Q&A: Anne Wilson Talks Faith, ‘Hey Girl,’ And New Book Inspired By Debut Single, ‘My Jesus’

Anne Wilson has let faith guide her through life and it led her to make the kind of songs that…


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

October 21, 2022


10:32 am

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Anne Wilson; Photo by Cameron Powell

Anne Wilson has let faith guide her through life and it led her to make the kind of songs that touch people in a powerful way, the same way music did for her during one of the most difficult chapters of her life. 

“It felt like my calling,” she shared. 

Although Wilson spent much of her childhood behind a piano, it wasn’t until five years ago that she found her true calling. The first time Wilson sang in front of a crowd was at her brother’s funeral. Instead of feeling the rush of excitement from getting up on stage for the first time, the young singer was mourning the loss of her 23-year-old brother, Jacob, who passed unexpectedly in a car accident. 

At the time, she was determined to be an astronaut when she grew up, but this moment, singing in honor of her late sibling changed everything. She eventually posted a video of her performance online and began seeing a huge reaction from the music industry. Not only did she begin growing a fanbase, but it was through this video that her first manager discovered her. 

Wilson is now 20 years old and living in Nashville full-time. She officially made the move from her hometown in Kentucky in 2020, ready to embrace her new career path as a singer/songwriter. 

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As a way to heal from the great loss she experienced, Wilson began journaling. Those entries were then turned into songs for her debut album, My Jesus. The title track to this song is what really kickstarted her career. It became the longest-running No. 1 song on the Billboard Christian Airplay Chart of 2021 for seven weeks total, has over 17 million streams on Spotify alone and earned her a nomination for a Billboard Music Award. 

“My Jesus” also inspired her upcoming book, “My Jesus: From Heartache to Hope,” which is set for release on Oct. 25. Wilson explained that going from songwriter to author proved to be “challenging” but “healing” at the same time. 

In addition, the record features a heartwarming duet with Lady A’s Hillary Scott titled “Mamas,” and her most recent add to Christian radio, “Hey Girl.” 

“We released it to radio a few weeks ago and it’s been really cool to see how that song has just been impacting people,” Wilson told Country Now of the new single. 

The recently released music video for this track was directed by Alexa Campbell and features an all-female cast and crew that includes fans who flew in from all across the country to be part of the fun.

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“It was a really incredible experience,” Wilson shared. 

Country Now recently caught up with Wilson to talk about the journey of her career, her record-breaking hit, “My Jesus,” the inspiration behind her debut album, writing her upcoming book, and more. 

Check out our Q&A with the up-and-coming Christian/country artist below.

Was music always a big part of your life?

No. So, I actually grew up wanting to be an astronaut and work for NASA. That was crazy though, like thinking back on that, but I did, I loved space. I loved, I guess, the whole idea of going to space and getting to explore more of God’s creation. That was just a passion of mine. So that was my plan for my life. Then in June of 2017, my older brother passed away in a car accident when he was 23 years old, which was a really hard season and was really tragic. He passed away on impact to the car accident, so it was just a really sad time in my life, but through that whole journey of losing Jacob, I actually started to sing. I had never sang in front of anyone before in my life, up until my brother passed away. I decided to actually sing at his funeral for the first time in front of anyone. That was the moment that started everything for me.

What was it about that performance that made you want to continue singing?

Pretty much my whole musical journey and career started from singing at the funeral cause that led to some friends asking me to make a video of the song that we did and post it to  YouTube. I did that, then my previous manager found me and discovered me through that video, and we started working together. So, it’s really cool to look back and see how it all came about. I just felt in my heart like, this is what I needed to do and what I was supposed to do. I felt like God was calling me to music, specifically music that worshiped him and glorified him. I just felt so much like this is what I’m made to do. You know those moments in life where it’s almost like, this is the moment in which I was created for? That’s how it felt for me. On that stage, at that piano, singing that song, it was like, this is what I’ve always been created for and designed for, and it felt like my calling. It was cool cause then the desire to be an astronaut was kind of removed from my heart, and it was replaced with wanting to do music and wanting to sing. So it was really cool how it kind of all switched in that one moment of being on that stage at my brother’s funeral.

What was it like seeing the video of that day circulate and gain so much positive attention?

It was so cool. It felt like such a gift because losing my brother was so hard, you know, and still is to this day, but knowing that his loss wasn’t wasted and that it was pointing people back to Jesus and giving people hope in times of hard stuff and knowing that it was all worth, it was really incredible. I think about it all the time and how my music is impacting people, but my music wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for my brother passing away. So it’s just really cool to see how it’s kind of a full circle moment and how it’s been impacting people. 

Anne Wilson; Photo by Cameron Powell
Anne Wilson; Photo by Cameron Powell

Can you talk about how you came to write your record-breaking hit, “My Jesus”?

So I started to journal after my brother passed away. I really wanted to write down on paper what God was doing in my life and the miracles that he was performing and just what was happening. I wanted to prove to myself that I would survive the tragedy of losing my brother. I just had this feeling inside of me that I wasn’t gonna get hurt, I just didn’t wanna have to get through it. I just wanted to give up, you know, and be done with this life, as bad as that is. I started to journal and then I started to write songs a few years later, and I wanted to go back in my journals and read all that had happened in my life. So I did, and I noticed that I had only ever written “My Jesus,” referring to God. 

