As a high school student in Baskin, Louisiana (pop. 211), Lainey Wilson’s first paid gig involved appearing as TV personality Hannah Montana on a trailer stage.
The country singer, 30, recalls the surreal feeling years later she had performed her song “Watermelon Moonshine” for a scene in Paramount’s “Yellowstone” — on a flatbed trailer in Montana.
“I’m on that flat-bench stage singing once again, but not in my Hannah Montana wig. And I thought, gosh, this is a full-circle moment for me,” says Wilson. “And I’m singing ‘Watermelon Moonshine,’ a song about young, wild and crazy love.”
Love just keeps getting wilder and crazier for Wilson, who made her debut as free-spirited musician Abby in the Season 5 premiere of “Yellowstone” last month.
The Sunday episode of TV show no. 1 featured the “Moonshine” performance, before Abby steps off the flat-bench stage to ignite a passionate romance with smart rancher Ryan (Ian Bohen), who works for Kevin Costner’s John Dutton, now the governor of Montana.
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What Wilson lacked in experience for her first screen kiss, she made up for in the same determination and enthusiasm that has ignited country music in 2022. The scene is smoking.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing, but you go in there head on. I was going to give people their money,” says Wilson. “I told my mom and dad, ‘You guys might not want to watch this show.’ I don’t want to be on their prayer list.”
Wilson gives high praise to “Yellowstone” creator and executive producer Taylor Sheridan, a longtime supporter who included her song “Working Overtime” in the Season 2 premiere before the recording artist even had a recording contract.
Her music was frequently featured in the Paramount series before Sheridan recorded it. He told Wilson in February that he wanted to create the Abby character specifically for the bell-bottom-loving performer.
“(Sheridan) said he wanted me to kind of be myself, which is a dream come true, especially when you’re trying to introduce yourself to people,” Wilson says. “All I got from him at the time was that I would play a musician who would fall in love with one of the boys. He didn’t even tell me which one.”
A devastating family health story nearly derailed her dream job: Wilson nearly quit when her father, Brian, was admitted to the intensive care unit with a yeast infection. From his hospital bed, her father insisted that Wilson go to work.
“He said, ‘I don’t care if it’s my funeral.’ If you have a job to do, you better go do it. And don’t come back until it’s over,” says Wilson. “I packed my bags. It gave me the strength to do this. But I won’t lie, I would take my scene, go into a corner and cry a little bit.”
Wilson’s first “Yellowstone” scene was opposite the cute Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly), which only added to the pressure. But Reilly, a fan of Wilson’s music, was supportive.
“I told (Reilly) when I met her, ‘I thought you were going to put me in the head,'” Wilson says. “But we got along great. She even gave me handmade bath salts.”
During this friendly scene, Abby vowed to never date a cowboy. But there have been sparks and smiles dancing between Abby and Bunkhouse player Ryan in recent episodes, however, a flirtation that turned into full-blown flame on Sunday.
Wilson won’t say how long the love lasted, but admits she had to learn to kiss despite the obstacle of wide-brimmed cowboy hats. “It’s definitely about tilting your head to the side; angles are so important,” says Wilson. “And there’s another kiss to come as I take my hat off. That’s when you know you’re going down for it.”
The country star is still busy with her sky-high music career. Four days before the “Yellowstone” season premiere, Wilson brought her then-recovered father as a date to the Nov. 9 CMA Awards, where she took home trophies for best new artist and female vocalist.
“Yellowstone” is an almost weekly showcase for her new album, “Bell Bottom Country,” which was released on October 28. Wilson announced a 27 city tour starting on January 4th.
“The crazy thing is, we’re just getting started. We’re working hard just to win more. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves,” says Wilson. “I’m trying all these new things, even ‘Yellowstone,’ my first acting gig.” I’m excited to see what the next step is.”