Rita Wilson On Cancer, Creativity And The Meaning Of Her New Album

This Friday, March 11, I will release my second album of songs. It's called Rita Wilson because someone in the music business said your first album should always be your name. I titled my first album, AM/FM, not having that piece of information at the time. It now seems somewhat appropriate to have a self-titled album because this is a first, of sorts, and a reflection of what's been happening over the last few years.

It's a first because all the songs are original. Every song was co-written with some wonderfully talented songwriters. When I started writing songs, thanks to Kara DioGuardi, who wrote the first two songs with me, along with Jason Reeves, I had no idea that there would be an album. I never thought I could write a song. I don't play an instrument and I can't read music. But, Kara asked me if I had something I wanted to say. And, that opened the gates.

I found that through songwriting there was a way to express so many emotions, conflicts, joys, doubts, failures, fears, and courage. On one song, "Crying, Crying," written with Dan Wilson and Darrell Brown, I could express what it felt like to be in a hit Broadway comedy by night (Larry David's "Fish in the Dark") while navigating doctor's appointments during the day and keeping the terrifying secret of my breast cancer diagnosis. In "Along for the Ride," written with Annie Bosko, I was able to feel the metaphorical and literal freedom of what life's journey has to offer. Do you make something out of even the worst circumstances and choose to make a choice for happiness? "Strong Tonight," written with Blair Daly and Kelly Archer, explores what it feels like when you are tired of being the person trying to keep it all together and you just want to have a melt down. Each song is a personal story.

When I do live shows, and am lucky enough to meet people afterwards, I am always struck by how both men and women tell me that they always had a dream to do something. They tell me about how that dream has passed them by. And, we aren't talking only about people over 50. We are talking about young adults, too. I hear stories from people about how their parents told them that if they pursued a career in the arts, their parents wouldn't pay for their kids' education. I have met countless professionals who are accomplished musicians but left it for a more stable job. What I hear mostly, though, is that they wish they could be doing that "thing" they did, but don't anymore. And here is what I always say: If you want to act, try your community theater. If you like comedy, take an improvisation class at your local junior college. If you have always wanted to write, read "Bird by Bird," by Anne Lamott and start. If you love singing, join your church choir, or get your friends together once a month, bring your favorite songs, take turns singing and bring your friend who loves to play piano to accompany you. Take that watercolor class you have always said you were going to take. Dance.

Songwriting and singing have given me so much joy. I know I am not alone, in that, so many people have found creative ways to pursue their dreams. Even here, at HuffPost50, from my conversations with people I have met from various walks of life, I knew there was untapped talent out there, and I created a Featured Fifty Fiction section for unpublished writers to submit their short stories. I know about that talent. I have seen it, I have heard it, I have read it. We are only held back by our own "stuff." One song on my album, "Stay Low," is about that little voice in your head telling you that you just shouldn't even try to do anything, but, one day finally being able to silence it and take a leap of faith.

Very soon I will come up on my one year anniversary of being diagnosed with breast cancer, and having a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. When I look back on the year, that event was just one part of the year. I also had an enormously creative year, a year spent with family and friends, I rested, I traveled and I am releasing a new album. As terrifying as it was to hear "You have cancer," there was still so much to be thankful for. I didn't know when I wrote the song "Grateful," with Kara and Jason, that it would become even more truthful as time went on. It was the first song we wrote but it showed me how a song could capture a feeling and experience so perfectly. I feel very grateful to be able to do something I have always loved but was too afraid to admit I wanted to do. If just one person reading this is inspired to do something they have always wanted to do, it would be awesome. I even have a song about that which I wrote with Richard Marx and Jillian Jacqueline. It's called "Say Yes."

Check out the new album at the iTunes store here.

and on Amazon here.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

Rock Stars Over 50