She wears cowboy hats and loves John Wayne.

Alexis Wilkins, 24, is an emerging star of the country and western scene and an Arkansas Country Music Awards nominee for Female Vocalist of the Year.  Alexis’ new hit single, “Grit”—which will also be the title of her forthcoming album—celebrates one of her favorite virtues. The lyrics are a paean to tenacity and old-fashioned gumption:     

Build a better life, For your truck to park at night
Getting knocked around
You get up off the ground And handle it
Makes you who you are, It’ll take you far
That dirt up on your hands, Ain’t messin’ with your plans
When you think you’re gonna quit, Cause that’s what gives you grit …

“I wrote this song from an idea I had about how things used to be, how strong people were made, and how to keep your chin up when things get rough,” Wilkins explained to Country Note. “I know that having grit has carried me through times in my life and I hope that through this song, people find strength in the discomfort and growth in the tough times. Country music is about real stories, real people, doin’ real life, and I hope that hearing this message is an inspiration to keep going. We’re all striving for better, stronger, more for our family, for our lives, heck, for our dogs. I’ve found that the answer to most problems in life is diggin’ your heels in and finding worth in your own grit.”

“‘Grit’ was the center of the rest of my EP [extended play] album,” she added in speaking to IWF. “I’d always had the title Grit and I loved it because I love John Wayne and I love just the whole idea of the gritty cowboys he played. They stood for something. Grit is something that we’re lacking now. In terms of grit, my generation is different from the ones before it. I really miss the grit of previous generations. They were drafted to fight wars and came home to provide for their families. We’ve been a very fortunate generation not to have to deal with a lot of those things, but I think that we could have used a little bit more of the grit from past generations.”

Wilkins, as you may guess, is an out-of-the-closet conservative, who writes for such outlets as The Daily Caller, Townhall, and Turning Point USA, and is about to launch a show with Prager U. Her previous hit, “Stand,” which rose to number ten on the C&W charts, was released last year in time to coincide with Veterans Day. Wilkins works with Warrior Rounds, Operation Standdown, and Soldier’s Child and performs in veterans’ hospitals through the Musicians on Call program. With the controversy over Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town” rocking country music and the world beyond, IWF asks Wilkins to comment. 

“It certainly is an interesting time for country music,” she replies, “and I think that we’ve been building up to this point where people, whether political or not, but who are just plainly patriotic, are growing tired of being silenced for their views. I think Jason Aldean’s song is great. I know the group of people who wrote it too, and I know what they believe; they are patriotic, and representative of small-town values in the best way. I hate to see something get misconstrued, but it’s a healthy conversation within country music, and honestly in the country in general.”

The Nashville-based musician grew up partly in Arkansas—very country—and partly in Europe—not very country. Her father worked for Gillette and her mother worked in aerospace and pharmaceuticals. They lived in England and Switzerland when Alexis was very young. She attended the College du Lemon International School in Switzerland (also once attended by Tucker Carlson), but her father’s next job took the family to Fayetteville, Arkansas when Alexis was nine.

Wilkins is an out-of-the-closet conservative, who writes for such outlets as The Daily Caller, Townhall, and Turning Point USA, and who is about to launch a show with Prager U.

And did the European sophisticate snub the Arkansans? “It is one of my favorite places I have lived,” she tells IWF. “I loved it that everybody knew each other. Everybody went to the same elementary school, and then they went to the same middle school, and the community depended on each other. I was so excited to be a part of it.” Alexis is an only child. Her admiration for veterans started with her family. “My family has always been huge veteran supporters and I come from a line of veterans,” she explains. “My great-grandpa was in World War II and then my papa was in the Korean War. And my parents were always really big advocates of history, and learning history, because history learned does not repeat itself. I was never the kid in history class who asked, ‘Why do we have to learn this?’”

“I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading something that was historical because ingrained in me. And so, as I grew older, I started to realize that, while my parents were teaching me supplementary things and having me read books, I started collecting old history books because I realized that I wasn’t learning certain things in school. This really came to a head when I wasn’t taught about the Korean War. And my papa served in the Korean War. He was in the Navy. It was a big part of his life. It was something that helped him come back to the States, start a family, and go to college. He was the son of Armenian immigrants who fled genocide. My passion for veterans started through conversations with him. Veterans’ causes and history go hand in hand.”

She started writing songs early and by the time college rolled around, she was already working in the field. That helped her decide on her college, Belmont University in Nashville. There she ran up against what she considers woke academia, even at a “private Christ-centered” college such as Belmont. “I was given an F in comparative politics because of my beliefs,” she recalls. “I think you can guess that I’ve never gotten an F. I really liked school.  I worked hard and got As, you know, and I was given an F in this class. Just a little background on the professor. He started off every class with 15 minutes of German punk music. I calculated that this was $60 in my tuition. And then he would start class, he didn’t really lecture off of the reading that we were assigned to do. He didn’t grade papers. He went off on tangents. He allowed others to go off on tangents. He allowed kids to become enraged when anyone would disagree with them.”

Wilkins, who believes her experience was typical of what conservative students face on many campuses, recently wrote a piece for Turning Point USA headlined “Belmont: Groupthink Leftism Under a Religious Veil.” Wilkins’ article painted a picture of a Christian school in the deep south that might not be at all what one expects. She wrote about a professor who encouraged a student to write a thesis on Christ as “an advocate for queer love.” Another student, as part of an exam, was asked to proofread an erotic novel promoting “debauchery, substance use (it should be noted that Belmont is a dry campus,) and idolizing immorality.”

“I think that if you have people who are less informed than the generations before them, they’re more easily controlled,” she says. “It’s happened in other societies.”

She worries that colleges aren’t equipping students to be good citizens and that the rising generation is not being prepared for citizenship. “I think that if you have people who are less informed than the generations before them, they’re more easily controlled,” she says. “It’s happened in other societies. Kids in the last couple of years through social media, through their college classes, have softened up. You can post one thing on social media and it takes off like wildfire and you have all these people who are very easily influenced.

“I don’t think it’s an accident that social media uses the term ‘influencers.’ We have a mass group of people who can be pushed in a certain direction, and if you create a problem and then you act like you’re providing a solution, the people who are coming into the electorate will vote for that solution. They’re not going to look at the economy and ask ‘What do I actually think of this policy? What do I actually think of foreign policy?’ They’re going to think the instant gratification of, oh, this person is offering to solve my problem. I will vote for this person because they will solve my problem. Many people in my generation don’t have the historical context to understand that often when that person says they’re going to solve your problem, they in fact are not going to solve any of your problems. It’s just kind of the big machine of getting certain people into certain positions.”

Alexis plans to do her bit to correct this with her forthcoming show from Prager U. It will be a news show and will air soon. While Alexis believes the controversies in country music (such as the one over Jason Aldean) are ultimately healthy, she does acknowledge that country music is at a crossroads. “Country has always been a space for truth, and for people to tell stories that matter,” she says. “People use their voices to say something in country music, but over the years, the narrative overall in the entertainment industry has attempted to shift, which is why I am contributing to political journalism, while also being a country music artist.”

She concludes, “I want to do my part to keep patriotism alive in country music.”