In Jessie G, Gretchen Wilson Found a Woman as Tough as She Is
Gretchen Wilson's relationship with country newcomer Jessie G is best described with a word one doesn't often associate with the "Redneck Woman" singer.
"I'm like a proud mom all over again with her," Wilson says, seated alongside the Oregon-raised vocalist. The pair are there to talk about Jessie G's debut single, "Army Ranger," but inevitably they start telling stories about how they met and how Wilson eventually convinced a lifetime commercial fisher to pack up for Nashville.
"Two to three months later I sold enough crab and tuna to move to Nashville," Jessie G (Goergen) says.
"Nobody has that story!" Wilson answers, laughing.
Jessie G is the first artist signed to Wilson's Redneck Records, a label that finds her in charge of everything. The 45-year-old has a specific vision and the right to be choosy about who and what she records. Ultimately she wants an artist that's as involved in the process as she is and was, especially after a debut album that featured a few too many cooks in the kitchen.
“There’s not a lot of women that I come across that are as tough as she is," Wilson says. "There’s a lot of girls that sing pretty. There’s a lot of girls that look great and could probably go out there and probably have a career for a minute. But there’s not a lot of girls that have the strength to endure what this is really all about. It’s not as glamorous as people all think it is … We’re in an industry, one of the only ones, where you’re not allowed to be sick. It’s not OK!”
That's the kind of rugged approach one would expect from Wilson. It's what she delivered when she was first noticed in the early '00s. Times have changed. The industry has changed. Social media and streaming are two things professional artists need to worry about that Wilson didn't, until her new artist sat her down and told her she either needs to tweet or get someone to do it for her. That's the kind of straight-shooting Wilson likes.
“It’s Tanya Tucker, Gretchen Wilson, Jessie G. Like she’s the next generation of the tough redneck kinda country girl," Wilson says.
Growing up in a fishing family is similar to growing up in a military family, Jessie G says, in that both involve long stretches away with little communication. Her Ranger qualified boyfriend inspired "Army Ranger." She'd gone a month without hearing from him and told her co-writers there was only one kind of song she could write on that day.
"A lot of crying, a lot of goosebumps," she says of the hour-long writing session. "Sometimes I'm in that same exact situation all over again and sometimes I have to reel it in, not choke up and cry during the performance."
Wilson has tried to push her beyond her comfort zone in the studio and as a songwriter, the pair agree. There's an easy camaraderie between them that conflicts with any preconceived, ill-informed notions you might have that the "Here for the Party" singer is prickly or uncompromising. Jessie G's only complaint is that her boss tries to mother her a little too much at times, and Wilson agrees.
"I think if there’s a bad side to me, it’s probably that I’m a little overbearing. Even this morning, I’m calling her. ‘Are you OK? Are you up? Are you getting ready? Are you gonna be on time?’ I mother everybody to death," she says with something close to embarrassment.
"She's got one of the biggest hearts ever and that makes her a great boss," the younger singer adds, smiling.
Wilson and Jessie G talked to Taste of Country at the TOC studio one week after Wilson was arrested after an incident on an airplane.
Watch Gretchen Wilson Talk About Her Airplane Arrest