‘These Are Some Of The Greatest Voices Of Our Time,’ Says Rita Wilson Of Her New Duets Album.


Rita Wilson went to the Kia Forum in Los Angeles earlier this year to see the Eagles perform the hits that kept the band at the top of the charts in the 1970s and can still be heard on classic rock radio today. She noticed two young men in their twenties singing along with her. During intermission, she turned to ask them how they knew the songs and realised they were Lewis Capaldi of One Direction and Niall Horan of British singer/songwriter Lewis Capaldi. “‘I grew up on this music,’ [Lewis] said. “It’s just everything I know about music,” Wilson says, impersonating Capaldi’s British accent.


It confirmed to her that her new album, Rita Wilson Now & Forever: Duets, would be a hit not only with her peers, but also with younger generations raised on their parents’ 50-year-old pop classics. The album, which was released on her own Orchard-distributed Sing It Loud imprint on Tuesday (Sept. 27), features the singer/actress performing primarily soft-rock hits from the 1970s, such as “Without You,” “Crazy Love,” “Slip Slidin’ Away,” and “If,” with a slew of male artists, including Willie Nelson and Smokey Robinson, as well as country stars Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, and Vince

Wilson considers these songs to be her version of the Great American Songbook, a term that refers to many jazz and Broadway show tunes that became standards between the 1920s and 1950s. “I have a theory that some of those songwriters were writing from an incredibly personal point of view for characters in musicals,” she says during a Zoom interview in mid-September, “and when singer-songwriters started to emerge out of the ’60s, I think you have this same feeling of people writing from a very personal point of view [into the ’70s].”


Wilson and co-producer Matt Rollings narrowed down their initial list of nearly 150 ’70s songs to those that could be remade as duets (the only song on the album that was originally recorded by a duo is Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’s “Where Is the Love”). “It was about how to reinvent the story as a duet, a conversation between two people,” she says.

They then started reaching out to her wish list of collaborators to cast the album. Nelson was the first to sign on for a reimagining of Paul Simon’s “Slip Slidin’ Away” as a conversation between a long-term couple.


“They’re having a conversation about life,” Wilson says. “I found an enormous poignancy in Willie singing it, despite the fact that he’s probably one of the most vibrant and vital performers out there.” ‘Is Willie really slip sliding away?’ I wonder. “I don’t believe so,” she says of the 89-year-old legend.

She admits that competing with artists such as Nelson and Robinson was intimidating. “It’s all terrifying,” she says. “Even though I’ve been doing this for ten years and have a number of albums under my belt, I started relatively late.” And so the fact that these artists have come on board and anointed [the project] makes it feel like you’re going to church. It’s humbling to work with any of these people. I’m amazed by them.”

Wilson says that recording only with men was a nod to the traditional duets of her youth and the Great American Songbook classics, but she also looks ahead: “Because we need a Now & Forever Volume 2: Female Duets.” “With God’s help!”

Wilson will begin a two-week residency at New York’s Café Carlyle on October 25 to celebrate the release of the album. During the first week, she will perform songs from her new album with actor and former The Tenors member Fraser Walters. The second week will be a continuation of her Rita Wilson’s Liner Notes series, in which she will be joined in the round by songwriters. Wilson adds that she would like to tour the album with full orchestras at venues such as the Hollywood Bowl and Virginia’s historic Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.

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