Why Rita Wilson’s Tour Should Start Out in California

First Stop, Solana Beach

It’s fitting that Rita Wilson’s spring tour is kicking off in California. That’s where she discovered Joni Mitchell and the magic of live music and how those could kind of ultimately collide into a second career for her.

Back when Wilson was a teenager, she worked at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles. And better than the hourly pay — and way better than the orange uniform pants she had to wear — was the ability to listen to the music all night long. It was the ultimate job perk for her.

(That was before she became an actress and married Tom Hanks, mind you, when the job perks probably improved a little.)

For Wilson, the most memorable show at that concert venue featured Mitchell.

“It just happened to be a magical night. It was a full moon. She was wearing a peach vintage dress. The wind was blowing. She was singing ‘California,’ and it was the perfect moment,” Wilson recalled, telling me about it like it had just happened yesterday instead of sometime in the ’70s.

Now it’s Wilson’s turn to bring that magic to her own crowds. She’s going to make 22 tour stops, bringing the music from her brand new self-titled album (out on March 11) to fans across the country.

“I totally love performing, and I love the intimacy of a live audience. There’s something about the connection I have with the audience that is so important,” Wilson said.

And to bring her Joni Mitchell moment full circle, there’s even a song on the album called “Joni.” Wilson wrote it with Jason Reeves and Danelle Leverett, as a way of thanking Mitchell for the effect she had on her that night at the amphitheater and beyond.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.