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DECATUR — Gretchen Wilson may be an award winning country music artist, but she is still a small-town Midwestern girl, a trait that will fit in well with the Decatur Celebration audience.

Wilson will perform the evening of Friday, Aug, 3, on the main show stage during the Decatur Celebration.

Originally from Pocahontas, about a 30-minute drive west of Vandalia, Wilson was raised on classic country music with a little classic rock mixed in. She credits Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Jr. and AC/DC as her influences. “All of the outlaws,” she said.

The impact of powerful musical acts can be seen in Wilson’s own rough-edged sound. She found success with in first single in 2004, “Redneck Woman.”

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"Here for the Party" and "Homewrecker" added to her reputation as a hitmaker.

Although she appreciates her influences, the singer has her own style and it is most easily seen in her concerts.

“It is not like you will need to stay in your seat,” Wilson said. “Come very well-hydrated and come ready to rock.”

Her concerts are filled with various styles. Wilson said she begins with her early hits. She keeps going by introducing some of her current work. “Then we do classic rock, like Heart, Cheap Trick,” she said. “It’s all my style.”

Wilson only recently returned to producing music and touring after taking three years off to raise her teenage daughter Grace. “I needed to be there to answer her crucial questions,” Wilson said.

It was her daughter who suggested she return to making music. “She encouraged me to get back to writing,” Wilson said. “I’ve been excited to be back out there, but the hiatus was what I needed.”

Another accomplishment Wilson was able to achieve was obtaining her GED. She realized one day she needed to finish this part of her life not only for herself, but also as an example for her daughter and her fans.

“It is important, because it is an accomplishment for the generations after,” Wilson said. “I was fortunate with my life, but it could have easily gone the other way.”

Wilson teamed up with Dollar General as sponsors of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, an adult literacy and education program. Wilson left school after the ninth grade. “And math isn’t easy at 36,” she said. “Stick it out, it is easier when you are in 12th grade.”

During her time away from the microphone, she was able to sign another artist to her record label. Jessie G is working her way up the country music charts with her song “Army Ranger.” Originally from a blue-collar neighborhood in Oregon, Jessie G is a songwriter with a hard working style. “I am amazed by her work ethic,” Wilson said.

The up-and-coming musician will open for Wilson during Friday evening’s show. Wilson describes the young singer’s style as similar to her own. “But they are going to have to see her live,” Wilson said. “That’s the way country music works.”

The ladies travel together along with the crews and musicians in two busses. “It is one big happy family,” Wilson said.

She believes she will probably see her actual family during her stop in Decatur. Although Wilson now lives in Tennessee, she has many relatives living in Central Illinois.

“Everybody I know will show up any time I get to play around my hometown,” Wilson said.

Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR

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"Together Decatur" Columnist and Food and Drink Reporter

“Together Decatur” columnist and food and drink reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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