Rita Wilson certainly hasn’t let quarantine, or even COVID-19, keep her from being creative.
Hot on the heels of her hit remake of Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray” and the subsequent remix version with the group (benefiting MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund), Wilson has dropped a new single, “Where’s My Country Song,” and companion video today (May 8).
Both salute women’s contributions to society, and are timed specifically to Mother’s Day.
“I felt that there was something to be said about the fact that so many essential workers now in America are women,” Wilson — who wrote the song with “American Idol” champ Lee DeWyze before she and husband Tom Hanks left for Australia, where they contracted COVID-19 during March — tells Streets Talkin.
The song was also inspired by Wilson’s own mother, an immigrant “who reminded me that these women, single parents sometimes, go about their jobs and their daily lives with such grace and dignity. They’re really unsung heroes. So I wanted to write a song acknowledging them. It was a chance to put the spotlight on that.”
So where does the “Country Song” come in? “I write down in Nashville a lot,” Wilson explains, “and I’m increasingly aware that when women are written about in country songs it’s a partial representation. You don’t hear a lot of songs about single mothers. You don’t hear a lot about the women who are working behind the scenes. It seemed to me there was sort of a fantasy about the kind of woman that is portrayed — not just in music but also in movies, in TV.
“And there’s a huge part of this population that is doing amazing things with their lives, but they’re not having the spotlight on them and really should be looked at and applauded and revered every day.”
Wilson recorded “Where’s My Country Song?” after she and Hanks returned from their quarantine in Australia — in, she assures, a proper socially-distanced fashion, with the musicians in separate quarters, and she and producer Mikal Blue well apart from each other in the studio. “I have immunity from coronavirus antibodies, so I’m a little bit safe to be around,” Wilson notes. “But I still practiced social distancing just to be 100 percent sure and make sure everyone was comfortable.”
The song’s video, directed by Luke Eisner, represents the lyrics with historical footage of working women ranging from homes and factories to classrooms. “I wanted to show that, going back through the years,” Wilson says. “These women have done these jobs forever; Sometimes we see then, sometimes we don’t, but I wanted to show it’s been going on forever.”
“Where’s My Country Song” is part of a batch of material Wilson has been working on for her fifth album, and the followup to 2019’s Halfway To Home. Wilson reports that she’s “pretty much done,” but is continuing the write songs and hasn’t yet determined a theme or direction for the album.
“I write and I just keep writing and somehow the theme just emerges,” says Wilson, who also has a song titled “Everybody Cries” in the new war drama The Outpost and will appear as a judge on the May 18 finale of The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart on ABC. “I’m still figuring it out. Right now there’s a few different themes happening; Once I figure out which songs will stay on and which come off, I’ll know where it’s going.”
Meanwhile, Wilson says she and Hanks have recovered from the COVID-19 they contracted while he was shooting Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Elvis film in Australia. “I’m really glad I had it early on before so many people died, because I think it would have been even more terrifying to understand, truly, the depth of the severity,” Wilson, who’s also a breast cancer survivor, says. “I also truly felt the support, the prayers and good wishes of people that were reaching out, whether friends or strangers you hear from on social media. That really helped.”
In addition to “Hip Hop Hooray,” Wilson spent her time doing crossword puzzles and watercolor painting, as well as writing songs and working on other projects she has brewing. She’s also done a bit of quarantine hair-cutting at home in California.
“I feel like it’s really shown me, and all of us, what’s most essential in terms of how we want to spend our time,” Wilson says. “This is an unusual time; we haven’t chosen it, but it’s sort of highlighted what’s important in our lives.”