Six minutes with Brian Wilson

From the Concord Monitor, 10/29/09

The Beach Boys founder plays in Concord on Tuesday. We spoke with him — quickly — about touring, a new record deal and rumors of a reunion with the legendary group

By CLAY WIRESTONE
Monitor staff

In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson crafted hit song after hit song. The group released 14 albums in five years. When we interviewed Wilson, he answered 25 questions in six minutes.

The man is efficient.

Wilson (now an ex-Beach Boy) comes to the Capitol Center for the Arts on Tuesday, the latest stop in a renewed touring career that began 10 years ago. And while he blazes through questions in record time, he’s not impolite. He’s not distant. Indeed, he’s personable and pleasant. He just has a job to do.

While disconcerting for reporters, that focus has served Wilson well. It helped him create the soundtrack to ’60s California in record time.

Consider: “Surfer Girl,” “In My Room,” “All Summer Long,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “California Girls,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “I Get Around,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows,” “Good Vibrations.” Brian Wilson wrote, produced and arranged them all. He also found the time to open a health food store.

While mental illness and personal problems slowed Wilson in the ’70s and ’80s, he’s carved out a solo career in the last decade. Supported by a sterling backing band, he’s toured consistently and released a steady stream of albums and concert DVDs. He has remarried, adopted four children and just signed a new record deal.

We spoke with Wilson, 67, by telephone from California. A couple of days after our interview, he began recording a new album.

Have you been to Concord before?

No, I haven’t.

You’ll be playing at the Capitol Center, which is an old restored theater. But you’ve also played much bigger places. Do you have a favorite kind of venue to perform in?

I like indoor venues, you know? That hold around 2,000 or 3,000 people.

What’s your favorite song to perform live these days?

My favorite song to perform is “California Girls.”

What’s the audience’s favorite?

I think they like “God Only Knows.”

What do you do during the day when you’re on tour and visiting all of these different towns?

We just hang out in the hotel room and take walks, you know? Exercise and stuff.

You’ve been touring pretty consistently over the last 10 years. Do you plan to keep doing it?

Yeah, we plan to. As long as we can.

I should congratulate you, by the way, on your new son, Dash Tristan.

That’s right!

So what’s it like having a new face around the house?

It’s wonderful! He’s such a cute kid, you know.

Do you write music differently when you have a baby around?

No, no.

Do you play the piano for your kids?

No. I just play it for myself.

You had more big news recently; you signed a contract with Disney Records. What are you going to record for them?

We’re going to record an album called Wilson Sings Gershwin.

What’s going to be on that?

Well, all of the classic songs that he wrote. Ten of his songs, including “Summertime,” “I Loves You Porgy,” “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Songs like that.

Do you have any favorite Gershwin tunes you’ve discovered?

Well, we have about 10 or 12 of them that we like.

What do think you have in common with Gershwin? Do you feel any connection with him?

Not really a connection, no I don’t.

I read you’re also going to record an album of Disney songs. Is that right?

Yeah. That’s later on, though. I don’t know which ones they are.

We interviewed your cousin Mike Love over the summer. He suggested he was interested in working together to mark the Beach Boys’ 50th anniversary. Are you interested in that?

No. We’re not going to work with Mike.

What do you think of the other Beach Boys these days?

Pardon?

What do you think of the other Beach Boys?

I don’t (laughs). I don’t really get along with them very good.

What music are you listening to now?

I just listen to an oldies but goodies station here in Los Angeles.

You’ve been writing songs and singing for five decades. Why do you think people still listen to your music and come to your concerts?

I guess they like the harmonies, you know?

Do you have any other ambitions or big plans?

I’m going to do a rock and roll album next year. But not till next year.

Do you know what’s going to be on that?

No I don’t. We don’t have the songs written yet.

You’ve released quite a few albums and DVDs over the last 10 years. What’s inspired you to be so productive?

Well, my synthesizer sounds so good that it makes me write good songs.

Do you have a favorite of the songs you’ve written over the last 10 years or so?

Not really, no. I have no favorites.

Do you have a message for the folks who are coming to see you at the Capitol Center?

I just hope that they like the instrumentation and the vocals. We really try our best.

Brian, thank you so much for talking with us.

You’re very welcome. And where are you?

I’m in Concord, New Hampshire.

I’ll see you there.

(This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.)

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