Ann Wilson is one of the premier hard-rock vocalists of all time. Smashing boundaries with longstanding Seattle outfit Heart, she’s enjoyed a decades-long career resulting in more than 35 million albums sold and an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Wilson recorded much of her new solo album, Fierce Bliss, at the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama, and enlisted the company of a trio of guitar powerhouses for good measure: co-producer Tom Bukovac, Warren Haynes and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Haynes, who last worked with Wilson on her Immortal solo release, returns for Fierce Bliss, bringing along Gov’t Mule for a pair of original songs: Gladiator and Angel’s Blues.
Shepherd accompanies Wilson on two covers: a monstrous version of the Robin Trower classic, Bridge of Sighs, and an ambitious take on the Eurythmics’ hit, Missionary Man, the latter of which has Wilson backed by a 40-person gospel choir.
An ethereal duet version of Queen classic Love of My Life with Vince Gill is also featured on the album, as well as fantasy art by Roger Dean, renowned for his work designing Yes’s sleeve artwork.
We spoke with Ann Wilson about Fierce Bliss, working with Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Warren Haynes and her favorite memories of Heart.
Was it your desire to create a guitar-driven album?
“Yeah, that’s what I’m comfortable with and what speaks to me. I was blessed to get into the company of Tom Bukovac, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Warren Haynes. They’re great players who are also great humans. After we got vaccinated, we all put on masks and went to Muscle Shoals, where Tom had put together this band with Tony Lucido on bass and Sean Lane on drums.”
Fresh off a series of Southern California live shows, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Nancy Wilson of Heart and her band, Roadcase Royale, are gearing up for their first East Coast and Canadian shows of the summer. The group, which features members of Heart as well as R&B powerhouse vocalist, Liv Warfield (Prince’s New Power Generation), will be in support of their eclectically cool, soul-driven debut album, First Things First.
The five-city tour begins in Waterloo, New York on Saturday, Aug. 11 and wraps up in Toronto, Canada on Saturday, Aug. 18. Tickets are available now.
AXS recently spoke with Nancy Wilson about the new Roadcase Royale tour, songwriting and the 40th anniversary of Heart’s album, Dog & Butterfly in this exclusive new interview.
AXS: What can fans expect from your upcoming tour with Roadcase Royale?
Nancy Wilson: When we’re out touring as Roadcase Royale, we’ll be doing quite a bit of the hits Heart fans really like to hear, like “Crazy on You,” “Barracuda,” and a reinterpreted “Straight On” that’s even more rock and fun. We’ll also be doing a few original songs from our album, First Things First, and a few covers that we really love to do. It’s a good place for a Heart fan to be.
AXS: How has the reaction been to the new Roadcase Royale album?
NW: A lot of people have called it a fresh, new take on rock and soul, which is exactly what we were aiming at. It’s still fun performing our song, “Get Loud,” which was aimed at the #MeToo movement before it even started. We wrote the song for the women’s marches and it’s even more of a relevant song today. There’s also a reinterpretation of “These Dreams” on First Things First. Liv is such a different kind of singer, and her interpretation and spin on the Heart songs is something so unique and different. She’s made the songs her own.
AXS: You’ve described the sound of First Things First as muscular rock with a flavor of R&B. Was that what you intended to have or did the sound evolve as you all started jamming and writing?
NW: It was definitely an intentional collaboration. I first met Liv when her band opened for Heart. She had been wanting to rock more and I’d always loved the flavor of soul and R&B. We liked each other so much that Liv sent me some tracks and we started talking about how we could make music together. I had a million ideas, but the first one I wanted to try was this amazing song, “Hold On To My Hand” by Colin Hay. The version I’d heard was just one acoustic guitar and voice. It was so moving that I thought, let’s interpret this simple, meaningful song, make it our own and see what our sound is going to be like. It still may be my favorite song on the album.
AXS: Can you tell me the origin of the track, “Cover Each Other” from First Things First?
NW: That song was inspired by my husband, Geoff. He has far-reaching talent and had been working for many years in movie division and TV. One day, they offered him and a bunch of other people a buyout, which was a very generous reward for all the years of loyalty and success. It was one of those things you’re happy about when you take it, but then realize there’s this whole other emotional level you didn’t anticipate. Leaving is like graduating school and missing your friends; the camaraderie and structured routine. I knew he was dealing with some of those feelings, so I wrote the words for “Cover Each Other.” Because when someone is going through something hard, you catch them and are there for them. That’s what the song is about.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Nancy Wilson by Clicking Here!
Following the release of Heart’s critically acclaimed album, Beautiful Broken and last year’s headlining tour with fellow Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Joan Jett and The Blackhearts and Cheap Trick, Ann Wilson decided it was time to spread her wings for a while.
Kicking off March 8 in Wilson’s hometown of Seattle, the legendary vocalist and her solo band, Ann Wilson Of Heart, will embark on a new 20-date tour with stops that include Los Angeles, Denver, Philadelphia and New Orleans among others.
The Ann Wilson of Heart tour promises an eclectic mix of music from Wilson’s storybook career. Included will be timeless songs from her years with her sister Nancy in Heart, as well selections from her work as a solo artist and what’s best described as iconic, soul stirring covers that have been the driving force in the singer’s life.
