Rita Wilson stares down her own mortality on the inspiring new single, “Throw Me a Party.” Wilson carries the buoyant tempo with her soft croon that seems to float above a pristine blend of piano, drums and guitar. The lyrics, cowritten by Wilson, Liz Rose and Sugarland’s Kristian Bush, reflect that balance with pain and resolve. “So when I’m gone throw me a party/You should dance as if I was there/Don’t be sad or be broken-hearted/Just send your voices up in the air.”
“Party” was inspired by a heart-rending conversation Wilson had with her husband, Tom Hanks, after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I had so many different thoughts,” Wilson said. “You’re scared, anxious, you think about your own mortality. So I had a serious discussion with my husband that if anything happens, what I’d like is a party, a celebration.”
The poignant discussion that led to “Throw Me a Party” also set the tone for Halfway to Home, her fourth solo album after 2018’s Bigger Picture, which arrives March 29th. Much of the new LP was written during a five-day writers’ camp, where Wilson also worked with a host of prominent songwriters known for their powerful, female-driven narratives like Mozella (Madonna, Kelly Clarkson), Mitch Allan (Demi Lovato) and Kara DioGuardi (Pink). The album was co-produced by Taylor Swift’s longtime producer, Nathan Chapman.
In that vein, Halfway to Home finds Wilson pulling from musical traditions that revere deep storytelling (Southern California rock, classic Nashville country), which was a hallmark for her growing up. “The thing that grabbed me in music were the stories – like ‘Ode to Billie Joe,’ which is full of mystery, intrigue and tension, or the Beatles’ ‘She’s Leaving Home,’ which made me wonder about each person in that story; the mother, the father, and the girl,” said Wilson. “Even in those songs, though, there was still a great hook, where you’re able to sing along and lose yourself in a moment.”
Wilson has performed a handful of shows in 2019 already, though her only currently scheduled concert is a set at Stagecoach, which takes place April 26th through 28th in Indio, California. The crowd will be one of the biggest Wilson has ever played to, and she touched on how significant performing live has been to her continued evolution as an artist.
“I learn from [the audience] as much as I learn from anything – they’re as much a part of the creative process as anyone,” she said. “As a creative person, you just do what you do and you have to stay out of the results. You hope people respond, but you can’t change yourself or try to follow something – tell the truth, tell your stories, and hope that people find it.”