Interview ~ Ann Wilson of Heart

Heart’s Wilson sisters, Ann and Nancy for those who may not be in the know, are usually seen side by side rocking out on the stage. They’ve been doing that for over four decades and just like a fine wine, they keep getting better with age. They have proven the critics wrong time and time again and have finally gained the respect of many of them while making believers out of the doubters. Their talent and determination has enabled them to remain in the rock and roll marathon while others were only prepared for a short sprint. Recently, the sisters have been off on their own doing solo projects; Nancy is a part of Roadcase Royale and Ann is out on the road doing a solo tour. Ann’s run of dates has her performing in much smaller, more intimate venues with a setlist far from what you’d hear at a Heart concert. We spoke with Ann Wilson recently and we talked about her solo tour, picking her setlist and what’s on her bucketlist.

We saw Heart last summer on the Rock Hall Three For All tour with Cheap Trick and Joan Jett and now you’re doing a solo tour of smaller, more intimate venues.  They are two completely different beasts with similarities and differences. I would think that a smaller show like this would be a great way to recharge you as an artist.

Ann Wilson: Absolutely; that’s the whole purpose of doing it. After a while of just doing repetitions of shows with the same songs and same venues, you really do need to take some time and stretch out, rethink and re-feel it all.

I will admit that I took a peek at the setlist and there are some great song choices there. Was it tough for you to come up with a setlist like that?

It was actually really easy; I wanted to pick songs that would challenge me. They had to have a message, good lyrics and work in the live situation. I just didn’t want to fall back into old habit patterns doing all the old Heart songs one more time. I wanted to do a few Heart songs that I thought could stand a little change and that stood up to the rest of them. What Heart song could stand up to “Love Reign o’er Me” by The Who? I think it would have to be “Crazy on You” or something like that, you know?

When you say challenge you, do you mean vocally or in its interpretation?

Both, but mostly in the interpretation; I didn’t want to make the set so vocally challenging that I couldn’t do it all year. I want to be able to do it night after night after night, but I wanted to challenge myself in terms of taking on topics and messages that are a lot more substantial.

We all have bad days where we don’t feel like going into work, but we do anyway and we push right through it. I’m sure you have had days like that, but how do you deal with it?

Once you step onto the stage, there’s an energy that really does take over and a lot of it for me has to do with the drums. I happen to have an excellent drummer in Denny Fongheiser and he really knows how to be with me. He will anticipate things that I’m going to do; he’ll totally be my wingman. It’s fantastic and that always helps on those times, but just like you, you have to muscle your way through it.

It’s tough sometimes, but we’re all human and we have to push through whether we’re rocking out onstage or ringing up customers.

For sure!

Marriage is something that changes our lives in so many ways on an everyday basis. Heart played Raleigh, North Carolina last year, which was a hot spot then and still is now with the HB2 situation going on. It was apparent that when you did the intro for “Alone” that you were very emotional and maybe more so than usual. For me, I sensed that being away from your husband was hitting you harder than maybe you anticipated.

He tours with me and he had been gone for a couple of days; he had to go back to the west coast for some stuff. I was feeling super lonely because we’re still relatively newlyweds and we haven’t really been apart yet for two years. We’ve been together pretty much 24/7, so when he’s gone I really do feel it.

For me, that was a very emotional and powerful concert moment that I will never forget. I appreciate you allowing yourself to be vulnerable like that and the authenticity of that moment really meant a lot to me.

I’m glad it did; you know, it would take somebody else who also loves someone to be able to hear that.

Is it weird how your career has, in a way, come full circle with the music that you’re creating today having more of a 70s feel and vibe to it?

I think it’s great; it shows that people are interested in the substance of the songs rather than the flash and gloss and all of that. I love it myself!

I love all types of music, but I always need something to sink my teeth into lyrically. Although it’s out there, I don’t feel that there’s enough of that being made today. I don’t get a sense of The Stones or The Who or Heart in what’s being made today.

I think a lot of the time these days that people aren’t trailblazers; they love a band like the Stones and they think they’re going to be the next Stones. They go out and do a Rolling Stones kind of thing, and that’s all well and good, but that doesn’t create a great band. All it does is make mini-Rolling Stones. The star maker machinery these days is such a big machine with shows like The Voice, American IdoI and all that kind of stuff. There’s a lot of pressure on young artists to copy this one thing and they can have a career for about a minute and then they’re done (laughs).

Yes, we seem to have plenty of flavors of the week; instead of being the first so and so, they’re the fourth copy of an already famous band.

That’s exactly right.

You announced twenty dates on your solo run, so is there anything on your radar that you’re looking ahead to?

We’re going to be playing this solo thing all year long, but we just haven’t announced the next dates yet. Right now, Nancy’s doing her solo thing and I’m doing my solo thing too.

I had a question from Jana in Ohio who wanted to know if you had any plans to brand off into fashion. I noticed a clip on your YouTube page about The Line of Ann Wilson.

We came out with the one piece that I designed to be worn by all people, both genders, all sizes and shapes from teeny to large and it’s really a good style. We just need to find out how to manufacture it so we can afford to sell it at an affordable price. That’s where we’re at with that right now because I want to keep it good quality; I don’t want to just bang out some piece of garbage that will just be gone or be trendy. That’s the challenge that I have with that, but we’re still working on it.

Do you have a bucketlist, either musically or one that’s more of a personal nature?

I don’t think so; I’ve done so much stuff in my life and things that I’ve dreamed about have come true. Well, even a lot of really fantastic things that I didn’t even imagine have come true as well. Something may come up, but right now I am pretty happy where I am.

Life’s all about finding that happiness and it makes me extremely happy knowing that you’re in that place in your life right now. As much as I hate to say it, our time is up. Thank you so very much for taking the time to talk with us today. We’re looking forward to seeing you in Wilmington, North Carolina on March 21; take care and safe travels out on the road.

You’re welcome and thanks for talking; hope you have a great rest of your day.

Ann Wilson Solo Tour Dates
March 16 – Salina, KS @ Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts
March 19 – New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
March 21 – Wilmington, NC @ Cape Fear Community College Theatre
March 22 – Charleston, SC @ Charleston Music Hall
March 23 – Greenville, SC @ Peace Center for the Creative Arts
March 25 – Morristown, NJ @ Mayo Performing Arts Center
March 26 – Annapolis, MD @ Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts
March 29 – Alexandria, VA @ The Birchmere
March 30 – Westbury, NY @ The Westbury Theater
April 1 – Peekskill, NY @ Paramount Hudson Valley
April 2 – Londonderry, NH @ Tupelo Music Hall
April 4 – Englewood, NJ @ Bergen Performing Arts Center
April 6 – Philadelphia, PA @ Keswick Theatre
April 7 – Providence, RI @ Park Theatre PAC

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