AXS recently spoke with Ann Wilson about her new tour and more in this exclusive interview.
AXS: How big of a role did music play in your house growing up?
Ann Wilson: It played a huge role. My parents were really musical people. They didn’t play professionally, but they both loved music and it was always on in the house. All different kinds. They just liked anything that was good. It wasn’t much of a stretch to start being a musician in that family.
AXS: What inspired your new Ann Wilson of Heart tour?
AW: As a singer and a creative person I really wanted to stretch out. We’ve been touring constantly for most of this century and I just felt the need to get out of the “Heart” box and do something different. So I’m about to embark on a yearlong tour with my band. It’s a show that will be in theaters because I’ve designed it so that it’s beautiful and needs those types of venues for the video wall and production. We’re going to do some Heart songs, some of my new songs and some covers that have inspired me both as a singer and person over the course of my life.
The sold-out show, which took place in June, was highlighted by hit after hit—from “Crazy on You” and “Barracuda” to “Magic Man” and “Dreamboat Annie”—plus tracks from the band’s engaging new studio album, Beautiful Broken.
Besides Ann Wilson (vocals) and Nancy Wilson (guitar/vocals), the band that night included Ben Smith (drums), Dan Rothchild (bass), Craig Bartock (guitar), Chris Joyner (keyboards) and, of course, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Nick Davies.
I recently spoke with Nancy Wilson about the Royal Albert Hall performance, gear and the stories behind some of the band’s biggest hits.
When and how did the idea for a performance at the Royal Albert Hall originate?
We had been pushing the concept of bringing the band over to the U.K. and doing some shows for some time. That was when someone who had been handling big shows at Royal Albert Hall got wind that we were coming over and asked if we’d be interested in doing a World Symphony show. And we were like, “Uhm, yeah! I think we could manage that!” [laughs]. It all fell together very naturally.
What was the process like in terms of putting orchestration behind the band’s iconic songs?
It was a cool thing because we already had some standard charts from Paul Buckmaster, who worked us on Beautiful Broken. But we didn’t want to give it a pastoral kind of sound. We wanted more of a rock-symphony sound. We came over and had one day with Nick Davies looking over the charts and talking them over. We perused through them together and decided what to add and what take out.
The same day as the show was the only day we actually rehearsed with the orchestra. They’re so insanely talented. Once we got out there and saw how great it sounded in the room, we knew right away it was going to work. That’s when we said, “Ok, let’s go have some fun!”
Read the rest of my
Interview with Nancy Wilson Here!
I don’t know about you, but I never get tired of listening to Ann and Nancy Wilson. As far as I’m concerned, Ann’s voice and stage persona combined with sister Nancy’s infectious guitar work is as powerful now as it was when Heart released their platinum selling debut album forty years ago.
Over the course of their illustrious career Heart has sold more than 35 million albums worldwide and have been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Which makes sharing Christmas with Ann and Nancy all the more special.
For Heart’s new live CD/DVD package “Heart and Friends: Home For The Holidays” Ann and Nancy returned to their hometown of Seattle, Washington to stage a celebration of the season, and brought along a few friends for good measure.
Recorded live at the Benaroya Symphony Concert Hall, the Wilson sisters perform a selection of favorite holiday classics that are sure to put you in the holiday mood. Joining them on stage for this one of a kind special are guests Shawn Colvin, Sammy Hagar, Richard Marx and Pat Monahan (Train).
But it just wouldn’t be a true Heart show without a few surprises, and this collection is no different. Included in the live performance is a reading of an original Christmas poem by Nancy Wilson as well as a killer version of the classic Heart song, “Barracuda”.
Of course, the sisters saved one of the best for last. Remember when Ann and Nancy did a version of “Stairway to Heaven” that brought Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant to tears during the Kennedy Center Honors a few years ago? Yep, the sisters have included another draw dropping performance of that song here, complete with a local Seattle choir.
All being said, “Heart & Friends : Home For The Holidays” is the perfect soundtrack for the season, and an ultimate must have for fans of the reigning Queens of Classic Rock.
CD/DVD track listing:
Seasons Rockin’/Love Came Down at Christmas (feat. Shawn Colvin)
POEM (Nancy Wilson)
All Through The Night (feat. Richard Marx)
All We Need Is An Island / Santa’s Going South (feat. Sammy Hagar)
Please Come Home for Christmas (feat. Pat Monahan)
Stairway to Heaven
Ring Them Bells (feat. Pat Monahan, Richard Marx, Shawn Colvin)
It’s been a busy year for former Heart guitarist Howard Leese. The man who played alongside sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson for more than twenty years has spent much of 2013 performing in the Las Vegas musical “Raiding The Rock Vault”.
In addition, Leese will once again be joining Paul Rodgers and Bad Company for the band’s 40th anniversary tour which kicks off this summer. Then there’s the little matter of his recent induction into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and reunion with the rest of Heart. With a successful Vegas show in full gear and having worked with arguably the greatest male and female vocalists in rock history, Leese shows no sign of slowing down.
I spoke with Leese from his home in Malibu where we talked Raiding The Rock Vault, Heart, Bad Company and of course, guitars!