Wilson Phillips is back in 2010 with their first Christmas CD Christmas in Harmony. I was honored to be able to talk with all three members about their new music, as well as how their older material has held up, and what they've been doing with themselves in between albums.
John: I always talk to people I know who appreciate an artist before I conduct an interview, and I found that there is a lot of goodwill out there for the three of you, even 20 years on. How does it feel to know that you have had such a positive impact that lasts to this day?
Wendy: You want to always be current and for people to appreciate you still. It’s amazing that people still want to hear us, and are very interested and loyal, and I appreciate it. Our fans are what sustain us. There’s a demand for the music, and there’s a love of the music. And without them, where would we be?
Carnie: Oh my God. For instance, I sat on the airplane yesterday, and I said to Wendy “Can you believe that…we might be someone’s favorite artists?” and I can’t talk about it and start tearing up. It really is still surreal, it always has been and it always will be. We do this because we love music and we love each other and we love singing together, and the beauty of it is that that love transmits through the music to the listener, and they don’t know us, but the music represents something in their life. We don’t know what it represents but it’s something special to them. It’s all one big freakin’ cryfest!
Wendy: I feel very lucky with what I do. It’s funny, because when we work, we work really hard, but when we’re not working, it’s a lot of free time. It’s great, and I do love it. Even when we’re working hard, it’s fun and it’s very fulfilling and fun to sing together.
John: How do you think the music holds up from the first two albums?
Carnie: When I hear “Hold On” now on the radio, and I hear “You’re In Love“, yeah, maybe the snare drums sound more early 90s sounding, but the chords and the vocals and the harmonies and the words to me feel timeless. And it is because it is still playing, and that tells us that hopefully this music might be around forever. It’s the sign of a good pop song, man, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s relatable, and I think that’s what it is. You can relate to the lyrics, and the music is pleasing with the harmony, and that’s what’s timeless about it.
Wendy: I think the melodies, they stay in your mind, and people will always remember that part, if anything, the melody that we have and the harmony.
Carnie: We’re all kind of quirky in our own ways, and we crack each other up. Our daily lives are so consumed with children, and on the go, and work that when we come together, to do this, everything else takes a backseat for that moment, and then we’re in the moment of us together, the music, this other passion
We’ve been laughing, because Wendy and I are so used to picking up the kids, and then everybody around us we’re used to calling people sweetie, doll, honey, baby, and then we end up calling each other that, and sisters calling each other baby, toots and honey is pretty funny.
John: Do you have any nicknames for each other?
Wendy: A ton of them. I call Carnie Carnoots, Carnita, the whole gamut. They call me Wedelina sometimes.
Carnie: Wendelina Beena, I call her Wendell, Weenie, Weeners…
Wendy: Chynna, we used to call her Chy.
John: I remember on the first album that you collaborated on some songs, but several of the songs were written by outside collaborators. How do you come to those songs, because you seem to have a knack for finding songs that have that hook?
Wendy: With the first album, I have to be honest; Charles Koppelman (head of SBK Records) was responsible for finding a few of those covers…
Carnie: And Don Rubin.
Wendy: …Don Rubin, our A&R guy, and they had a really clear vision for what Wilson Phillips should sound like. We created our own vibe and our own sound, but they had a vision as well and kind of steered us in that direction. So they presented the songs to us, those songs that they wanted us to demo, and it just so happened to be perfect that it worked with our music. It was just a cohesive thing.
Carnie: Charles was really, really good at suggesting songs, and everything that Charles suggested, like Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe”, he knew, and we knew the moment we heard it. We just know that the songs that we do with outside writers, they have to be something that we feel really fits us like a glove in order for it to be good enough or appropriate to go on the record. Chynna is set on doing an album of covers where we cover the song “Sad Eyes”, and I think it would be genius. I mean, it’s hard, because you want to write songs, but there is so much great material out there.
John: So then on album #2 (Shadows and Light), at least one of you was involved with every song on the record. Was it a no-brainer for the label to let you have that creative control based on the success you had with the first album?
Carnie: We were in a very, very creative space…a very surreal, sort of euphoric place, and yet at the same time an exhaustive place because we were touring six cities a week. And it was so unbelievably grueling, and we were in our late teens and early 20s coming into our own womanhood, and it was an outpouring of emotions and self-discovery. It was EXACTLY shadows and light…it was dark, and it was light, EXACTLY.
Wendy: I think that they at that point believed that we were established writers, in our own right and let us have that freedom to just create that album and to find that vibe ourselves. So it was nice, it felt good.
Carnie: When I listen to Shadows and Light, it’s melancholy to me, because it really brings out a lot of intense emotions.
Wendy: I don’t listen to that record. If I hear it when it comes on the radio, I smile, but I don’t put it on to listen to.
John: Yet it's still an album you're proud of.
Carnie: Yeah. When we sing “You Won’t See Me Cry” on stage, we do it acoustically with my husband Rob (Bonfiglio), and I think it’s the best song that we do live. The chord changes are so beyond…Glen’s chords there are BEAUTIFUL, beautiful, and we sing it so tight and it’s lovely.
Watch "You Won't See Me Cry" here.