Playing herself is one of the most thrilling roles Rita Wilson has had in her 40+ years in the entertainment business.
The actress-producer-turned-singer-songwriter is currently on tour in support of her eponymous album, which is filled with heart-on-sleeve, fiercely personal tracks. Whether it’s via a love song to husband Tom Hanks, such as “Every Day,” or a tune inspired by her recent battle with breast cancer, “Crying, Crying,” Wilson’s music is knocking down privacy walls.
“With acting, you have a character you can hide behind and with music, it’s just you out there – front and center – with your emotional life,” the now cancer-free Wilson tells Rolling Stone Country. “You have to approach songwriting as something stripped-down, vulnerable.”
It’s that vulnerability that boosts Wilson’s relatability — which is apparent during her show’s meet-and-greets. The California native not only does pre-show fan gatherings but also tends to stick around after her set to sign every CD.
“People will come up and say something like, ‘I just lost my mom to Alzheimer’s.’ I lost my mom to Alzheimer’s, so a song like ‘Still Gone’ affected her,” Wilson recalls, referring to the tear-jerking tune she penned with Jessi Alexander and Jon Randall about the passing of her mom and two girlfriends. “Or somebody will come up and love something like ‘Girls Night In.’ So many women say, ‘That’s our song!’ I love hearing that because you don’t really know who’s going to listen to it or respond to it. . . so it’s great to meet fans and hear from them.”
The singer made a Nashville stop on her cross-country tour last week, playing most all of the tracks from her new LP, as well as a few from her debut album, AM/FM. She stopped by our studios the next day, still on a high from the soulful performance and from the enthusiastic, packed audience at City Winery.
“I’m having the best time ever,” she says of touring. “When I did the album, I didn’t know who was going to listen to it. I didn’t have expectations, but I knew I wanted to share the music. . . If someone is hearing that and is feeling a complicity in the experience, then that makes me really happy. That’s what we do it for!”
While Wilson has by no means left the acting world – she stars in both HBO’s Girls and the upcoming film Brothers in Law, among other big-screen projects – the veteran entertainer is “here to stay,” she enthuses, in the songwriting world.
“I’m addicted, obsessed!” she says with a smile. “I can’t stop writing! It’s the most creatively satisfying thing I’ve ever done. Songwriting is something that I connect to, and I wish I’d been doing it forever.”
The Rita Wilson album has been out less than two months, and the newly-minted musician is already plotting her next two LPs. She says she’s leaning toward making one a concept album and the other packed with more of her original material.
Check out Wilson’s tour dates here.