While Rita Wilson is on the phone discussing her debut album, AM/FM, her husband interjects his musical opinions from the background. At the moment, Tom Hanks’s favorite on the new disc is Wilson’s duet with Chris Cornell, “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” Teaming up with stars such as Jackson Browne and Sheryl Crow, among others, Wilson interprets 14 songs, primarily from the ’60s and ’70s.
Q: How did you choose these songs?
A: I grew up with L.A. car culture, so the songs are what I remember hearing on the radio from the backseat and then, once I started driving, what I chose to listen to, which were the singer-songwriters.
Q: How do the AM and FM tracks differ?
A: The AM songs have an innocence to them, and a hopefulness and sweetness. With FM, there’s more disillusionment and sadness. Even back then, I was keenly aware of the shift.
Q: You’re covering songs by great writers like Joni Mitchell and Carole King.
A: I look at it coming from the acting world: You don’t have a character to play unless it’s written. I have so much respect for the songwriters, because they’re creating these beautiful stories that to me are visual. I can picture them.
Q: Did starring in the Broadway musical Chicago a few years ago inspire you to do more singing?
A: Yes, it really reconnected me to music. I had been doing a lot of one-night gigs around L.A., and I thought about doing a play using music. I consulted my friend Jay Landers, an A&R guy at Decca. He said, “Why don’t you make an album?” I thought, He’s reading my mind!
Q: You and Tom are both big music fans.
A: Tom has an encyclopedic knowledge of music and a taste for the obscure, so he likes very specific stuff—sometimes we do not match up on what we like. He loves tinny, ’60s-sounding . . . [Hanks calls out, “A lot of treble!”]
Q: Did you get creative input on AM/FM from your guests?
A: Yes, it was actually Patti Scialfa’s idea to do [the Supremes’] “Come See About Me.” She produced it and did an incredible job. She wanted it to be much darker than the original.
Q: Ever daydream about you and Tom going on the road together, like Patti Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen?
A: If we’re out on the road, it’s going to be in a Winnebago camping! And if there’s a campfire, Tom might pull out a guitar, and we’ll sing together.
Click here to read about how Bonnie Raitt keeps sane during her 90 day tour and what new music she's loving.
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