Wilson Phillips's Wendy Wilson: "We Are Who We Are"
L-R: Wendy Wilson, Carnie Wilson and Chynna Phillips
Photo by Jeremy Cowart
In the early '90s, Wilson Phillips calmly came onto the music scene with their 1990 self-titled debut album and launched such hits as "Hold On," "Impulsive" and "You're in Love." They received Grammy nominations for Best New Artist, Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group in 1990 and 1991. Their second album, 1992's Shadows and Light, took on a different tone than their debut, dealing with issues like child abuse and other personal matters.
Shortly after Shadows and Light they parted ways, but returned in 2004 with the cover-song collection California. They made a cameo in the 2011 box-office smash Bridesmaids, which resulted in a major popularity surge and introduced Wilson Phillips to a new generation.
Rocks Off recently talked with Wendy Wilson via phone about their newfound popularity, what it was like to work with Kristen Wiig and their new reality show on the TV Guide Network, Wilson Phillips: Still Holding On.
Rocks Off: Since you made the cameo in Bridesmaids, I know that Wilson Phillips has seen a big surge in popularity. Tell me how the cameo came about?
Wendy Wilson: We had a manager at the time [Lizzy Grubman], and she got wind of the movie and that they wanted somebody to make a cameo in the movie. They asked us if we would be interested in appearing in this Judd Apatow production with Paul Feig directing and the girls from Saturday Night Live [Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph].
We said, "Of course we're interested," because we knew those names and we thought that it would be a great thing to be a part of. So we immediately said yes.
We went down to Arcadia, California, and filmed the movie for the better part of the morning, like all night long. It was a great experience and we got to hang out with the girls [Kristen, Maya, Melissa McCarthy, etc]. It was really cool. I had never been in a movie before, so it was a new experience.
It was so wonderful. We're glad we did it. We had no idea, absolutely no idea, that it was going to be such a big hit. The first time we actually saw it was when we went to the movie theater.
RO: So what was it like seeing yourself onscreen for the first time?
WW: It was a trip. I'm really self-conscious when I watch myself on anything, so I'm like, covering my face. It was great. We were just really proud that we were such a big part of the storyline. It was really an honor for us.
RO: What was it like working with Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph?
WW: We were only there for one day. We only filmed for one evening. It was a blast. We were laughing and they were very funny in person. We were treated really really graciously.
RO: How has this popularity surge affected Wilson Phillips overall? Also, have you seen your concert audiences get younger, demographic-wise, as a result of your newfound popularity?
WW: Actually we have. Our demographic, generally, is people that are our age [early forties]. Now we're seeing women in their twenties coming to the show. It's really exciting for us. We love it. We love that we have such a wide range of fans now. Even children come to the show.
It's funny because some of the mothers at my kids' school, their kids watch our reality show. It's hilarious. I think you were right when you said that Bridesmaids put us back on the map and also grew a new audience for us.
RO: In Bridesmaids you perform "Hold On," which is your best-known song. What do you think has made this particular song so popular even after 20 years?
WW: I think that a good song is never gonna go out of style. I think that it's gonna last forever. It's always going to be appropriate for any time and a good lyric if it's something that people can relate to, like something's very hopeful in "Hold On." I think it's the lyric, that's what carried it, as well as the sound of our voices that worked. I think people like positivity and to be inspired by music. It's very powerful.
RO: Changing gears, where do you see Wilson Phillips headed musically into the future?
WW: I'm not quite sure. We could go a number of directions. We talked about going more country recently. We are who we are and, no matter what we do, whenever we put our voices on tape, we sound the same.
So we can't really get away from our sound and if it's a pop sound, then that's who we are. Musically, we're open to different directions, whether it be more bluesy, jazzy or even country. We're open to different musical genres because we love it all. But it's just a matter of what's gonna work for our voices. We are planning on making another originals record.
RO: Your latest album is called Dedicated, and you guys pay musical tribute to your parents [Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, and the Mamas and the Papas' John and Michelle Phillips]. What made you want to do that sort of tribute album?
WW: It was our management who thought of it. We kind of always avoided that because we felt that, in the past, people thought we were riding the coattails of our parents. Now that we've had our own success -- we stand on our own -- we thought it was an appropriate time to do this.
It was a lot of fun because these were the songs that we grew up with -- they're in our hearts and souls. It was a lot of fun to interpret it the way we did. We were always going to do it, but didn't know when.
RO: What's your favorite song on the album?
WW: I would say "God Only Knows" is my favorite production. I like the way we all sing on the song. It's kinda unique and yet it keeps intact the integrity of the song, which is one of my favorite songs on the earth.
RO: Now I know your latest reality show, Wilson Phillips: Still Holding On, has been pretty popular. I know with having cameras around, that may make some people a bit more self-conscious. Has it made you a bit more self-conscious, especially in how you interact with others such as your bandmates?
WW: Well, yeah. Nobody would be telling the truth if they said that when the cameras are on, they are not aware of it, because you are. It sometimes makes people act differently than they normally would when the cameras are not on.
So I think it kind of pumps up people's personalities in a way. But I think we're used to it at this point and it's not all the time. It's scheduled. We love our crew. The crew is really awesome -- the people we work with. So we're very comfortable.
RO: So have you guys grown close to the crew?
WW: I think we have. They're a great bunch of people who have a common goal in mind and that is to make a great show.
Wilson Phillips plays at 7 p.m. tonight at the Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice St.
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