The Wilson sisters of Heart have taken a break from the band and are travelling down different, yet equally exciting musical roads these days. Ann hit the road doing a run of solo shows while Nancy helped to create a brand new band. It features former Prince and the New Power Generation member Liv Warfield as well as her guitarist Ryan Waters plus Heart veterans Dan Rothchild (bass), Ben Smith (drums) and Chris Joyner (keys). It’s a collision of rock and soul that’s been fused together to create something very special now known as Roadcase Royale.
It’s easy to create a buzz in the industry when a band has the names Nancy Wilson and Liv Warfield attached to it, but the real proof is in the pudding. By now, most of us have heard a song or two by the band and some of us have been fortunate to hear this new album. With that being said, I do have to say that it’s some pretty damn tasty musical pudding that’s about to be served to the world on September 22 in the form of their debut album entitled First Things First. The band is about to embark on a run of live dates opening for the great Bob Seger with a few headlining shows thrown in on their off days with Seger. We were extremely honored to steal a few minutes with Nancy Wilson this week to talk about the album and tour.
Hi Nancy; it’s such a pleasure to be able to talk with you today; how are you?
Nancy Wilson/Roadcase Royale: Hi, I’m actually quite good; how you doing?
Honestly, I’m a bit giddy going into this interview which doesn’t happen too often. It’s a rather cool day here and almost fall like, which I am loving.
I love that kind of weather too! We’re still having a bit of a heatwave here in Los Angeles, but hopefully the last heat wave.
I know the story about how Liv opened the two dates for Heart at the Hollywood Bowl, so there was that initial connection. I’m real curious as to how things went down when the two of you first got together to start creating music.
After we decided to collaborate and see what we could do together, we flew Liv and Ryan, her guitar player, to LA. A couple of us already lived here and Ben Smith came in from Seattle with Ryan. We all converged in LA at this rehearsal space along with a couple of crew guys who were there in case we wanted to record anything that happened that was exciting. The first order of business that I had on my mind was this idea to take a Colin Hay song called “Hold Onto My Hand” which I’ve heard on my Pandora station in my kitchen with just like an acoustic guitar and a voice. I loved the idea of the song, the lyrics and the simplicity of the song so much that I had a plan. We should try to make a song like that into our own sound. I played this idea for them from a Daniel Lanois song “Where the Hawkwind Kills” from his first solo album. It’s this amazing, rolling drum groove and atmospheric guitars and stuff. So, we listened to that together and then we put our own stamp on it and made our own version of the Colin Hay song. When we got back together, which happened pretty quickly to our surprise, we thought ‘that was great; what else can we do now?’ Liv and Ryan had a couple of grooves and songs written and we listened to some of them. We kind of put it in our own tempo and rhythms. We tried to learn the parts and then get our own sound out of it. Then, during a break when some people were going to go get some food for us for dinner, Liv and I sat around and scribbled down some lyrics. We changed them to where they were a little more about today and what is going on in the world. Their version of the song was pretty there, but then we crafted it into our own sound and crafted the lyrics for our own purposes. So, that’s kind of the basic elements of how we started writing. Then, for “Get Loud,” Chris, our keyboard player, had this amazing groove and I had some lyrics that I got from Sue Ennis, who is a longtime Heart collaborator that Liv and I worked on and tinkered with. We put it together really fast; everyone is really experienced, everyone’s done a lot with music before. It’s pretty effortless with this band; we don’t struggle with egos and we’re all in a collaborative spirit with each other. I keep saying this, but I feel like I am in a honeymoon with this rock band (laughs). Everybody’s really good and likes each other; nobody has a negative bone in their body. Nobody is selfishly arrogant, self-centered or narcissistic; everyone has the same work ethic. We’re about to embark on this tour with one tour bus, not two but one. We’re going to be with our crew guys; we’re going to be crowded in there living on a tour bus together for a couple of months. I think it’s going to be fine because we’re all there for the same reason and nobody’s worried about their comfort zone every two seconds. It’s a submarine tour!
