Brian Wilson,
The TVD Interview

“There are only two geniuses in rock: Bob Dylan and Brian Wilson,” I immediately countered, and so began my initial meeting and conversation with Rob Roth, owner of New Jersey’s legendary music store Vintage Vinyl. We continued the debate throughout dinner, no doubt frightening the rest of the table with our animated opinions. By the end of meal, we had begun a solid friendship. And we still disagree on Rob’s assertion.

Debate aside, there can be no argument that Brian Wilson is a musical genius. The depth he brought to the Beach Boys recordings through his vocal and instrumental arrangements is still the benchmark so many strive to reach. Wilson’s personal struggles have been well documented but he has never stopped creating arresting and vital music.

On April 7th, Capitol Records releases Wilson’s eleventh solo studio album, No Pier Pressure. Originally intended as a Beach Boys release, those plans were scrapped when the band fell apart after their 50th anniversary tour. Instead, Wilson assembled an all-star lineup of guest vocalists including Kacey Musgraves, fun.’s Nate Ruess, and She & Him’s Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, along with Beach Boy alumni Al Jardine, David Marks, and Blondie Chaplin. Likewise, he recruited A-list session players like Don Was, drummers Jim Keltner and Kenny Aronoff, Dean Parks, and Jeffrey Foskett. The good new for vinyl fans is that it will be released as a two-LP set pressed on 180-gram vinyl in addition to CD and digital formats. We spoke with Wilson via phone on the eve of its release.

Congratulations on No Pier Pressure! To me, it sounds like an extension of the Pet Sounds era. Was that what you were going for?

Yes it was. I wrote the songs together with Joe Thomas, who I’ve been working with for a while.

I understand your daughter came up with the album title.

Yes, she did. I’m not sure what it means, exactly, but she did choose it.

You have an impressive group of musicians on the album. How did you recruit them?

We called each guy up, like Nate Russ, Zooey Deschanel, and all of them.

The singers and players are stellar, to be sure. Being in Nashville, I have to ask about Kasey Musgraves. Did you enjoy working with her?

She was great, it was really fun working with her. She’s a great singer and she learns really fast.

She certainly has excited a lot people here with her fresh take on country music and I was happy to see she was on the album. I really enjoyed her contribution.

Yes, she did well.

You also have some of your Beach Boys colleagues on the album—Al Jardine, David Marks, and Blondie Chaplin. How did it feel sort-of “getting the band back together?”

Well, David was only on one of the songs. Al and Blondie were on a few. Blondie did a great vocal on “Sail Away.”

It is wonderful to see an artist with such a long career continue to produce compelling music. Your old friendly musical rival Paul McCartney is currently touring. Have you had a chance to see him on this run?

No, I haven’t, but I really want to.

Speaking of tours, you have one that launches in June and you’ll be taking Rodriguez out with you as your opening act. Was that your choice?

You know, I’m not sure who lined him up.

Well, I think his music will complement your music quite well, so good job to whomever brought him aboard. You’ll be here in Nashville on June 27th at the Fontanel Amphitheatre. Will you be performing with the same band you’ve had for previous tours?

Oh yeah, same guys.

They are SO good!

They’re the best, aren’t they?

Their attention to detail on the Beach Boys songs is phenomenal, particularly in recreating your arrangements from the records. Have you decided on the setlist yet? I imagine you’ll be including some Beach Boys classics along with songs from No Pier Pressure.

Yes, it will be mostly classic songs with a few from my new album.

I was listening to Stack-o-Tracks recently and I was marveling at the arrangements. You don’t necessarily hear all of it when the vocals are on top.

Yes, that’s right.

In addition to the new album, there is a film based on your life, Love and Mercy, opening June 5th.

I think it’s going to do well. We saw it a few days ago and it kind of scared me. It brought back a lot of memories of the drugs I took and all the bummers that caused. It was a little rough for me to watch it, honestly.

So, it doesn’t gloss over anything, then?

Right, it’s the real thing.

2015 is shaping up to be “The Year of Brian Wilson” with all the projects you have in the works. Speaking of films, I wanted to ask if you have seen The Wrecking Crew documentary.

No, I haven’t seen that film yet but I’m going to sometime soon. I know it’s been a long time in the making and I expect it will be very elaborate. Who was the guy who produced it—Denny Tedesco?

Yes, you’re right, it was. I saw a rough cut of the film a few years ago at the Musicians Hall of Fame and I am looking forward to seeing the finished version.

Back to music, are there any new artists that you are currently listening to?

No, actually I listen to ‘60s/‘70s/‘80s music.

Who are your favorite artists that you go back to frequently?

Chuck Berry, for one.

He was such a great writer.

Yeah, I learned from him, you know?

Yes, his lyrics were like poetry. They really painted a vivid picture, much like your songs.

Thank you!

Brian Wilson’s brand new release, No Pier Pressure arrives in stores tomorrow, April 7, 2015. On 2LP, 180g vinyl.

SIDE A
1. This Beautiful Day
2. Runaway Dancer (featuring Sebu Simonian)
3. What Ever Happened (featuring Al Jardine and David Marks)
4. On The Island (featuring She & Him)

SIDE B
1. Our Special Love (featuring Peter Hollens)
2. The Right Time (featuring Al Jardine and David Marks)
3. Guess You Had To Be There (featuring Kacey Musgraves)
4. Tell Me Why (featuring Al Jardine)

SIDE C
1. Sail Away (featuring Blondie Chaplin and Al Jardine)
2. One Kind Of Love
3. Saturday Night (featuring Nate Ruess)
4. The Last Song

SIDE D
1. Half Moon Bay
2. Don’t Worry
3. I’m Feeling Sad
4. Somewhere Quiet

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PHOTO: BRIAN BOWEN SMITH

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