Once again, it is time to watch the Azalea City’s electronic effigy to its favorite marshmallow confection fall ever so gracefully in celebration of the coming year. Musical entertainment will start at 6 p.m. on the Riverview Stage with bands such as Worx, I Sing, The Wolf Gambino Trio, Kyle & Karl and Less Than Stellar rocking the crowd into the night.
At 9 p.m., the soulful sounds of Latimore will bring life to the Austal Stage before headliner Gretchen Wilson takes the same stage.
Wilson rose to superstar status courtesy of hits such as “Redneck Woman” and “All Jacked Up.” Since then, she has established her own record label (Redneck Records) and built her own studio. With the new label and studio, she has been a busy woman in 2013, with the release of three albums. “Right on Time” is a collection of originals. “Under the Covers” is Wilson’s take on her favorite rock tunes. However, she has been spending her recent shows promoting tunes off of her Christmas album “Christmas in My Heart.” For Wilson, this was an album that has been a long time coming.
SC: You’ve been out promoting your new Christmas album. What’s it been like spreading your own brand of Christmas cheer?
GW: It’s something that I should have done a long time ago. I don’t why it took me so long to do it. I guess that I wanted to have my own record label before I made my own Christmas album. It’s the third one that we’ve released this year. We put out an original album in April, and we put out a rock-and-roll covers record in May. Then, we put out the Christmas record in October. I think it was mainly because I built this new studio and really just wanted to get in there and use it a lot. So, we ended up with three records out of the deal, and it was fun. It was fun to do a Christmas record. It was fun to work a different way in the studio. I’ve always recorded myself pretty dry and in-your-face. With these Christmas songs, you can put a lot of reverb on, and it’s sweet. I don’t do that very often.
SC: What made you want to give the world a triple shot of releases this year?
GW: I had a lot to say, I guess. I had a lot that I wanted to get out there. I spent five or six years with a major label that had a lot of dictatorship about what songs go on a record. There’s always a lot of meetings that you have to have, and everybody has to agree on the songs. They find a formula that works down there on Music Row, and they stick to it. I’ve never been much of a follower. I like to do new things and try new things and continue to grow as an artist. I wanted to do a lot of different styles of music. I wanted to do things that I hadn’t had a chance to do before on records. We come out to play shows, and we don’t just play “Redneck Woman” and hillbilly music. We play a lot of rock-and-roll, some blues, some R&B and some jazz, every once in awhile. We’re multi-genre. I just wanted to let the world know that.
SC: You brought back in Blake Chancey as a producer. He’s got quite a versatile resume, and he’s worked in all those genres that you just mentioned. What’s it like working with Blake?
GW: He produced one song on “Right on Time” called “One Good Friend.” He’s actually a great friend. He’s one of those guys that’s been pretty true. All the years that I’ve known him, he’s a real music lover. You get to Nashville, and you find out that there’s a lot people there for business side of it and not the music side. It’s pretty awesome when you meet and find somebody that you can work with that’s also your friend, and they feel like you and think about what’s good and real about music. He’s somebody else that enjoys a little space in a track, rather than trying to use every button you got in the studio.
SC: “Right on Time” has been pretty well-received by the fans and critics. After putting three years between studio releases, how does it feel to see this succeed?
GW: It feels good just to still be in business. I’ve been here long enough now. Not too many artists get to have 10 years in the music business. I’m going on 10 years next May from when “Here for the Party” came out. It seems like just a few years ago, you know. You hear people say that it’s hard to break into this business, but it’s harder to stay in the business. Most people get a good couple of years run, and they just use it up and use everything they got. Plus, people get uninterested. I don’t know what the disconnection is or why people move on. I guess it’s the same reason that I said earlier. I’m forward thinking and am always trying to better myself and create the next thing. I guess that’s how it is for the listener too. It’s hard to stay in mainstream and stay relevant. I wake up every day and appreciate the fact that I made enough money to be able to put it back into the business and be able to open my own record company and build my own studio and keep doing what I love to do. To me, that’s success. It really doesn’t matter if I have a whole lot of money in the bank. I’m that kind of person. I’ll always put it back into the business and try to continue to make music. It’s just who I am, and I’m appreciative that I still get to do it. Hell, I could be working in a factory.
SC: You’ll be performing at the MoonPie Drop in Mobile on New Year’s Eve. I know you like to have a good time, so what do you have in store for the crowd?
GW: Well, we’re known for being kind of rowdy. So, they can expect that. We always have a good time. It’s not like going to work for us. It’s like going to play. That’s exactly what we do. I think that for people who haven’t seen me before, and I know that a lot of people down there have, because I’ve been there a few times, just don’t expect that it will be nothing but honky-tonkin’. We play the hits and the ones people want to hear like “Redneck Woman” and “Here for the Party” and “All Jacked Up.” But we’ve got a very versatile show. We’ve got something for everybody. There’s some good ol’ fashion rock-and-roll all the way to some blues. It’s just a good time, and we’re looking forward to the MoonPie Drop. It’s gonna be fun for us. We’re just looking forward to having somewhere to party on New Year’s Eve.