’m producing this album with Blake Chancey and we’ve had a lot of discussions about this. I understand when a producer would like to have a flowing kind of a piece of work. I didn’t sit down and write these songs with the same two people. It just makes sense that each song is going to have its own identity. I try to treat each song with the respect to its individuality.
“Just like every other record that I’ve put out there, the flow is a little sporadic. There’s a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and a little bit of the other. You know, everybody who’s listened to me knows that I have these three things. I have that rocking country side, then I have that really bone country side, then I have that middle of the road, drive along in your car and just tap your finger kind of side. There’s a lot of all of that. It’s just a matter of picking the ones that I think are the best.”
NCD: And you’re planning for a tour in 2017, correct?
Gretchen: “Yeah, my daughter started talking about NYU, so I have to go back to work [laughs].”
NCD: What’s your favorite part about being a mom?
Gretchen: “Everything. It’s what I was born to do with my life. It’s the greatest gift in the world. I can’t even remember who I was or what I was doing before her. Really, life didn’t even really happen until she came along. This is the moment in a parent’s life, right now, when they’re 16 and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh. In a year and a half, she’s going to be gone.’ I’m like, ‘Who am I? What am I without her?’ It’s that empty nest thing that’s starting to creep in now. It’s probably good that I’m getting back to work, keeping myself busy.”
NCD: So you won’t be bothering her and following her around?
Gretchen: “I am totally a helicopter mom. She’s just going to have to deal with me. She knows it. Somehow or another, I managed to raise a really respectful, brilliant, just good kid. She’s smart beyond her years and she knows who I am. She already knows how to put me in my place, really. We’re very close. My mom was a little too much my friend and not enough my mom. I’ve also seen a lot of kids whose parents, they’re not close with at all. They don’t really tell them anything that’s going on because they’re too much parent and not enough friends. I’ve really tried hard to find that happy medium with her. I feel like there’s nothing she doesn’t tell me, but I also am realistic enough to know that there are a couple of little things. I have the confidence that important stuff, she knows she can come to me with.”
NCD: You came onto the scene in 2004. Prior to that, you were in a group that we call the Muzik Mafia [John Rich, Big Kenny, Cowboy Troy]. Do you still talk to those guys?
Gretchen: “It’s funny. Things have really slowed down, though, in our friend world. I was the first of our group to go, have babies— like grow up. It took them a lot longer to do that but now they’re where I was several years ago with the kids. It’s interesting because, anybody who knows John and Kenny, I guess you can see in this role a lot better. When he’ll text me sometimes with a question or an idea and he’s like, ‘I just dropped the boys off at school.’ It’s like, ‘You just did what?’ I can’t even imagine that. We still hang out, we still see each other occasionally. Not as much as I think we’d like to, but it’s busy. We’re all still working on our careers. We have families. It’s harder to get together now.”
NCD: Any chance of a reunion?
Gretchen: “Sometimes there’s a little talk about it here and there. Little fluttering conversations that I hear about the possibility of putting together another mafia tour, like we did that one time. I don’t know if that’s real, if they’re just saying it. I’d be up for it. I’d be up at least to talking about it. The last one was pretty crazy. I mean, I think there were like 40 people on stage at once, all the time—couches, chandeliers, painters, dwarfs. It was a circus.”
NCD: How have you changed since your career began? What’s the difference between “Redneck Woman” Gretchen and “Rowdy” Gretchen?
Gretchen: “I think there’s a lot of me that hasn’t changed at all. Just like I was saying, spending that time home with my daughter, during the ages of 14 to 16 was really important because I knew that was going to mold the person she’s probably going to be for the rest of her life. The person that I was when I was 14, I still am. I’m still very much that redneck girl. I’m still that person that cuts my own grass, and weed eats, and rakes the leaves, and does all of that sort of thing. I think, after 40 years old, we all just grow up a lot. We’re able to breathe deeper and realize that life is precious. Really start paying attention to things that really matter in life. Somehow, before you hit 40, I feel like everybody’s out there trying to get, get, get as much as they can. Buy, own, and take. Then after 40, you start going, ‘I could live in a tiny house.’ Somehow or another, after 40, you just want to get smaller and smaller. You want to really just focus on the things that matter.”
NCD: At 34, you went back and got your GED. Why did you want to do that?
Gretchen: “Well, having a kid who was going through school and who was coming home, occasionally, saying, ‘I hate school. This is too hard. I don’t want to.’ It hit me one time. I was just thinking, ‘What if, when this kid turns 16 years old, she looks at me and just says, ‘I’m just quitting. You did. Look, you got somewhere in life. Look at how it turned out for you. You quit.” I didn’t want her to think that that is the norm. Me getting signed and this career that happened—There are a lot of talented people in Nashville that are trying every day to get record deals and it just doesn’t happen. I mean, not to say that I didn’t work really hard for it, but it was also just really good luck and good timing. Just being around the right people. I didn’t want her to think that an education was unimportant. After she goes away to college, if she doesn’t spend all of the money that I have put away for her, I might actually try to do college myself, at some point.”
NCD: That would be great.
Gretchen: “I have no idea what I would go for. That’s just wide open. Isn’t that cool. I always thought, ‘I have to have my life completely planned out and know exactly where I’m going to be until the end of time.’ Now, I’m just in that place where it’s like, I have no idea where I’m going to be in five years. I don’t know where I’m going to be, what I’m going to be doing, where I’m going to be living. It’s kind of refreshing not to be worried about that.”
NCD: How about where you’re going to be in one year. What can we expect from you in 2017?
Gretchen: “I’m going to go back out on tour. Right now, I’m scared to death of 2017 because 2016 and 2015 were so relaxing.I have to—right off the bat in the beginning of the year—I have to start putting together what my tour’s going to look like. The people, the production. I have to try to write a set list. Try to decide how many songs actually have to go into a 90 minute set. With country songs, it’s a whole lot of them because they’re only three minutes long. I feel like I’m going to be really busy even long before the touring starts.”
NCD: Well, we look forward to seeing you out there and welcome back.
Gretchen: “Thank you. It’s good to be back.”
Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images