The first time Anne Wilson performed for an audience was at her brother’s funeral.
Now, the Lexington native says she believes God is using the tragedy in her life to reach others with a message of hope and love.
Wilson’s debut single, “My Jesus,” released earlier this year, hit number one on Billboard’s Christian Airplay and its Hot Christian Songs charts.
The official music video has been viewed more than six million times on YouTube since it was released in April.
And Wilson recently achieved every country musician’s dream. She played the Grand Ole Opry, performing “My Jesus,” along with two other songs, “Devil” and “No Place Like Home.”
“It’s just been the craziest five months,” she said in a recent interview.
Wilson, 19, began playing piano when she was 6, but it was not until the death of her elder brother, Jacob Wilson, in a car crash in downtown Lexington in 2017 that she thought of turning music into a career.
“Losing him was a very traumatic time in my life,” she said. “Our family was so depressed. ...There were times when we didn’t know if we’d get through it.”
Wilson channeled her grief at the piano. Her mother heard her singing Hillsong Worship’s “What A Beautiful Name” and asked her to consider singing at the funeral. She ultimately decided she would.
Wilson said she sat down at the piano in that room full of mourners and heard the voice of God.
“He said, ‘Anne, this is what I’m calling you to do. I’m calling you to praise and worship my name,’” she said.
Soon afterward, Wilson said friends and family encouraged her to make a video, and she did, posting it to YouTube.
It was that video that caught the eye of record executives at Capitol Christian Music Group.
Wilson signed with the record label in October 2019 and moved to Nashville to pursue her music career in May 2020, after graduating from high school.
Capitol CMG says “My Jesus” is the label’s “largest debut single launch for a new artist in a decade.”
Sharing her faith through music
“My Jesus,” which Wilson wrote with Matthew West and Jeff Pardo, is inspired by a phrase she noticed when reading back over her journal. She realized that whenever she mentioned Jesus, she always referred to him as “My Jesus.”
She said her musical influences include country greats Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton.
“I also love bluegrass music,” she said.
Wilson grew up attending Tates Creek Presbyterian Church.
“I always knew about the Lord, but I didn’t know him personally,” she said, until she was in seventh grade.
She graduated last year from Veritas Christian Academy, a university-model school that her mother helped found. Students attend school two or three days a week and learn at home with their parents the other days.
Wilson said that model allowed her and her siblings to pursue creative endeavors, like music and design.
“It also taught us how to be responsible,” Wilson said. “It was the perfect environment for us.”
Wilson’s sister, Elizabeth, 23, runs her own clothing company, Elizabeth Wilson Designs, out of Lexington and acts as Anne Wilson’s designer and stylist.
Wilson is preparing to tour with fellow Christian artists Big Daddy Weave beginning later this month. She said she’ll release three Christmas songs in October, followed by a Christmas tour with Zach Williams in December.
And after that?
“I’m very, just, open to whatever God has for me,” Wilson said. “I just want to do what he has for me in my life.”