Gretchen Wilson Reflects on 'Redneck Woman' for 20th Anniversary: 'Radio Put Up Quite a Fight'

The country singer recalls breaking the "Barbie doll" mold with her 2004 single

<p>Jason Davis/Getty</p> Gretchen Wilson in Nashville in July 2023

Jason Davis/Getty

Gretchen Wilson in Nashville in July 2023

Gretchen Wilson’s 2004 hit "Redneck Woman" is 20!

To celebrate the song’s milestone anniversary, the country music singer and songwriter, 50, spoke exclusively to Billboard about what inspired the track.

“I remember sitting down and saying, ‘I can’t really relate to what I’m seeing on CMT, GAC, all the popular music video channels, and this is not real life,’” she told the outlet in an interview published on Tuesday, April 23.

<p>Paul Natkin/Getty</p> Gretchen Wilson performing in Chicago in October 2008

Paul Natkin/Getty

Gretchen Wilson performing in Chicago in October 2008

She then teamed up with Big & Rich singer-songwriter John Rich to come up with an anthem that anti-“Barbie doll type” women could resonate with.

“That’s kind of the mindset we had that day. It was like, ‘If I’m not that, then what am I?’ And the best thing I could come up with was, ‘I’m just a regular ole redneck woman,’” she recalled of the moment that created a country music movement.

“That’s a really pivotal moment, just writing that song that I knew was uniquely me. But I also knew, from a songwriter’s standpoint, it was about as honest as I could get. I knew at the same time that it was going to speak to so many women that were feeling frustrated just like I was.”

Related: Gretchen Wilson Graduates from High School

Born in Pocahontas, Illinois, she’d come from humble beginnings in her town of less than 1,000 people. Her teens and 20s were spent just trying to make it.

When “Redneck Woman” was released, it topped Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart (then-called Hot Country Singles & Tracks), where it stayed for five weeks — joining the ranks of commercial country artists like Shania Twain and Faith Hill.

“I felt validated, but mostly with the fans, because radio put up quite a fight,” Wilson said. “Radio was like, ‘Who is this white trash hillbilly chick coming at us with 13 cuss words in the first song?’”

But she had her response ready.

“My argument at the time — and I had a valid argument, even though it was 20 years ago, before a lot of feminine movements had happened — my argument was, ‘I’m on the same record label as Montgomery Gentry, who just had a hit with ‘Hell Yeah’ [in 2003]. So, is this just because I’m a female and I can’t say ‘Hell Yeah’ in my song?”

<p>Scott Legato/Getty</p> Gretchen Wilson performing in Detroit in November 2013

Scott Legato/Getty

Gretchen Wilson performing in Detroit in November 2013

According to the hitmaker, her plan worked: “So that kind of got ‘em, and they shut up real quick about that. But it was really the fans who called their local radio stations. They called and basically said ‘You will play this song or I’ll be switching to the other guy’s station.’”

Wilson was also thankful to her fans who showed their support beyond the radio.

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While noting that Hill’s 1999 single “Breathe” was “a great song, no doubt,” Wilson said she didn’t think her fans could relate to the music video that followed.

“They were like, ‘I just don’t think I could stomach any more of that because who wakes up looking like that in the morning?’"

"They would show up [to concerts] and they would have homemade T-shirts that said, ‘Redneck Girl,’ ‘Redneck Woman’ and ‘Redneck Grandma’ on them — representing three generations, sometimes four. It did feel very validating.”

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