One of the many things that I like about this album is that we get to hear the funky side of Nancy Wilson, so that has to be pretty cool to let her out to play.
It’s really true; I grew up with a lot of that in our family. As kids we were listening to Aretha, Ray Charles and everything from opera to classical to the Beatles to Burt Bacharach. It was so much amazing music going on around those times, so for me to sit down and play funky was something that I always wanted to do. Liv had wanted to rock more and not play just the R&B stuff, so we decided to do both. It’s turned into our own little rock and soul sound of Roadcase Royale.
It’s like two different worlds colliding and creating something very beautiful out of it.
I think so; I couldn’t say it any better than that.
I was going to ask this and Gary D. on Facebook was on the same wavelength as me. As an artist, it has to be somewhat reinvigorating to be headed out on the road for a series of live dates where you’ll be performing twenty seven dates out of a fifty six day stretch. Is it almost like relighting a creative fire inside of you?
That’s really well said and I do feel completely reinvigorated and inspired. In a way, it was kind of a blessing in disguise that Ann wanted to step away from Heart for a while and do her own thing. She felt like she was on a hamster wheel; I didn’t feel that way, but if she felt like she needed to do stuff for a while, then god bless it. It actually pushed me into making a more serious run at Liv and Ryans’ thing with my guys from Heart. Right from the very beginning, it felt right and the imprint was deep and wide. It was good energy, good energy and all of the right intentions. I’m loving the sound of this band, so I can’t wait to get out there. We’ve only played four or five shows ever, so getting out there and really playing more is just going to be so great.
“The Dragon” is a song that’s been a long time coming and it’s finally completed and seeing the light of day. How does it feel to finally be able to unleash that track?
It really feels good; that song was never destined to be a Heart song although I did make a run at it a few different times with Heart. There was just this one little section of the song that needed to be filled out, like the bridge part, which is real simple but I just couldn’t find it. Finally, with this band, I gave our bass player Dan Rothchild the assignment and told him, ‘ok, now come back tomorrow with the bridge’ and he did. He laid down in his bed with the guitar and found this really cool, interesting rhythmically and dissonant little short bridge part which finished the song the next day. So, thank you Dan, now the song can be finished after started writing it in the 90s and having it on the shelf forever. It was a song for Layne Staley (Alice In Chains) at the time and now it’s a song for Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington and too many others unfortunately.
You’re heading out for some dates with Bob Seger and you also have some headlining shows mixed in there as well. Kelly M. on Facebook wanted to know how you will adjust the setlist between the two shows.
For our headlining shows, we’re trying to fill in so that we don’t lose money just opening for Seger. It’s a lot of pay for so we can’t just sit in town and languish. We’re just getting started as a band, so we have to do the extra work; we have to pretend we’re in our twenties (laughs). It will be a forty five minute show with Seger, but with us it will be an hour and a half. We’ll be able to do a lot more stuff including doing some Heart songs. We’ll rock that material because people love it and it sounds good with this band. We’ll do a Prince song and some other songs off of the new album as well.
Lesley P. on Facebook wanted to ask if you have plans on bringing Roadcase Royale to the UK?
Yes, I would love to take it to the UK as well. It’s a natural for these jazz festivals today to include more and more rock. Some of those festivals over there would be awesome or just opening for a metal band or something like that. We’ll see where we get to by the end of this year and see what we can get. I think it’s going to be wide open for all that kind of stuff.
I see that our time is about up, but before I go I have to tell you that I really do love this album. I’m not just saying that because we’re talking wither; I keep gravitating towards “Hold Onto My Hand.”
Aww, thank you for saying that; a lot of people are choosing that one as a favorite and it’s getting lots of votes.
Just a reminder that First Things First, the debut album from Roadcase Royale, will be released on September 22 and you can order it HERE.
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