On Valentine's Day, Lainey Wilson made her Grand Ole Opry debut. By that time, she'd hustled for nine years to find a foothold in the music industry, and it was always a dream of the Louisiana native's to make it into the Opry circle.

Wilson's whole family was present for the big moment, and the experience was so awe-inducing that it left her in tears.

"The first time I went to the Grand Ole Opry, I was nine years old. I remember exactly where I was sitting in the crowd. We saw Bill Anderson, Little Jimmy Dickens [and] Crystal Gayle. I just remember looking up there, being like, ‘Man, I wanna do that,’" Wilson remembers. "When I stepped foot in that circle, it was all over. I just started crying."

It was just after that first trip to Music City that Wilson wrote her very first song and picked up the guitar. The path to her dreams before Nashville stardom included singing in church, playing in a country cover band in clubs around Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi, and a stint as a Hannah Montana impersonator.

The latter turned out to be useful experience when Wilson landed a spot opening for the Hot Country Knights, Dierks Bentley and his band's '90s country band. She felt right on par with their irreverence and exploration of their alter egos.

"I think Hot Country Knights started off as a joke, and now it has just become this big ol' thing," Wilson told The Boot during the 2020 Country Radio Seminar in February. "It’s a place where people can go and have fun and be silly. I’m all about that."

Under the guise of comedy country, Hot Country Knights booked a trek with all women openers. Though the One Knight Stand Tour was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the band has, in interviews, been vocal about the lack of women on country radio; they've also dueted with Terri Clark, on their song "You Make It Hard," and covered songs by the likes of Shania Twain and Reba McEntire, the latter of whom Wilson was also slotted to share a stage with this year.

Wilson did manage to make it out on one tour this year, although it was cut short. The self-described "bell-bottom country" artist joined Justin Moore and Tracey Lawrence for a run of shows prior to the pandemic temporarily shutting down the concert industry.

"They had to personally approve me to open up the show, and to know that they liked my stuff enough to let me get up there before them is pretty wild," Wilson admits. "I’ve gotten to see how much work goes into the big production like that. It makes so many people to make the wheels spin. I didn’t realize that."

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