On Wednesday, the day after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, actress/singer Rita Wilson — in attendance at the 13th annual Billboard Touring Conference and Awards at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles — addressed how his victory will affect artists for the next four years.
Wilson, on hand to present the Humanitarian Award to Scooter Braun, said there is now an opportunity for both the music and film industries to embrace the moment and create art that will make audiences think and encourage conversation.
“I think artists are going to have a lot to say,” Wilson tells Billboard. “I think artists are always the people who are taking what’s happening in the world and putting it into a form that gives it voice, so I think there’s probably going to be a lot of creativity over the next four years. We just have to be thankful and hopeful that America will be the way America has always been, which is resilient, and we’ll get through it and keep using our voices, artistic and political.”
Looking ahead to a more cheerful subject, Wilson — married for almost three decades to fellow actor Tom Hanks — is set to release a five-song EP The Christmas Sessions. The collection includes holiday favorites and an original song, “There Will Be a Better Day” (written by Darrell Brown and Beth Nielsen Chapman), which has a healing message of hope that is timely in today’s political climate.
“I’m unusual when it comes to Christmas songs,” she says. “I try to find the things that look more like, sound more like singer/songwriter-y things, so the Christmas EP has more of that flavor to it as opposed to a huge Wall of Sound kind of production.”
“I thought that was kind of a good pairing of songs, and the sort of conversation that a couple could be having with each other,” she said. “Richard is so great. He’s an amazing singer and songwriter, and has a fantastic voice which is very unique.”
Wilson has a special place in her heart for songwriters, having just attended a writing camp with Mozella, Kristian Bush, Liz Rose, Mitch Allan and Kara DioGuardi. “You get a bunch of incredible songwriters together and you hole up for five days somewhere beautiful and you write and write and write and have a blast,” she says. “It’s really fun, because you’re chill. You’re not pressured.”
She also hosts a show at Westwood, California’s Geffen Playhouse called Liner Notes. The show features songwriters such as Marx telling the stories behind their songs. She named the program Liner Notes as a tribute to her love of reading the credits on records she admired as a child. “When I was growing up, we had albums, and the liner notes were so critical to understanding not just about that album, but who that artist was and who were the people that played on the album,” she says. “I knew every songwriter and every vocalist and every studio they recorded it in, and to me sometimes it’s crazy: You know who Kim Kardashian’s hairdresser is, but you don’t know the songwriter that wrote one of your favorite songs. To me that show, Liner Notes, is really about shedding light on the songwriter.”
Wilson may have a spotlight on her own songwriting chops if “Even More Mine,” her collaboration with Darrel Brown and Nathan Chapman, is nominated for a Golden Globe or an Oscar. The song — featured at the end of the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding (which she produced along with Hanks) — is eligible for a nomination. Could it be up for both?
“From your lips to God’s ears, it would be amazing,” she says. “I wrote this song with Nathan Chapman, an incredible songwriter and producer out of Nashville, and Darrel Brown, an amazing producer and songwriter here in L.A. When we were writing it, we were writing it with the hopes that it would end up in the movie, but we weren’t sure. Just because you have a connection to the film doesn’t mean everybody on the committee is going to sign off on your song. When they decided to put it in the end credits, so that made us eligible for certain things, so here we are. If something good happens, I would be beyond excited.There’s not a person in the world who doesn’t fantasize about something like that at some point in their lives, like if you’re a creative person, if somebody says that they haven’t thought about a nomination, they’re nuts, Who wouldn’t be excited?”
Also on the horizon: Wilson will appear in the final season of Lena Duham’s Girls for HBO, as well as the new Fox show Pitch about the first female major league baseball player.
“I love Girls and I love Lena Dunham and Allison Williams, who I’m fortunate enough to play her mom on the show,” she says. “When I asked [Lena] why she wasn’t continuing on, she said that this was supposed to be about women that were right out of college and at a very specific time in their life, and now they’re all, like, turning 30 and they’re moving on. People are getting married, they’re thinking about having families, and I think she thought this is the time for it to sort of wind up, wrap it up, but I love what she’s written for me.”
In the meantime, Wilson is continuing to write and will soon release an album of all-new material.