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Lainey Wilson Details How ‘Yellowstone’ Catapulted Her Music to the Mainstream

Lainey Wilson Details How Yellowstone Catapulted Her Music to the Mainstream
Lainey WilsonSUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images

Lainey Wilson opened up about how starring on Yellowstone pushed her music career over the top in her new ABC News Studios special.

“Appearing on Yellowstone put a face to a name,” the country star, 32, said in Lainey Wilson: Bell Bottom Country, which premiered on Wednesday, May 29. “I mean, I had never acted a day in my life, but when somebody like Taylor Sheridan calls you and asks you, ‘Do you wanna be a part of my show?’ It made me feel like, ‘Wow, he sees something in me I’ve never seen in myself.’ It was one of the most important things for my self-esteem.”

Wilson appeared as the character Abby in the first half of season 5, which aired in late 2022. Abby, who’s also a country singer in the Paramount Network drama, is a love interest for ranch hand Ryan (Ian Bohen).

“She’s playing a version of herself but she’s not playing Lainey. She plays Abby,” Bohen, 47, explained in Bell Bottom Country. “She was nervous when she got there and she knew that it was outside of her comfort zone. But she’s so natural that right from the get-go, you knew that this girl’s got the chops.”

Lainey Wilson Details How Yellowstone Catapulted Her Music to the Mainstream 2
Lainey Wilson Rob Kim/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Wilson had already released four albums by the time she made her acting debut on Yellowstone, but the extremely popular series helped introduce her to a much wider audience. One year later, she became the first woman to win Entertainer of the Year at the CMA Awards since Taylor Swift in 2011.

“Taylor Sheridan, our creator, would comb through music that is not super mainstream,” Bohen recalled, explaining how Sheridan, 54, decided to cast Wilson in the series. “When he saw her and heard her, what she sings about and the way she presents it is perfectly in line with what our show is about. It is for the rancher, it’s for the farmer. They’re family people, it’s the struggle to survive. So it’s a no-brainer to put them together.”

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Wilson is now selling out arenas, but she said her success hasn’t completely erased her stage fright.

“I get extremely nervous before every show,” she said. “If it’s 20 people, 20,000 [or] 80,000, it does not matter. It’s terrifying. It’s scary putting yourself out there. You gotta expect every kind of opinion you can imagine. You can’t think that everybody’s gonna love you.”

The Grammy winner experienced that dichotomy firsthand in late 2022 when she noticed that videos of her performing were making headlines for the wrong reasons.

“I was scrolling on TikTok and I noticed a few videos of my butt that had gone viral,” she recalled. “And then I noticed, like, a week later, it continued and it continued. And then the next week, I was like, ‘Golly, it’s still there.’ It wasn’t just like a small little viral moment. It was a big — no pun intended — moment.”

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Wilson decided to respond by laughing off the haters — and welcoming them to her fandom despite how they discovered her music.

“I went back to, how would Dolly [Parton] handle this situation? How would Reba [McEntire] handle this situation?” Wilson told Robin Roberts in the ABC special. “And they’d laugh about it. And they’d move on with it. That’s just part of it. … It definitely has been [different]. I’m not gonna sit here and say that it has not made me feel weird. But at the end of the day, me gaining a few pounds or me losing a few pounds, it ain’t got nothing to do with my story or me singing or my songwriting. If you got a problem with that, turn off the radio, because you’re gonna be hearing me on the radio.”

Lainey Wilson: Bell Bottom Country is available to stream on Hulu now.

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