CMT Insider Interview: Gretchen Wilson

America's Favorite Redneck Woman Talks About Her New Album

(Editor’s note: Catch Katie Cook’s interview with Gretchen Wilson when the new episode of CMT Insider premieres Saturday, Oct. 1, at 1:30 p.m. ET/PT.)

Can you still be a redneck woman and a millionaire?

“Yes, absolutely!” Gretchen Wilson told CMT Insider host Katie Cook during a recent interview in New York City. “You know, life has changed around me, but I haven’t changed.” She laughs, adding, “I haven’t had time to change.”

Wilson’s concept of time management began evolving in March 2004 when she released her debut single, “Redneck Woman.” Through constant touring, notably as one of Kenny Chesney’s opening acts, Wilson managed to record a follow-up album, All Jacked Up, that hit stores this week.

“I’m getting ready to take just a few weeks and just relax,” she told Cook. “And maybe I’ll be able to just soak up what has happened in the last 18 or 19 months. Because we’ve just been pretty much working hard and going straight through since this thing started.”

Wilson co-produced All Jacked Up with MuzikMafia cohort John Rich and Sony Music Nashville executive Mark Wright.

“I feel like this record is better than the first one,” she noted. “I got a chance to be a producer this time on my record, so I felt like I was a lot more hands on, and I just feel like it’s totally me from front to end.” She says she’s already tested much of the material where it counts — in front of her fans. “They’ll let me know how they feel out there on the road,” she said. “You can always trust them to give you that look and let you know if they are liking something or not.”

For Wilson, one of the highlights is “Politically Uncorrect,” her collaboration with Merle Haggard. It was written by Leslie Satcher, Danny Steagall and Billy Henderson.

“I didn’t get to spend the time in the studio with him,” she explained. “But it was one of those things that I begged and pleaded my manager — because he’s a good friend of Merle’s — to just ask him if it was something that he would be interested in doing. And the really great thing about that song is that it was written, I think, maybe 10 or 11 years ago, and nobody had really thought about recording this song for a long time. … I’m sure that the writers, when they wrote it, had dreams … of maybe someday getting his vocals on it. Eleven years later, for them to hear Merle must just be awesome. I’m glad that I could just help make that happen.”

Wilson received some unwanted publicity about her new album in August when Tennessee Attorney General Paul G. Summers asked her to refrain from pulling a can of tobacco out of her pocket during her live performances of “Skoal Ring.” Although she does not have any endorsements with tobacco companies, Summers claimed Wilson’s actions could potentially encourage young people to use smokeless tobacco.

Wilson said she decided to display her can of Skoal at concerts after she played the song for Nancy Wilson of the rock band, Heart.

“She listened to the whole thing in her home studio and thought I was saying ’skull ring,'” Wilson said. “She misunderstood the entire time. So it dawned on me that a lot of people might not be understanding what I’m saying. So I thought just to clarify it at the end of my show, I would hold it up just for that last line … so they would understand exactly what I was talking about. I never even thought that it would make anybody angry. As soon as I heard that it was upsetting people, it was not a problem at all to stop doing that. It was just three seconds in my show that I could definitely do without. … I’m a mom. I would never try to push tobacco products of any kind to any child.”

Those buying All Jacked Up will discover a hidden track, a remake of “Good Morning Heartache,” the jazz standard popularized by the late Billie Holiday. Sony Music Nashville president John Grady came up with the idea for Wilson to record the song.

“He came out to a party at my house,” she explained. “I was just listening to a lot of different music, and when I got to Billie Holiday and started singing along, he said, ’You should record one of these songs and put it on your record.’ At first, I was like, ’I wouldn’t want to put a cover song on my sophomore record.’ … I didn’t think it would really fit in the flow of the music I was wanting to record, so we got together and the best thing we thought of was to put it as a hidden track on the record.”

The song called for a totally different recording technique.

“It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had in the studio, to go in and record around one microphone like that,” she said. “It’s really surreal because it’s finished as soon as you hit the last note. There’s no mixing. There’s nothing to be done. When you’re done, it’s a track. … That’s how they used to do it, and you can tell, too. When you’re done, you can hear the room noise. You can hear the air in the room going all the way through it just like the old recordings sounded.”