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Culture

With Songwriting, Greek-American Actress Rita Wilson Finds New Voice

 

 

NEW YORK — “Crying, Crying,” the second track on Rita Wilson’s new album, describes the complexity the actress-singer faced last year after learning she had breast cancer.

“I’m going to all these doctor’s appointments in the morning, but at night I’m going off and doing this comedy,” she said of starring in “Fish in the Dark” with Larry David on Broadway. “It’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m out here, I’m doing a comedy, I’m laughing!’ But you go home and you’re thinking about what’s going to happen in your life and are you going to be OK?”

“Crying, Crying,” which features Wilson singing honest lyrics over a fun beat, is one of many tunes she co-wrote — a first for the performer — for “Rita Wilson,” to be released Friday. She’s found a new voice in songwriting and collaborated with a number of well-known producers and writers to craft a country-pop record that’s cohesive throughout the 15 tracks.

The album was co-written with Dan Wilson, who had in hand in writing iconic songs like Adele’s “Someone Like You” and the Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready to Make Nice.” Other collaborators include Babyface (Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton), Stephan Moccio (The Weeknd, Miley Cyrus), Sugarland’s Kristian Bush, Ron Aniello (Bruce Springsteen) and Nathan Chapman, who was a producer on all five Taylor Swift albums.

After her first album, 2012’s “AM/FM,” Wilson was encouraged to write songs by her friend Kara DioGuardi, the popular songwriter who has worked with Carrie Underwood, Christina Aguilera and Kelly Clarkson.

“(She asked), ‘Do you have anything you want to say?’ And I said, ‘Yes,'” Wilson recalled.

That’s when they wrote “Grateful.” And Wilson cried.

“This is exactly what I wanted to do,” she said of writing a song that captured her emotions. “‘Grateful’ has a very special place in my heart … because it’s reflective of what I’ve been through in the last few years in my life.”

After creating 30 songs in Los Angeles and Nashville, Tennessee, Wilson realized she had a full album of new material.

Not all of the tracks on “Rita Wilson” are based personal experiences, but some hit home: “Still Gone” is about “losing my dad and my two girlfriends in a very short period of time,” and “Girls Night In” describes a night during which Wilson and her girlfriends trade their stilettos for sweatpants.

“I got all my girlfriends together and we rented a small studio in the neighborhood and we had a choreographer come in and teach us all the dance moves for Janet Jackson’s ‘All for You,'” she said with a laugh.

Wilson, who has appeared in a number of films and TV shows and is married to Tom Hanks, recently performed a number of shows at the Cafe Carlyle in New York City. She will launch a tour March 29 in Solana Beach, California, to support the album.

She’ll combine her film and music worlds with the upcoming “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” a film she produced, has a role in and wrote music for. She sings on the track, “Even More Mine,” which appears at the end of the movie.

“Strong Tonight,” from her new album, will be covered by Connie Britton’s character on the TV series “Nashville.”

The 59-year-old performer said she was afraid to tackle music in the beginning.

“We all, I think, are really scared to take chances and to try new things, and … we put ourselves in boxes and we just say, ‘I can’t do this,'” she said. “I think to be able to have music right now at this point in my life is such a huge blessing, but … I had to get over whatever judgment you feel is going to come at you. I’m not 25 years old, so hopefully people will be buying this.”

MESFIN FEKADU, AP Music Writer

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