They’ve known each other since childhood, occasionally attending parties in the Hollywood hills with their respective mothers and famous fathers. And at one point, Matthew and Gunnar Nelson (the identical twin sons of Rick Nelson) and Wendy and Carnie Wilson (Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson’s oldest daughters) may have taken swimming lessons together.
But as far as collaborating on music with the related two-thirds of Wilson Phillips, Gunnar is 100 percent sure that he and his brother “never jammed with them on anything of any kind” before recording “This Christmas.”
“Matthew and I co-wrote the song two years ago,” Gunnar recalls, “and because our schedules wouldn’t coincide with the Wilsons then, we chose to record it and release it last year with one of our co-writers [Alyssa Bonagura]. I approached Carnie about a year ago about re-recording the song as we’d always intended — as a double duet — and she agreed. That’s when things really started to move forward.”
The Nelson brothers’ vocal parts had already been recorded at Gunnar’s studio in Nashville, Tenn., so Carnie did her vocal in Los Angeles, and Wendy recorded her part in Seattle.
“The funny thing is, the first time that we all sang together in the same place at the same time was the day of the video shoot, which was [a few months ago],” Gunnar says.
Carnie’s daughters are featured in the video, and they can also be heard on the recording.
“That was actually Carnie’s idea, and I think it was a fabulous one,” says Gunnar. “It was one of the little elements that the original production of this song, before Carnie and Wendy got involved, was missing. It’s charming and very honest. It’s also a time capsule and a snapshot of her children that I told Carnie she could look back on years from now when her kids are all grown up.”
The previous version of “This Christmas” landed on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in December 2015, debuting at No. 22 — the first time the Nelson brothers had a song on a Billboard chart in more than 20 years.
The new rendition with the Wilsons is off to a good start. It entered Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart at No. 26 and has since risen to No. 17. Their joint chart success comes 26 years after the Nelson song “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection” knocked the Wilson Phillips hit “Release Me” out of the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
When it comes to Christmas gifts from his brother, Gunnar says their current holiday hit is the best he’s received. Any really bad ones?
“I suppose the worst gift he gave me is the ugly pair of Christmas jammies I now wear onstage every night at the end of our ‘Christmas With the Nelsons’ show,” Gunnar admits.
— By Chris M. Junior
Matthew and Gunnar Nelson on tour (schedule subject to change):
• Dec. 9: Potawatomi Casino/Northern Lights Theater — Milwaukee
• Dec. 10: Grand Falls Casino — Larchwood, Iowa
• Dec. 11: Rhythm City Casino Resort — Davenport, Iowa
• Dec. 12: Whatley Center for the Performing Arts — Mount Pleasant, Texas
• Dec. 13: One World Theatre — Austin, Texas
• Dec. 16: Renaissance Performing Arts Theatre — Goodyear, Arizona
• Dec. 17: Ritz Theatre — Tiffin, Ohio
• Dec. 22: Jack and Jameson’s Smokehouse — Franklin, Tennessee
• Dec. 31: Chiefs Event Center — Fort Hall, Idaho
Left to right: Gunnar Nelson, Wendy Wilson, Carnie Wilson and Matthew Nelson. (Photo by Brian Lowe)