Anne Wilson Never Sang in Public Until Her Brother's Funeral — and Now, She's a Grammy Nominee

"I just started to cry my eyes out, thinking about how far God's taken me since losing my brother," she says of her best contemporary Christian music album nomination

anne wilson. Credit: Cameron Powell.
Anne Wilson. Photo: Cameron Powell

Anne Wilson adored her big brother.

"He was my best friend," Wilson, 20, tells PEOPLE about her brother Jacob. "He was such a kind person. He would never talk bad about anyone. He was the life of a party and always went out of his way to include people that were being left out. He was always that person that you could go to, and you just know that you could trust him. He was an incredible person."

And while eight years separated them, the brother-sister duo would spend many a day driving down the backroads of Kentucky together, listening to country music and dreaming of where life would take them next.

"One of my brother's favorite songs was 'Seminole Wind,'" she says of the John Anderson hit. "My brother had this really cute country voice when he would sing. We would just always blast 'Seminole Wind' in the car," she says with a laugh. "It was the cutest thing."

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But Wilson's brother never heard her sing. That is, until Wilson found the strength to sing at her brother's funeral.

Jacob Wilson was involved in a tragic car accident just before midnight on June 6, 2017 — and it was his sister who sang "What a Beautiful Name" at his service, resulting in a moment that soon went viral.

It was Wilson's first public performance, and it was that performance that changed the trajectory of Wilson's life forevermore, as the Kentucky native who once dreamed of becoming an astronaut went on to use her voice to become one of contemporary Christian music's most dynamic trailblazers.

"God had such different plans for me," reflects Wilson, whose debut single "My Jesus" went straight to No. 1 on the Billboard Christian Airplay chart in 2021. "What He's done in my life has been just so extraordinary. It's been very interesting to see how you have an idea for your life and then He has another idea. It can be completely different, but it's everything that you ever needed and everything you ever dreamed of."

anne wilson. Credit: Cameron Powell.
Anne Wilson. Cameron Powell

And now, Wilson serves as the sole female Grammy nominee in the category for best contemporary Christian music album for her debut album My Jesus. She found out about the life-altering nomination while sitting in a Dunkin' drive-thru.

"I started getting all these text messages and I pulled out my phone and I saw that I had been nominated for a Grammy," remembers Wilson, who made her Grand Ole Opry debut back in 2021. "I was not expecting it at all. I had to pull over and I just started to cry my eyes out, thinking about how far God's taken me since losing my brother."

anne wilson. Credit: Cameron Powell.
Anne Wilson. Cameron Powell

And it is Jacob that she knows would have been so thrilled.

"He would've just called me crying and freaking out about it all," says Wilson, whose new song "Living Water" serves as the feature track for the upcoming Jesus Revolution movie starring Kelsey Grammer. "I know he would be proud of me. yeah. I think he'd definitely be on the road with me, protecting me and watching over me. He would have been my bodyguard. He was supportive of me no matter what I did."

She draws in a deep breath.

"Even though I didn't get a lot of time with [Jacob], I'm grateful for the 15 years I had with him so that I can now kind of model his life and work towards being more and more like him. He was amazing."

The 2023 Grammy Awards will broadcast live on Feb. 5 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS from the Arena.

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