Curiocity: Interview With Ann Wilson Of ‘Heart’
Well-known for their mega-hits “Barracuda,” “Crazy On You” and “Dog And Butterfly,” Heart is still rocking and recording albums after four decades of making music.
To promote her upcoming concert at Mystic Lake Casino, lead singer Ann Wilson took some time for a WCCO interview to discuss the show and a plethora of other topics, including her upcoming album, “Fanatic,” Heart’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination and much more!
At what point in your life did you decide you wanted to pursue singing/songwriting? Did you and your sister kind of come to the whole idea together or did your interest in music influence your sister?
“Well, we, being sisters, we grew up in a musical family and it was just a natural thing for us to progress into. I think that when we got into a band together, like everybody in the band, you know, wants to make a record someday – that was our goal, too. When that looked like a reality, then we knew that was something we wanted to do. And that was probably around 1976.”
To go along with that, who are your musical and/or artist inspirations?
“Oh god, Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, god, there are so many, Elton John. I mean, those are people who were having huge careers when I was a kid … of course Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles.”
I’ve heard how you were inspired/angered to write Barracuda … are many of your songs created in this way, out of a sudden inspiration or reaction to an experience? Or do you have many different types of processes?
“Most of our songs are taken from our lives. We really write in response to things that happen to us, about real people and real feelings and everything. We don’t usually sit down and make stuff up that often. In fact, when we’ve tried to do that, the songs haven’t been as cool.”
I like hearing what musicians consider their message. So, what would you like a listener to take away from a Heart experience?
“If there is any one thing I can boil it down to is, I would say that, you know, Nancy and I are the real thing and we’re not posers. We just really just try to remain true to ourselves and call it like we see it.”
Are there politics in your songs?
“We don’t take a side, like, you know, Democrat or Republican, in our songs, but we definitely have opinions. And on the new album, there’s a song called “Dear Old America,” which is from the perspective of a soldier in, you know, like in Afghanistan or Iraq and what it’s like to be them and what goes through their mind, and coming back to America after they go through that and see that. We definitely can relate to the modern day world and have opinions. We’re not going to just shut up because we’re in music and don’t want to offend. I think musicians should be participants.”
Do you consider yourself a pioneer for women when it comes to music?
“Yeah, I guess. You know … we did go into the rock music scene when there weren’t any other women really for things rock. I mean, there was Fleetwood Mac, but they were a little less rock, like they were more folk rock, you know? So, yeah, I think we did help to loosen the lock on the door a bit. Joan Jett, too, of course.”
What should fans expect from your show at Mystic Lake?
“Well, they’re going to see a cross-section of all the stuff we do, from the beginning, from our first album, all the way through to the new album that we’re going to release in October, called Fanatic. They’ll see a real cross section. They’ll see a lot of rock and roll, and they’ll see some ballads. They’ll see, you know, Nancy really, really digging in on the guitar and me doing what I do!”
You’re going to be performing a show with Joan Jett at Mystic Lake. Do you have a good relationship with her and the band? Have you played shows together before?
“We’ve played together a time or two — a few times I think. I met her and thought she was awesome, you know? Once again, really authentic … she just really is the real thing. She is what she is, really inspiring.”
Through the course of your career, which musician outside your band have you most enjoyed playing with?
“We collaborated with John Paul Jones at one point on an album we did called “The Road Home.” He produced and played and everything. That was amazing – memorable for sure. He was an amazing musician – was and is. You know, Jerry Cantrell and the guys from Alice (and Chains) have always been close friends and I played a little bit on a couple of their records. That’s a really good musical relationship.”
In 2012, Heart was a nominee for the Rock and Roll hall of fame … will being inducted mean a lot to you or what are your thoughts on this?
“I’m not sitting on a hot stove waiting, you know, to be inducted, because they seem to have a little bit of a … I mean, there’s a woman deficit in the rock hall. But having said that, it’s incredible acknowledgment for your work. And I think if that ever happened, it’d be really amazing to be acknowledged that way. It’s just an amazing deal.”
Talking about that “thing you do,” singing, … have you ever had problems with your voice? You hear of musicians, e.g., Adele and Anthony Hamilton, who’ve had to take extended breaks due to singing-related injuries …
“No, I’ve been really lucky. I’ve been really, really, lucky in my career. I haven’t had throat problems. I mean, I’ve gotten sick once in a while like everybody. But as long as I’m healthy, I haven’t had any ongoing problems – knock on wood. It’s only skin, so a singer has to be careful … So far, it’s been really great for me and singing is really personally and physically liberating.”
Tell me more about the upcoming album.
“Well, ‘Fanatic’ is way more rock-heavy then Red Velvet Car was. It’s got 10 songs on it and I think two of them are what you’d call ballads. It’s quite, it’s a lot heavier. You’re just going to have to judge for yourself. It’s going to be released on October 2. I’m real excited about it.”
Finally, if you had to pick one song to be remembered by, which song would that be and why?
“I’d say probably ‘Dog and Butterfly.” It’s a ballad, but I think it talks about balance, and it talks about going after what you want to go after and, you know, keeping after it. I think that would be the one if I had to boil it down to one. The other one would of course be Barracuda, because it’s the other side of the ballad coin.”
Heart and Joan Jett and the Black Hearts will be opening the 2012 Mystic Ampitheatre season on June 29, 2012. For more on tickets, click here.