Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour

CL's Interview with Keyboardist Charlie Wilson

Posted by Brian Frederick on Sat, May 17, 2014 at 12:17 AM

As time passes through the winds, change being the only constant, the idea of something being immortal seems wistfully intangible. Still, the music, the legacy of Michael Jackson has left a mark on our world that might just be everlasting. The creative minds from Cirque du Soleil and Jackson's estate have set out on the road with a beautiful new masterpiece, Michael Jackson: The IMMORTAL World Tour. Combing a lifetime of musical hits, and a legacy for unmatched showmanship, this Cirque show is a departure from their usual touring production.

CL had the opportunity to chat with one of the many talented musicians from the show, keyboardist Charlie Wilson. What's it like working in the King of Pop's shadow? Find out after the jump.

CL: This is your first time working with Cirque du Soleil, what has this experience been like for you? Is it comparable to anything else you've ever done?

Charlie Wilson: Yes, this has been an absolutely amazing experience. The only thing I can compare it to is my first world tour. The only difference being that this has the Michael Jackson overtone, which makes it larger than life. Working with Cirque is a new experience. I've never had the chance to work with acrobats and all those other elements. It’s inspiring for me! Any guy who can hang from the ceiling by his mouth is obviously inspiring.

You've had a tremendous career in the music industry, and have worked with a multitude of high-caliber artists from Justin Timberlake to John Mayer. Michael Jackson: The IMMORTAL World Tour showcases the legendary King of Pop. Is there an extra pressure to represent someone so iconic?

Absolutely. The major pressure is that Greg Phillinganes put this all together and was Michael’s musical director for 30 plus years. I play every show as if Michael was there and that is extreme pressure because he has such a high standard. He’s the King of Pop.

Did you ever have the opportunity to work with Michael Jackson himself, during his life? How has his music inspired your career, if at all?

Unfortunately I was not able to work with Michael while he was alive, but I think his music has inspired every musician. I can remember being a child and watching the BAD Tour and having a desire to be on stage and pursue a career as a touring musician. And thinking how cool is Don (Boyette) and now I get to work with him on stage. It’s such an honor. Every show is a dream come true.

Have you learned anything while working on Michael Jackson: The IMMORTAL World Tour, and working with Cirque du Soleil?

I’ve learned to push the envelope. That you can never be good enough and you always have to train to work to get to that next place. With the music, we have to practice a lot because every show is a different show with new fans bringing a new energy.

You majored in Performance and Film Composition at Bethune-Cookman College and later continued your studies as a recording engineer at Full Sail University. How do you think your schooling prepared you for your career, and what advice do you have for aspiring musicians?

My schooling helped me realize what I wanted to do and enabled me to focus on that goal. For all musicians, I would say set a goal, find out where your goal exists – whether that’s LA, New York, Atlanta, wherever — and go there. Jump in head first. Meet as many people as you can, play as much as you can, hang as much as you can because the social interactions are just as important. Keep practicing, keep getting better. Improvement should be a daily goal.

Michael Jackson: The IMMORTAL World Tour, May 20-21, 8 p.m., Tampa Bay Times Forum, 401 Channelside Dr, Tampa, $50-$125.

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