SOUND OFF: Brian Wilson Talks Gershwin, GLEE, Good Vibrations & More!
Today, we have a SOUND OFF: Special Interview with the founding member of The Beach Boys himself, legendary performer, composer, arranger and producer BrIan Wilson. In our candid conversation we discuss Disney approaching him to create an album of Gershwin music - some old, some new - using the inimitable sound created by Wilson for the verifiable rock n roll bible of the 60s, the album PET SOUNDS. We discuss the process of creating four new songs taking a cue from Gershwin's unfinished compositions - two of over a hundred left languishing! We also briefly talk about The Beach Boys songs that will be used on GLEE this season, what Broadway shows he has seen and liked, what the difference is between composing a score and writing a song, as well as much, much more. Start feeling these good vibrations in our chat and if you are so inclined be sure to pick up the album discussed that was released this week!
The Like In I Love You
One of the biggest influences in popular music in the last fifty years - John Lennon cited him as one of his biggest influences - BrIan Wilson's work both as a solo artist and with the legendary band The Beach Boys is rock and roll legend. A member of the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame as well as the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Disney/Pearl Records along with the Gershwin Estate approachEd Wilson last year to create a compendium of Gershwin's career output with particular focus on the material that spoke most to Wilson himself. "Summertime" is one of the first songs Wilson ever remembers hearing and his passion for the words and music of George and Ira Gershwin, as well as their influence on his own compositions, is quite clear to hear on BrIan Wilson REIMAGINES GERSWHIN which is released this week. In addition to reworking, remaining and re-engineering these magnificent masterpieces he has also contributed words and music to two unfinished Gershwin tunes of over-100 that were left when the composer passed away. A little old, a little new, a little borrowed from the best and a sound brand new and all it's own. This is an album unlike any you've ever heard before and even the most committed and stodgy Gershwin fan will be compelled to give it up to Wilson for his wondrously inventive and interesting contributions on this innovative new album.
Earlier this month, BrIan Wilson was kind enough to talk to me for a few minutes about his new album, how it came about, what Gershwin's music means to him and where he feels The Beach Boys sound that he created in the studio meets George and Ira. We also discussed the compositional process of creating two new songs taking the cue from Gershwin's unfinished drafts for them as well as how that formed the kernel of inspiration for two all-new BrIan Wilson compositions.
PC: Could you tell me how you got involved with this album of Gershwin songs?
BW: Sure. What happened was, the Disney people came to us and said, "Would you be interested in making an album callEd Wilson SINGS GERSHWIN?" and I said "Yeah!" So, they sent us one-hundred and four unfinished Gershwin songs and we narrowed it down to just two. Then, we wrote two songs just inspired by those two songs. And, then, we had twenty-five of George and Ira's songs to choose from, then narrowed it down to twelve. And we got it all recorded!
PC: Yeah, the lyrics in "The Like In I Love You" are beautiful and candid. What was your inspiration for those words, Gershwin's himself?
BW: They were just heartfelt lyrics. We just love what we do.
PC: Was it taken from a personal experience or something in Gershwin?
BW: Personal experiences. Yeah.
PC: What was the most moving melody in all of those 104 unfinished Gershwin songs?
BW: That particular song came before the other one. First existed "Nothing But Love" and then "The Like In I Love You".
PC: And the other one is a ballad.
BW: Yeah, they're both ballads.
PC: Are you drawn more to Gershwin's languid melodies or the jazzier compositions?
BW: "Summertime" and those kinds of songs are my favorite.
PC: And if you had to just pick one out of all of them, what would it be?
BW: My favorite is "Rhapsody In Blue".
PC: Is there one you like to sing the most since "Rhapsody In Blue" doesn't have lyrics?
BW: "Summertime". I really love that one, too.
PC: And that's on the album, yes?
BW: Yes. Yes.
PC: Did you take it as a compliment to do this album?
BW: Of course I took it as a compliment, to sing Gershwin? It's something I've never done in the studio before. It's the very first time I've recorded something from Gershwin, you know?
PC: Yeah. What about shows like HAIRSPRAY that evoke your sound?
BW: I can't answer that question, sir.
PC: OK, what about rock music in general in the theatre. Would you ever consider writing a rock musical like HAIR or AMERICAN IDIOT?
BW: I couldn't write a rock musical, no, but I could write songs for a rock musical. (Laughs.) But, not a rock musical.
PC: Interesting, please tell me more. How would you define the difference?
BW: Well, one would be writing a score and one would be writing songs. I can't... I don't know how to write a score.
PC: Your albums like SMILE and PET SOUNDS are masterpieces of songs - better than many scores! What do you think about the music scene today, Lady Gaga and rap and everything, are you drawn more to your classic sound?
BW: No, I just strictly go with our stuff.
PC: What about GLEE using some of your songs this season, is that true?
BW: Yeah, I guess so. Yeah.
PC: What do you think of GLEE and using pop music in a theatrical milieu?
BW: I don't listen to them. I haven't seen it.
PC: What shows have you seen recently on Broadway that you enjoyed?
BW: Well, I liked JERSEY BOYS.
PC: What about some of the classic shows, the revivals like WEST SIDE STORY?
PC: Thank you, Mr. Wilson. I appreciate your time.
BW: It was a good interview. Thank you so much.
From This Author Pat Cerasaro