Brian Wilson is well aware of all those rumors about three different albums he’s working on. But, Wilson cautions, he’s taking one thing at a time.
“We just know the one we’re doing now,” Wilson tells Billboard, referring to a straightforward song album that he says he’s “about two-thirds of the way through. We have eight or nine songs done, and we need three or four more songs. Most of it is very mellow kind of stuff, mellow harmony, not very much rock ‘n’ roll yet. It’ a pretty unique album. It’s very different than anything I’ve ever done.”
Wilson is working on the as-yet-untitled set with longtime cohort Joe Thomas, with Jeff Beck and former Beach Boys mates Al Jardine, David Marks and Blondie Chaplin — who Wilson is touring with through Oct. 30 — all contributing to the sessions. Wilson, who’s also reported to be working on an album of instrumental material and a full-blown suite — says he chose Beck after hearing the guitarist’s rendition of “Surf’s Up” during the 2005 MusiCares Person of the Year gala.
“He really blew my mind, so we thought we’d have him join us on our album,” Wilson explains. “He plays the most goddamn greatest guitar you’ve ever heard. He really brings quality notes, more notes per bar than you can imagine.”
Beck says he’s played on several tracks for the project, including the traditional “Danny Boy,” which is closing shows on the tour, and a suite-like piece he’s been told Wilson composed with the guitarist in mind.
“There’s a style about the melody and the chords that I think he wants to recapture some of the ‘Pet Sounds’ flavor,” Beck reports. “They let me take the melody wherever I wanted the flavor of them to go, but the fact is when you’ve got the backing of Brian’s chords you automatically play West Coast-style guitar. It’s just inbuilt into the essence of what he writes. You can’t do anything far from it, so it’s hard to wedge my style in there, but I’ve tried to do it as best I can.”
Jardine says the material he’s worked on “really feels like the old-style Beach Boys music that people grew up with. They’re very refreshing songs. We haven’t gotten all of it fleshed out yet, so I’m not sure what the rest is going to sound like, but I think people who like Brian and the Beach Boys will like it.” Jardine says Wilson tapped Marks to play guitar on “Run James Run,” which he describes as “a suped-up ‘Little Deuce Coupe’ kind of thing. It’s just cute as hell.”
The tour, meanwhile, has been a musical adventure for all concerned, with Beck and his band performing their own set, Wilson, Jardine and Marks (and occasionally Chaplin) doing theirs and joint performances of “Our Prayer,” “Child is Father to the Man,” “Surf’s Up,” the Regents’ “Barbara Ann,” “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Danny Boy.”
“We groove pretty good together,” Jardine says. “The combination of the two forces of music give it a certain breadth and depth that I think neither of us have experienced before. Jeff has a very melodic sense and is keenly aware of where the chord progressions are going, and it helps us to marry our voices to his progressions. We’re doing some really innovative things.”
Beck acknowledges that the tour roster “is an odd combination, no doubt about it. Whether it works or not, people have to decide. But if it was me walking down the road and I could see Brian Wilson and someone else on guitar doing two disparate kinds of music, I wouldn’t think that was weird at all. I would think it’s like two concerts in one, really, with a little paper clip in the middle.”
Wilson is hoping to finish the next album “some time early next year, maybe.” Meanwhile, filming has also wrapped on the biopic “Love and Mercy,” which Wilson co-produced, directed by Bill Pohland and starring Paul Dano and John Cusack as Wilson at different ages and Paul Giamatti as the controversial Dr. Eugene Landy.
“It’s quite a thrill to have a movie made of my life,” Wilson says. “I’m very sentimental about it, and it’s very, very good. It was a trip to see. The actors and actresses portrayed everybody really well.”
The film is expected to be released during the fourth quarter of 2014.