The group Wilson Phillips, consisting of Wendy Wilson, Carnie Wilson and Chynna Phillips, already knew what it took to make great music when they started out: their fathers, Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys and John Phillips from The Mamas and the Papas, are pop royalty. They hit it big in 1990 with the release of their self-titled debut album, which produced three chart-topping singles: “Hold On,” “Release Me” and “You’re In Love.” Now, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of their rise to stardom, they will be performing for the crowds coming to Orlando for Gay Disney Week. They will be taking the stage at Parliament House Orlando on Saturday, June 6 shortly after midnight.
Tickets are available for purchase online and will also be available throughout Gay Disney Week at the Gay Days Expo at the Doubletree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld. Admission is only $30, and there are also VIP ticket options that will entitle you to a meet and greet and photo opportunity ($79 per person). Go to parliamenthouse.com to buy your ticket now before they’re sold out!
I recently had the chance to talk to all three members of Wilson Phillips for an exclusive Hotspots interview in the run-up to their performance at Parliament House.
Welcome back to Florida! What’s the one thing you like most about the Sunshine State?
Wendy: I love the weather. The balmy air is so intoxicating. I love it.
Carnie: It’s such a beautiful place. I love Florida. It’s very relaxed, which I love. My in-laws live in Jacksonville.
Wendy: My husband actually grew up near Fort Lauderdale.
How excited are you to perform at Parliament House in Orlando for Gay Days? Tell us a little bit about the show and what you have planned.
Wendy: We love performing for gay crowds at events like these that showcase pride. The feeling in the air is so great. Everyone’s very happy.
Carnie: Everyone’s going to be there celebrating who they are. Honestly, I wish there weren’t parties and parades for each group. I wish life were one big parade. We’re getting there though. We always have a great time on stage singing for our gay fans. As far as our set goes, it depends on whether we have 30 minutes or an hour. If we have half an hour, you’ll definitely hear all of your favorites plus a few surprises. If it’s an hour, you’re really going to get to hear more of the ballads, and also songs from our last album, called Dedicated, where we covered hits from our fathers’ bands, The Beach Boys and The Mamas and the Papas.
How did it feel recording songs that were made famous by your father, such as “Good Vibrations”?
Wendy: It’s intimidating a little bit, and there was so much work that we put into it that I thought, “I really hope we can do this well.” Because it’s our dad, and we want to make him proud, and when he listened to it…he really was proud of it. I think we did a good job.
Carnie: The way that we set it up, with no instruments, actually made it easier because it’s such a complex song. We had our work cut out for us. It was challenging to hit all these notes and replicate them because we’re women and the original features all guys singing. My husband was such a big help in adapting this song to vocals-only. He had a vision and we were very lucky to have him on our team.
Back in 2013, Willam, Detox and Vicky Vox performed at Parliament House and brought the house down with the song “Chow Down at Chick-Fil-A,” a parody set to the tune of “Hold On.” What did you think of it?
Wendy: It was hilarious. Chynna and I were on the road recently and we saw a Chick-Fil-A and we thought of it. We loved it. I think the important thing is never to take yourself so seriously. There’s parodies out there for everyone’s songs. You just have to laugh. And the girls were beautiful!
Carnie: Weren’t they? They were stunning! It’s always fun to see our work parodied and sent up in different ways. It reminded me of when Chris Farley played me on Saturday Night Live. It made me laugh. He may have been bigger than I was but he was still fabulous! [laughs] To be parodied is an honor.
How have LGBT people (friends, fans, etc.) helped shape you into the people you are today?
Wendy: I think it’s important to have love and acceptance in your heart for everybody. Our family members and our friends who are gay, they’ve never been any more different to us than anyone else. I think they impact us in that the acceptance and love that we all have drives us to help other people.
Carnie: It’s interesting because I loved when Bruce Jenner was on TV with Diane Sawyer and he kept asking everyone to have an open mind. I think it was the most brilliant thing. He wasn’t selfish about it, either. He was so truthful and wonderful and let everyone in the world know his truth. To me, that’s what it’s all about. There are so many things that can come between us: religion, upbringing, parents…that expressing your truth is so important, and it’s also important for everyone to see that people are people.
Twenty-five years ago, you released your debut album and you became internationally known. What was the most exciting time for you during that entire whirlwind of events?
Chynna: Oh, my gosh! How do you even gauge that? It was such an exciting time in our lives. I think the most exciting time for me was when we were in Japan, and we learned that “Hold On” had hit #1 on the charts back home. I could hear Carnie screaming from the next room, and we got together and we were just jumping up and down and hugging each other. It was such an exciting time.
Carnie: It was such a whirlwind. Everything happened so very, very fast. We were in Japan for the Tokyo Music Festival, and Bobby McFerrin and Chicago were there, and we won the festival. We hadn’t won anything before. Then “Hold On” hit #1 within two days. We came home and we were selling a lot of records…the momentum was so large and so fast. Wendy and I would read fan mail that would come in, and we would just call up people who left their numbers, and say, “Thank you for listening! Thank you!” That’s a good memory.
Wendy: I actually tried calling a number from an old letter the other day and I was told I had the wrong number! [laughs]
Out of all your songs, which one is your favorite and why?
Chynna: The most sentimental song for me has to be “Release Me.” I love the three-part harmony, I love that it was the first song we ever wrote together, and I loved that it was our second single and that it was so different from our first one.
Wendy: I have to agree with Chynna. I loved the youthful feeling it had; we wrote the song about some of our old boyfriends. It was young and fresh and really encapsulates that entire time period for me.
Carnie: I’m going to agree too. But I also loved “You Won’t See Me Cry.” With the harmonies and the chord changes together, it’s just all-around a positive song.
Describe what your lives are like now.
Chynna: We have nine children between the three of us. Our lives revolve around our kids and they’re our first priority. Of course there’s the three needy husbands we love and adore, and we have to meet their needs as well. I’m a personal chauffeur, a personal shopper, and a private tutor! [laughs]
Wendy: All of the above. I think the biggest misconception people have is that we released all these records, so we must be mega-millionaires and we must lead lavish lifestyles. It’s not that way; we’re very normal. I splurge once in a while but I lead a very modest life.
Carnie: I find that I always have my hands in various projects, but that’s a choice I made, and sometimes I have guilt. One of my biggest joys in life is singing with the girls, who I’ve known forever, and over the years we’ve really been fulfilled down to our souls. But I love my children and the guilt comes in…it can be hard being a working mom. But I couldn’t be prouder of my children for being who they are.
We’d love to know if there are any projects in the pipeline for you after Gay Days so we can be sure to support you!
Wendy: We’ve had the idea of putting out another record for a few years now. I think it would be really great to write new music, you know?
Chynna: We just got a new YouTube channel, and we will post our songs on there, plus some new videos so people can get to know us and our personalities a little better. Hopefully once every few months we’ll get together and write a new song and put it on there. I think it will be great.