Lainey Wilson Says She's Been 'Preparing' for Music Stardom Since Age 9: There Was No 'Plan B' (Exclusive)

"I've known that this is my calling, and there's nothing else that I want to do," the singer-songwriter told PEOPLE on the 2023 ACM Awards red carpet

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic Lainey Wilson
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic Lainey Wilson

Winning four trophies at the 2023 ACM Awards on Thursday was a testament to Lainey Wilson's longtime dedication to her craft.

The singer-songwriter spoke to PEOPLE on the red carpet of the 58th Academy of Country Music Awards, opening up about how she's worked toward a career in music since she was a young child.

"I wrote my first song at 9 years old," said Wilson. "I'm about to be 31 years old this year, and it's like I've been preparing ever since I was 9 years old."

The "Heart Like a Truck" performer continued, "I've known that this is my calling, and there's nothing else that I want to do, that I can do, and I've always just kind of been like, "No plan B, this is it." I feel like that time that I've had to prepare, I don't know… If it happened when I wanted it to, I don't know that I would have been ready."

Check out PEOPLE's full ACM Awards coverage to get the latest news on country's big night.

Jason Kempin/Getty Lainey Wilson
Jason Kempin/Getty Lainey Wilson

Related:Lainey Wilson Celebrates a New Album and Six CMA Nominations: 'It Really Is Insane'

Before taking home four awards at the ceremony — album of the year for Bell Bottom Country and female artist of the year as well as visual media of the year and music event of the year for "wait in the truck" with HARDY — she spoke about how it felt to be nominated.

"Well, first of all, all I ever wanted was to be part of the country music industry. I remember just dreaming about that, like, 'Oh my gosh, it would be so cool to just know these people and call them and get advice,' and I feel that way," explained Wilson.

"I feel like country music has finally decided to love me back as much as I've been loving it for my whole life. It feels good to be recognized. If we take some stuff home tonight, your girl's going to party! I'm throwin' a party," she added.

Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images Lainey Wilson and HARDY
Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images Lainey Wilson and HARDY

Related:Lainey Wilson Is Dating Former NFL Player Devlin 'Duck' Hodges: Couple Make Their Debut at 2023 ACM Awards

Thinking back to her early days in Nashville, the Louisiana native revealed the advice she'd give to her young self: "I'd say, 'It's gonna be a hell of a ride, you better hold on for dear life and it's gonna look a lot better than you ever even thought."

Also on the ACM Awards red carpet, Wilson made her first appearance with former Pittsburgh Steelers player Devlin "Duck" Hodges, and PEOPLE confirmed the pair are dating.

Wilson wore a flowing all-green look complete with a cape, feathered shoulders and her signature bell bottom pants paired with a green brimmed hat, while Hodges, 27, donned a casual blue suit with a white shirt, bolo tie and cream cowboy hat.

Theo Wargo/WireImage Devlin "Duck" Hodges and Lainey Wilson
Theo Wargo/WireImage Devlin "Duck" Hodges and Lainey Wilson

Related:Lainey Wilson Jokes a Tequila Shot Calmed Her Down for Big Night at 2023 CMT Awards (Exclusive)

Over the past few months, Hodges posted several tweets praising Wilson's music. "Lainey Wilson damnnn she's so gooooood," he wrote on Twitter in April.

At the end of the month, Wilson and her band wore Steelers jerseys with Hodges' name and number on it during a performance — sending the athlete into a tailspin. "Did she really?!?! Y'all are lying !!!! @laineywilson holla at me !!!" he wrote, replying to a fan who informed him of the moment.

"This is me hollerin," Wilson responded, to which Hodges wrote back, "OH.MY.GOD hello."

The 58th Academy of Country Music Awards aired live from Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas.

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