With one listens to Rita Wilson’s new single “Where’s My Country Song?” women all over America will feel as though they’ve found their theme song. The tender ballad not only pays homage to hard-working single mothers, but to women everywhere whose actions are making a difference in the world. Penned by Wilson and American Idol champ Lee DeWyze, the new release is also accompanied by a poignant lyric video with vintage clips of American working women.
The singer/songwriter/actress/producer and DeWyze began collaborating at the suggestion of his wife Jonna. “She had heard ‘Half Way To Home,’” Wilson says of her 2019 album. “Jonna said, ‘I think that you and Rita should write together,’ so she was the one that suggested it to him and he reached out to me.”
Wilson says the song was written last fall. “I had the idea for the song, and I had the title, because I was thinking that so often in music women are idealized in a way that is not realistic. It can be, but it’s not the full picture,” Wilson tells Sounds Like Nashville. “I was thinking about the women I knew who were single mothers and raising kids. And I thought about the women who work behind the scenes that we never see. Maybe they are agricultural workers or they are people working in warehouses—women that are really helping our country function and helping our daily lives run.”
Part of the inspiration for the song also came from Wilson’s own mother. “I thought about my mom who was a housewife,” Wilson says. “She never had a traditional job, but she was an amazing CEO of our house and also an incredible mother. She was there for us. She loved us. She cooked every day. She sewed our clothes. She taught us how to clean and we had our own things that we had to do. [Motherhood] is a precious job and I started thinking about that because often you hear people say, ‘Well I’m just a mom’ or something like that and it’s like, ‘What do you mean, you’re just a mom? That’s the most important job! You can do other things too, but that’s the most important job.’ So I wanted to explore writing about the women who are not necessarily represented in music, and not just country music, but all genres of music.”
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My mothers hand. This was taken when she could no longer speak from Alzheimer’s. How many times did she hold my hand? Walking me to school, going to church, comforting me at bedtime. There comes a time when the tables are turned and the daughter becomes the mother. The lessons she taught now are given back. How can one ever thank a mother enough? When I had the idea for Where’s My Country Song? it was about honoring all women, not only mothers, but women who nurture and care for others, for the work they do and for the love they give sometimes without acknowledgement but always with grace.
When Wilson shared the idea with DeWyze, he was immediately onboard. “Lee got it. He started strumming and picking out those first chords and melodies and I fell in love. This is exactly what I wanted this song to feel like because it’s like a little meditation on what we do. We get into the car. We’ve had a long day at work. Now we have to drive. We put on the radio to try to escape a little bit. I wanted to write about, ‘Why aren’t they writing a song for me?’ That’s really what it came from.”
The lyric video was directed by musician/actor/model Luke Eisner, known for his role in Netflix’s Tall Girl and as half of the pop-rock band VOILÀ. “He had directed and produced the video for John Legends ‘Conversations In The Dark,’ which is all old footage of couples of all races and genders and times having conversations and laughing and being in love. It was all vintage footage and I fell in love with that,” Wilson says. “So I wanted to do the same idea using old footage, but of women, and to show that women have always been working. They’ve always been essential workers. They’ve always been there.”
Wilson is hoping the clip will boost appreciation for our everyday heroes. “They are people we come in contact with all the time, but you take it for granted in a certain way,” she says. “When you realize that there’s so many women over the years who worked in factories, who worked on farms, who worked in businesses, who worked at the grocery store. You realize that when you add that all up together, that is something that should be applauded. That is something that should be celebrated and sometimes the spotlight is not shined on the women who really keep this country working.”
The video was also a labor of love for Eisner, whose father won the Silver Medal Award from the United Nations for his work against domestic violence. His father served as director of the Milwaukee Rescue Mission, which provides a safe environment for women and their families so Eisner is donating his proceeds from the video to the Milwaukee Rescue Mission.
