If Rita Wilson's well-received 2012 collection AM/FM was an introduction to her as a singer, with its tasteful arrangement of pop and country covers, her self-titled second album should serve as an intro to Wilson the serious songwriter.
The actress, producer and musician initially started working on the album, which will be released March 11th, back in 2013 after collaborating with Kara DioGuardi (Kelly Clarkson's "Walk Away"). With the assistance of Jason Reeves, Wilson and DioGuardi penned two songs and kick-started a new obsession.
"She got me hooked. I believed in the songs and I absolutely loved the process," Wilson tells Rolling Stone Country. "It was so rewarding and so intimate. To me it felt like a connection that I feel we're missing out on in our daily lives. So it's taking that time out to actually reveal yourself and have others reveal themselves to you and be writing about something that is important or you want to get off your chest."
The songs on Rita Wilson reflect that confessional approach, ranging from the breezy, carefree album opener "Along for the Ride" to the grieving lament "Still Gone." On the way, she sings in a honeyed coo reminiscent of Joni Mitchell — appropriately, she has a song called "Joni" on the record — about communication ("Talking to Me"), female friendship ("Girls Night In") and vulnerability ("Strong Tonight"), offering a multi-hued look at the complexity of grown-up life.
"They're totally reflective of me," she says. "They're just my personality and how I listened to music. I listened to music growing up on AM radio and everything was multi-genre and you could listen to everything and I don't feel as people we only listen to one thing. We listen to all sorts of different things. I mean, I'm not going AWOL, having Kanye [West] rap on the album with me or anything like that."
Wilson had a hand in writing all 15 songs, working in Nashville and L.A. with heavyweight professional songwriters like DioGuardi, Dan Wilson, Darrell Brown and Kristian Bush — a nerve-wracking process for the fledgling songwriter.
"It's incredibly intimidating," admits Wilson, who will be touring in March and April once the album arrives. "Imagine if you had a crush on someone you've loved from afar and they ask you out on a date — it's like that."
Over the course of a few writing sessions, Wilson and Bush penned "Every Day" (listen to the song below). Rather than make a broad statement about love, Wilson lets listeners in on her marriage to Oscar winner Tom Hanks by focusing on the endearing details that add up to a complete picture of marital bliss.
"Kristian gave me an assignment. He goes, 'Write down everything that you love about Tom,'" she recalls. "So I just did the stream-of-consciousness thing. And you pick out the things that really work. That really is a song for my beautiful, wonderful husband."
Though she does admit she may have fudged a few of the details — like Hanks' preferred type of sunglasses — in the service of song cohesion.
"Tom said to me when he heard the song, 'I don't wear Aviators,'" she says. "I go, 'No, but you wear Ray-Bans and that's close enough.' It's better than Wayfarers; Wayfarers has been used in a song already — Don Henley did it!"
That freedom to invent and tell stories musically is consistently rewarding for Wilson, who has continued to churn out new ideas even though she's out of the studio. And though she probably won't include Kanye, she'll have plenty of material for when she gets ready to record her third album.
"Even though the album's finished, I'm still writing more songs," she says. "I love the process. I can't tell you what it's like, but it's creatively one of the most satisfying things that I've ever been able to do."
Rita Wilson Track List:
1. Along for the Ride
2. Crying Crying
3. Talking to Me
4. Forgiving Me Forgiving You
5. Say Yes
6. Strong Tonight
7. What You See is What You Get
9. In the Dark
10. Stay Low
11. Every Day
12. Girls Night In
13. I’m Guilty
14. Still Gone
Upcoming Tour Dates:
Feb. 23 – March 5 – New York @ Café Carlyle
March 29 – Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up Tavern
March 30 – West Hollywood, CA @ Troubadour
April 1-2 – San Francisco @ Feinstein's at Hotel Nikko
April 5 – Beaver Creek, CO @ Vilar Performing Arts Center
April 6 – Englewood, CO @ Gothic Theatre
April 8 – Dallas @ Kessler Theater
April 9 – Austin @ Stateside at the Paramount
April 12 – Clearwater, FL @ Capitol Theater
April 14 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Broward Center for the Performing Arts
April 15 – Ponte Vedra Beach, FL @ Ponte Vedra Concert Hall
April 17 – Athens, GA @ The Foundry
April 19 – Nashville @ City Winery
April 21 – Durham, NC @ Carolina Theatre of Durham
April 23 – Annapolis, MD @ Rams Head On Stage
April 24 – Vienna, VA @ The Barns at Wolf Trap
April 26 – Boston @ The Wilbur Theatre
April 27 – Ridgefield, CT @ Ridgefield Playhouse
April 29 – South Orange, NJ @ South Orange Performing Arts Center
April 30 – Philadelphia @ World Café Live
May 3 – Chicago @ City Winery
May 4 – Milwaukee, WI @ Turner Hall Ballroom