Rita Wilson will join the slashie ranks -- aka, actor/musician -- this February with the release of her debut album. Wilson discussed the album, titled "AM/FM" (Feb. 7, Decca), during a surprise appearance at the Billboard/Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Music Conference on Tuesday (Oct. 25).
The bubbly Wilson, aka Mrs. Tom Hanks, was inspired by memories of growing up in Los Angeles, telling the crowd, "We used to sit in the back seat of our parent's car, hear songs on the AM radio and sing along."
Later on, when Wilson got her driver's license, the music had changed and moved to the FM broadcast band, where she heard the singer-songwriters that dominated L.A. music in the early '70s. Thus, one half of the album is dedicated to her versions of classic pop, and the other to the folk-rock songs of her teens.
Wilson views "AM/FM" as a move out of her comfort zone, though she's not exactly a novice when it comes to music. She appeared as Roxy in the 2006 Broadway revival of "Chicago," and was a producer of the film version of the ABBA-centric musical "Mamma Mia."
Still, most people making their first album would not have Jay Landers, known for his work with Barbara Streisand, as their A&R rep, or have Nashville powerhouse Fred Mullen producing. Wilson admits, though, that she did feel a certain amount of trepidation walking into the studio with such heavyweights -- and simply recording at all.
"So many people have tried to do it and came before me," she said. "I want people to think I deserve to be here, and not someone who woke up one morning and decided to make an album."
But those nerves quickly passed: "I've always felt more comfortable with music than acting," the "Sleepless in Seattle" actress noted.
Wilson said music has always been a part of her life and that listening to the radio growing up was an education.
"You could learn how to sing harmony by listening to the Everly Brothers' "[All I Have To Do] Dream," and learn about melody or songwriting by listening to Carole King. They were not only great songs, but great teachers as well."
Additional reporting by Jillian Mapes, Billboard.