In addition to the new single, Wilson has been writing for a new album, tentatively slated for release next January. “Recently I wrote with Jesse Frasure and Shane McAnally, two of Nashville’s best and I’m really excited about that song,” Wilson says. “The album is basically done so now it’s kind of the puzzle work of which songs go where, how do they fit thematically and what is it that you are trying to say? Even though you can put out a single, I still like to do complete albums because they are all stories that are exploring a theme or a larger narrative.”
Wilson has found time in quarantine has helped boost her creativity and that of her collaborators. “The album is pretty much done, but I keep writing because the restrictions and the stay at home orders have been a very creative time for so many people. We’ve been writing a lot on Zoom sessions or FaceTime,” she notes. “It’s been incredible and everybody is feeling the same sort of creativity. When you have a moment to reflect, a lot of story comes up.”
The songstress enjoys collaborating with Nashville songwriters and she’s thought of spending more time in Music City. “I love Nashville so much that it’s tempting to not move there,” she says. “I just love it. It’s an amazing community, a community that celebrates and loves songwriters and artists. To me, they call it Music City because it really is a city that reveres and respects music in all its forms.”
The fact that Wilson enjoys all styles of music recently garnered a lot of attention when she posted a video of herself on Instagram rapping the 1992 hit “Hip Hop Hooray.” She originally learned it for the film Boy Genius, and admits it wasn’t an easy task. “It took me a month to learn that song. It was one of those things where I had to learn it in couplets, almost as if you were learning Shakespeare but you didn’t speak English. It was so hard,” she says. “I had to build on it and I would get two lines and I would add two lines and then add another two lines. Every line was different. . . and if you missed one word or one beat or one little thing, you were done because you couldn’t catch up. It’s not like a regular song. It is like a stream of consciousness thing. You’d have to start all over from the beginning again.”
Wilson revived the rap on her Instagram page to let people know she was doing well after battling COVID-19. “I did it because I wanted people to know that I was feeling better, that I still had my sense of humor and I was doing okay,” Wilson says. “That’s why I put it out there. I had no idea that it was going to become what it did. I was very thankful and I was so appreciative that Naughty By Nature liked it and were also open to doing the remix, which was so much fun. They are great guys.”
The remix of “Hip Hop Hooray” has been released on Tommy Boy Music and net profits are being donated to the MusiCares Foundation Inc. COVID-19 Relief Fund to help those in the music community affected by the pandemic.
Wilson and her husband, Tom Hanks, both survived the virus and are now back home in LA after being quarantined in Australia, where Hanks had been working on a film. When asked what she learned from the experience, Wilson replies, “Well two things—one is that every day is a gift, not to be taken for granted. Number two—things don’t happen to other people. You watch the news. You read the news. You hear about something horrible and you say, ‘Oh well, that’s not me,’ or ‘It didn’t happen to me. That happens to someone else,’ and you can be that other person. You can be that someone else and it can happen to you. I think that defines and imprints gratitude in you in a way that is deeper, instead of just having the concept, but the actual, ‘Oh yeah today I got to wake up! That’s pretty great. Today I’m healthy. That’s pretty extraordinary.’ If you have that mindset, even in the darkest times, you will find a way to get through it a day at a time, a moment at a time sometimes.”
Wilson is happy to show her gratitude for the frontline workers who have been battling the pandemic. On June 3rd, she’ll participate in CMT Celebrates Our Heroes: An Artists of the Year Special, a two-hour virtual tribute honoring Americans on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Brandi Carlile, Carrie Underwood, Darius Rucker, Kane Brown, Kristen Bell, Lauren Daigle, Luke Combs, Sam Hunt, Tim McGraw, Brothers Osborne, Florida Georgia Line, Kelsea Ballerini, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Miranda Lambert and Thomas Rhett are all scheduled to be filmed from their homes. The special will recognize COVID-19 heroes in the following categories: Healthcare, Education, Business, Community Leaders, Food Industry, First Responders, US Military, and more.
“It’s always inspiring to see how people come together during a crisis to find a way to help others,” she tells SLN. “I’m so thankful to be a part of this.”