Brian Wilson keeps busy with biopic, new album
Brian Wilson is a busy man. Especially when you consider he’s 73 and could easily be living a casual life of retirement.
The founding Beach Boy finished a 50th Reunion Tour just a couple years ago with the surviving Beach Boys, along with a new album from the band. When that ended, he was right back to work on his next album, along with consulting filmmakers for his biopic “Love and Mercy,” which was released earlier this year.
“I’ve seen it five times,” Wilson said from Atlantic City, N.J., just before sitting down for dinner in advance of the evening’s show. “I thought it was very well cast, very factual and accurate. It was quite a hard experience to watch it because of all the rough times I had in my life.”
In the film, John Cusack plays 1980s Brian while Paul Dano plays 1960s Brian in a story that flips back and forth between eras. Much of the film focuses on his relationship with future wife, Melinda Ledbetter, and the care Wilson was under with Dr. Eugene Landy — credited both with helping Wilson get back on track in the 1970s after a three-year period largely spent in bed while paranoid and depressed — and Landy’s overbearing nature, from which Ledbetter legally helped him separate by the early 1990s.
Wilson’s genius and mysterious songwriting and producing skills aren’t forgotten in the film. Wilson’s hitmaking is seen in progress, along with the revealing nature of the band’s late 1960s work, which was largely played by studio musicians with the Beach Boys’ vocals layered over. And the coming undone is seen as well, where Wilson is portrayed presiding over the “Smile” recording sessions while having the musicians wear fire hats as Wilson ran around filling the room with smoke to get the musicians in the moment for recording “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow.”
Other members of the Beach Boys were against releasing the album, and the music was shelved until Wilson rerecorded it and released it in 2004 as “Brian Wilson Presents Smile.”
“It took 19 years to develop the script,” Wilson said of “Love and Mercy.”
Now, Wilson is touring in support of his new album, “No Pier Pressure,” released last spring. He’s on stage with his seasoned band of 17 years, including Blondie Chaplin, Beach Boy Al Jardine and Jardine’s son Matt. (Cousin Mike Love continues to tour separately as the Beach Boys with longtime Beach Boy Bruce Johnston.)
“They’re the greatest band I’ve ever worked with,” said Wilson, the sole survivor of three Wilson brothers. “They’re so good; they play great, they sing great. Fantastic.”
The new album features guest appearances from Zooey Deschanel, Nate Ruess of Fun and Kacey Musgraves.
“We heard them on the radio a couple years before and we called them up and asked them to come down to the studio,” Wilson said of the collaborations. “They came down one by one and learned the songs really well.”
Wilson originally had been penning the “No Pier Pressure” songs for what he thought would be the next Beach Boys album, the follow-up to the acclaimed 2012 release “That’s Why God Made the Radio.”
“I started thinking of it for the Beach Boys, and about halfway through it converted back to my own album.”
That halfway point was around the time that the reunited Beach Boys, coming off of a 75-show reunion tour, went their separate ways again. Accounts from Love and Wilson differ, with Wilson claiming at the time that he was fired by Love, and Love citing an agreement that the reunion tour was only intended to be a finite celebration of 50 years.
In an interview with Best Bets earlier this year, Love, who lives in Incline Village, went so far as to say it was an email from Wilson’s wife that ended the tour.
Wilson declined to discuss the matter in the interview, but did say the tour was a wonderful experience for him.
“It was my favorite tour I ever took, the 50th Anniversary Tour,” Wilson said. “The Beach Boys name draws a lot of people.”
Indeed, they were among the biggest shows the band had played in decades.
Curiously, though, Wilson said he’s not playing any songs from the Beach Boys’ 2012 album.
“Most of (the show) is Beach Boys classics. Some of it’s two or three songs off my (new) album.”
Still, he hasn’t closed the door on the possibility of a future Beach Boys reunion.
“We might do some more with the Beach Boys. We haven’t discussed that yet,” a sentiment Wilson has shared in numerous interviews in recent years.
Before that, though, Wilson still has things already on his agenda to address, including next year’s 50th anniversary tour around the Beach Boys’ classic “Pet Sounds” album, which is widely regarded by critics as one of the greatest albums ever made.
“It’s quite a thrill,” Wilson said of the adoration.