He met guitarist Mike Rutherford and keyboardist Tony Banks for the first time at the band’s studio in the English countryside. After formal introductions, the spotlight was on him.
“Beforehand, I had to learn seven Genesis songs from the past,” Wilson said recently. “They put reels of the original music on in the studio and blocked out Phil’s lead voice. Then I came in and did my stuff.
“At the same time, I could hear Phil’s background voice behind me. It was very surreal, believe me.”
There was never any doubt that Wilson was their man, Banks said.
“For me, from the beginning, even when we had a huge list of people to consider, Ray was my No. 1 choice,” he said. “He has more than lived up to it.”
Wilson, 28, makes his Genesis debut with the Sept. 2 release of the venerable British band’s 20th album, “Calling All Stations” (Atlantic). It’s a tall order to take over for Collins, who had his own legendary shoes to fill when original lead singer Peter Gabriel left in 1975 for a solo career. But Wilson said he felt better about the situation after a brief conversation with Collins.
“I haven’t met him in person,” Wilson said, “but I did talk with him over the phone. He had called the farm, where the studio is, and was calling for someone who worked for him.
“He didn’t know who I was, but I recognized his voice and said, ‘Hi, Phil, this is Ray, the new singer guy.’ He actually wished me good luck and said the band was great and that the guys were great to work with and for me to enjoy it.”
Who the bloody heck is Ray Wilson, Genesis fans may ask? He may not be a household name even in his native Edinburgh, Scotland, but British TV viewers may remember a song from his old band, Stiltskin, that was featured in a Levi’s commercial in 1994.
The track, “Inside,” launched Stiltskin to instant fame throughout Europe, where it went No. 1 in several countries, including the United Kingdom. After one album, “The Mind’s Eye,” the group split up and Wilson returned to obscurity.
“I think my past experience has prepared me for this,” Wilson said. “That gave me experience within the industry, and playing large festivals, in front of 50,000 people, also was invaluable.”
Wilson handles his new duties well, singing with authority on such standout tracks as “Congo” (the first single), the ballad “Shipwrecked” and the epic “The Dividing Line.” Whether Genesis fans will embrace him, that’s out of his control.
“I have known since I was age 14 that I was always going to be a singer,” he said. “Even back then, when I sang, people shut up and listened. After a while, you realize you have some sort of gift, but obviously I didn’t think I’d be doing this well, at least not at this level. I’m not taking anything for granted.”
BWF (before we forget): With Collins also out of the picture on drums, Genesis turned to a pair of session players, Nir Zidkyahu and Nick D’Virgilio, for “Calling All Stations.” … Check out Genesis on the Web @ www.genesis-web.com. …
The Genesis album discography – “From Genesis to Revelation” (1969); “Trespass” (1970); “Nursery Cryme” (1971); “Foxtrot” (1972); “Genesis Live” (1973); “Selling England By the Pound” (1973, Charisma); “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” (1974, Atco); “A Trick of the Tail” (1976); “Wind & Wuthering” (1977, Atlantic); “Seconds Out” (1977); “And Then There Were Three” (1978); “Duke” (1980); “Abacab” (1981); “Three Sides Live” (1982); “Genesis” (1983); “Invisible Touch” (1986); “We Can’t Dance” (1991); “Live/The Way We Walk – Volume One: The Shorts” (1992); “Live/The Way We Walk – Volume Two: The Longs” (1993); “Calling All Stations” (1997).
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