I remember taking that title into a write and what was so cool about that was that both of the writers that day had the same title and concept idea. It was so cool. We all three came in, we had never written together before, we were all strangers, but we came into the write having the same title and concept. So kind of from the first moment it just felt like, “Okay, this is definitely what we’re supposed to write today.” Then we finished writing the song and I just knew in my heart that it was the song that was gonna change people’s lives. So it was so cool to be a part of and to see how almost like that title and concept had been in my heart for years, but it didn’t come out in a song until then.

What was going through your head when you realized that this song was becoming the longest-running No. 1 song on Billboard?

It was amazing. It was so surreal to just watch and see like, “wow, like this is my life now.” And the switch between graduating high school in 2020 and living in Kentucky, and then all of a sudden moving to Nashville and having a new life and all the success. It’s been such a gift and I’m so grateful, but it has honestly been overwhelming in a sense, in a good way. I’m overwhelmed that this is my life now, in a good way. It’s crazy to think that all this has happened in such a short amount of time and then specifically with that song, I guess for me, it’s not the success, it’s seeing how that song has impacted people. I remember when I was going through losing my brother and how painful it was, like the songs that were incredibly important to me and helped me get through it. Now that I have a song that does that for other people, it’s just a really incredible gift. So I’m very grateful for that. 

This song is also the title track to your debut album. So was the collection of songs pulled from your journal writing as well? 

135 songs is how many I wrote for the record. It was crazy. It was a three-year journey from 2019 to 2022. We finished it up the end of 2021, beginning of 2022. It was a long journey and it was definitely a lot from my journals. It was a lot of just, the loss of my brother, you know, walking through that, wanting to write about that, how much I had gone through and suffered and all of that. So it was definitely a long process of writing the record. Three years, 135 songs, and it was kind of written from just all over the place, from losing Jacob to what I was walking through in life currently at the time. It was really fun to put together, and I knew that the title track had to be “My Jesus.” It didn’t make sense for it to be anything else, cause that song is really what started everything for me. 

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The project features a song called “Mamas,” which is a collaboration with Lady A’s Hillary Scott. How did you come to work together?

Oh, that was so cool. I am a huge fan of Lady A, I grew up my whole life listening to their music and I’ve always been a huge fan of Hillary Scott, specifically in her solo work that she’s done in the Christian music industry. So when we were writing, we wrote the song called “Mamas,” and as we’re finishing up, me and my team were like, “we should get a female country artist to sing on this.” We wanted this song to have a life in the country market, not just in Christian, and people even that aren’t Christians and don’t believe in God. It’s just kind of a neutral song and it’s a really powerful song. So we reached out to Scott and she was so excited at the idea of partnering with me and I was just like, I remember I was so excited when I found out, so honored, and so she featured on the song and we got to do the music video together. It was just so beautiful to come together for this song. You know, I’m not a mom yet, but this song was for my mom. She’s a mom of three girls, so this song really meant a lot for her as a mom. It was cool to come together as two different perspectives of moms and daughters and put the song together. It was an honor that she was willing to be a part of it, for sure.

Can you talk about the meaning behind another track off the project, “Hey Girl”? 

So “Hey Girl” has been just such an important song to me. When I was in middle school and high school, as most girls do, I would struggle with my identity a lot. I really felt like I just was attaching my identity to what people thought about me and said about me. I was always, you know, struggling with insecurity and all of those things. So it was just a really hard time in my life, but I remember just having this concept of, “Hey Girl” and writing a song for all of these girls, not just young, but all ages of women. A song of like empowerment but empowering each other in God and what he says about us. It came about and then we put it out on the record, didn’t think anything about it, just wanted it to be on the record. Then it started to get so much traction and it was getting featured on country playlists and the country market was loving it. I just really felt like, this needs to be my next radio single. So we released it to radio a few weeks ago and it’s been really cool to see how that song has just been impacting people.

In addition to being a singer/songwriter, you’re also an author now on your book that’s coming out soon. What made you decide that you wanted to write a book?

You know, after seeing the impact that “My Jesus” had on people, I felt like I just had to expand the story. I could share parts of it with you now, like on interviews and zooms and podcasts, or whatever, but I can’t go into depth into the story. So I wanted to really have a moment where I could share the story, share what God’s done in my life with people, and really just write a book that provides hope for people. All of us, no matter what, we’re all going through different things and we’re all struggling in this life, whether that be losing a loved one, a divorce, financial crisis, depression, anxiety, you know, COVID, someone passing away from COVID, like whatever it is, we’re all going through things. So I think having this book, I just pray that it’s gonna be something that brings hope to people and that people can read this and find peace through reading it and find hope. 

How was the process like for you compared to songwriting?

I actually really enjoyed the process. It was very different than songwriting, but it was very therapeutic for me. I was able to go in kind of depths in my heart, and pull out memories of my brother, from childhood and stuff like that. So, it was actually very healing for me and helped me get through this loss and continue to process the loss of my brother. It really helped me kind of get through where I am today. It was incredibly helpful and very healing, and it was a really, really good experience. Definitely different than writing songs and a different weight than writing, like writing a song is so much fun, but writing a book, there’s so much weight, and just kind of gets this pressure attached to it from writing the story in the best possible way so that every person that grabs the book from all over the world can experience what you’ve gone through and all of that.  

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.