The B-52s' Cindy Wilson Is Going Solo On Her Own Terms With 'CHANGE': Song Premiere

Sean Dunn
The B-52s

While The B-52s have been enjoying their 40th anniversary, seminal member Cindy Wilson has some celebrating of her own to do. After releasing two EPs during the past two years, Wilson is finally putting out a solo full-length.

It’s hard to believe this is the first album Wilson is putting out throughout the entirety of her career. With her forthcoming LP CHANGE, Wilson was able to experiment with her own creativity and learn about music in an entirely different light. The result is something melodic, calm even, and at times fueled by disco-tinged rhythms.

Although CHANGE is a solo effort, Wilson talks about it as a collective project: one she did with collaborators Suny Lyons and Ryan Monahan. In addition, drummer Lemuel Hayes assisted with the writing and recording of CHANGE, as he and Monahan have been performing with Wilson for several years. Suny eventually joined the team after he was brought in as an engineer and producer for the project. For Wilson, she sees the collaborative record as an art-piece: something that should be enjoyed in full, which is why the live component is so important to her (she’s touring in support of the record).  

Leading up to its release, we’re premiering the breezy, 70s-inspired track “No One Can Tell You” today (Sept. 5). Wilson filled Billboard in on the new single, going the PledgeMusic route with her record and how she’s changed along with the music industry. Check out the video, our interview and Wilson's tour dates below.

Why release your debut album now?

We’ve been writing and experimenting to be creative. A friend of mine, Ryan Monahan, is such a good musician, and we just decided to go into the studio and kick it around for fun. We weren’t expecting anything, really. It turned out great, and I met Suny Lyons... it was his studio. It became really clear that Suny would have to be a part of the project because he’s full of ideas and melodies. The band was starting to form early on. After about three years, we’ve had enough songs to put out.

I decided I didn’t want it just to be an album: there was no live show to go with it. The music comes alive when you actually perform it in front of a crowd. Last February, we went to SXSW and had the show rehearsed. We performed, did a lot of interviews and met Portia [Sabin] from Kill Rock Stars. They were really interested in helping us with the project and putting it out. To me, it was really crucial to have that partnership. The record is coming out in November, which is fantastic -- I’m really pleased with the way it turned out.

What’s going on with the B-52s?

We’re on our 40th anniversary. It’s going to be a very busy year for The B-52s too. Life isn’t always like this, so you just have to go forward and embrace it. That’s what we’re going to do: tour with the solo project as well. The B-52s will definitely be playing, but the solo project is separate.

Can you tell me about the disco-tinged sound you crafted? What were you listening to when you made the record?

Tame Impala and I love the psychedelia. To me it sounds like Blind Faith and old bands from back in the freak days. It just hit a nerve to me. I was just really feeling that sound. I think Suny was into electronica. He had a lot of great ideas about that. Ryan comes up with beautiful melodies and is such a fantastic musician and vocalist. It’s really fun to be harmonizing and doing male vocals. I’ve always harmonized with Kate [Pierson], so it’s cool to be harmonizing with guys. It’s the influence of all of the people in the band.

Tell me about the single “No One Can Tell You.”

That was one of the earlier songs we came up with. I have my own interpretation, and I hate to put out my interpretation because to another person the lyrics have a different meaning. We’ve never done that, so I’m not going to do that. I’ve been learning to sing in a different way on this project, so I had to really calm down. It’s like acting almost: you don’t need to put out so much of your emotions, but just enough to get the meaning across. I think it really helps with the emotions and the music.

Why did you go through PledgeMusic for this record?

That’s the modern thing to do! I’m learning a lot from younger musicians. This is what you do these days, and it helps with promotion and gets the audience involved. It’s a lot of fun, too. It’s totally different than the world of the B-52s. I get to start over again and do it the way everyone else is doing it these days. We’ve gotten offers to cook people’s dinners. It helps with paying for the project and paying people’s salaries. It’s been a really fantastic time learning so much.

Do you feel like this is going to be the first of many solo records for you?

We’ve got songs that are halfway done for the second [record]. We’re still writing and are taking the time to meet. It’s really going to be hectic to keep the creative side of it going as well.

Is there a theme to the record?

It seems to be an inward look into the soul for me. It’s one of those albums like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band where the album just flows. It’s an art project where you come to see the live show. It’s a mixed-media event. It’s like a musical.

How did you come up with the title CHANGE?

We were sitting around trying to come up with a good name for it that would express the body of work for it. CHANGE seemed to be a clear and precise name for it. It’s a change for me to leave the world of the B-52s, and also be able to change and have a different creative outlet.


Do you care if B-52s fans enjoy your record? Are you targeting those fans?

We’re targeting whoever it speaks to. There are fans that are curious and coming over. I’ve had the most incredible notes [about it] -- that they didn’t know what to expect, but were blown away by the whole project.

You’ve said yourself the music industry has changed in your eyes. How so? How have you been affected by it?

When The B-52s started in the late ‘70s, music and the business was totally different. Obviously it’s easier for everyone to be able to work with music, record and get good quality. There are a lot of good bands now, and it’s hard to compete with so many bands. At the same time, it’s wonderful because more people get to work in music because it’s good for the soul. I’ve told older friends to pick up the guitar because it’s a great way to express yourself. It’s not all about making money: it’s about creating art and working with other people. It’s a journey, and it’s a really fun thing to do.

In the old days as The B-52s, we had to make our own fun. With the solo stuff, we were unpretentious about it. We were just seeing how things go. Every step of the way we’ve proved ourselves. I’m glad we’re getting to start over again because this is where the thrill of building comes in. That’s what The B-52s had, and that’s what this project has as well.

TOUR DATES

Sep 6 Toronto, ON @ Lee's Palace
Sept 8 Syracuse @ Funk N Waffles
Sept 9  Boston @ Middle East
Sep 10 Brooklyn, NY @ The Bell House
Sep 11 Brooklyn, NY @ Knitting Factory

Nov 10 Atlanta, GA @ The EARL
Nov 11 Jackson, MS @ Duling Hall
Nov 12 New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa
Nov 13 Austin, TX @ 3TEN Austin City Limits Live
Nov 15 Salt Lake City, UT @ Metro Music Hall
Nov 16 Denver, CO @ Marquis Theatre
Nov 17 Kansas City, MO @ The Riot Room
Nov 19 Louisville, KY @ Zanzabar
Nov 29 Birmingham, AL @ Saturn

Dec 3 Durham, NC @ Motorco Music Hall
Dec 4 Washington, DC @ Black Cat
Dec 7 Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey
Dec 9 Portland, OR @ Star Theater
Dec 11 San Francisco, CA @ Cafe Du Nord
Dec 12 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo