Ann Wilson of Heart Takes Her Powerhouse Vocals on Solo Tour
Mar 09, 2017 04:00PM ● Published by Nicole Gould
Photo by Jess Griffin
In a time when the Rock n’ Roll industry was dominated by men, Ann Wilson took her powerhouse vocals and created a truly impressive career as the lead singer of Heart.
The group released their first album in 1976, containing two hit singles, “Crazy on You”and “Magic Man,” rising up to No. 7 on the Billboard Charts. Their second album, Little Queen, featured their hit single “Barracuda,” which led to the Wilson sisters’ cover on Rolling Stone magazine.
After selling over 30 million records, having four Grammy nominations, and numerous singles in the top 40, Heart was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012. Only a year later Heart was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Inductees included Wilson, Nancy Wilson, Roger Fisher, Steve Fossen, Howard Leese, and Michael DeRosier.
After four decades rockin’ out with Heart, Wilson has decided to build on her personal career with a 20–date cross-country solo tour, which kicked off in Seattle and will wrap up in Rhode Island.
“This tour coming up people can expect to see some Heart songs, amazing covers, and new songs that I’ve written. They’ll see things that really influenced me and they’ll see me stretching out as a singer and improving, hopefully … It’ll be interesting and fun. There’s more to Heart than just what’s in the heart box.” -Ann Wilson
Ann Wilson will stop at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, presented by Rams Head, on Sunday, March 26th, 8 p.m. as part of her Ann Wilson of Heart solo tour. Tickets range from $85–115.
Let’s take about where it all began. How did you initially get started with singing?
Our family was a musical family. We used to travel around a lot because my dad was in the military. We were a real tight knit group and would often sing in the car. I started liking music on my own because back then we were able to listen to radio. I just started singing along to the radio and eventually I wanted to sing on my own. One thing led to another, I got in to a band, and there you have it.
Knowing how male-dominated the rock industry was, what led you to be a part of Heart with your sister? How would you say the industry has changed/developed since you first started?
I was in Heart before she joined. I was just in a band with a bunch of guys I met at art school. We started playing around and about three years into it, Nancy was done with college and I invited her to join because she was a good acoustic player and singer. When we first started out, it was a totally male dominated world. Our first biggest challenge was to be taken seriously as rockers. That took a while. We just kept on and kept on and pretty soon it didn’t seem so much novelty anymore.
Its changed so much to not even be recognizable. Back then, you listened to the radio, made albums, and sold them at records stores. That’s how people heard our music. They had a lot bigger attention spans for an artist back then. They would buy an album and listen to the whole thing. Success could be measured in album sales and make a living off of it.
Nowadays, people don’t have the attention span for a whole album, they want singles. Three songs tops at a time. And they want it streamed. They don’t want to collect the albums. It’s all virtual now.
What was it like becoming an addition to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Looking back, did you ever imagine you’d reach that level of success?
Oh no. I never even thought I’d still be alive. When I was 25, I never thought I’d be alive when I was inducted. It was a very surreal experience because you’re the queen for a day and everyone says you’re brilliant and they want to honor you. The next day you wake up and you go back to work.
Tell me a little more about your upcoming tour. What inspired you to go on a cross-country solo tour and what are you hoping fans will take away from this experience?
What inspired me the most is that Heart has been touring for years and years and the last 10 years have been constant, mostly touring with our old hits. They’re good songs and everything, but by the end of last year I was really ready to stretch out and do some shows without the expectations of Heart. This tour coming up, people can expect to see some Heart songs, amazing covers, and new songs that I’ve written. They’ll see things that really influenced me and they’ll see me stretching out as a singer and improving, hopefully.
I want them to take away that Nancy and I are individuals and that she’s doing a solo thing too this year and as with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, they can go off and do their own thing as an artist. It’ll be interesting and fun. There’s more to Heart than just what’s in the heart box.
How would you say the “on tour lifestyle” has changed for you over the years?
It used to be more luxurious. Back in the late ’70s/’80s we had huge back stage catering riders and would fly around in a private pane. We’d pay at least half of what we earned on being luxurious like that. It made touring a lot easier because you could play way more shows in a private plane than on a bus. These days my husband I have our own bus that’s tricked out just the way we like it. And that’s where we live when we’re on the road. We don’t stay in hotels. It’s much more of a bohemian life. It’s pretty romantic and I get to do shows. It is and going to be awesome.
Your 16th studio album, Beautiful Broken, was recently released in July last year. This is your first album release in four years. Can you tell me a little more about this album and why you decided to re-record some of Hearts older songs?
Some of those songs didn’t get their fair shake in the studio their first time. There wasn’t the technology yet to bring our ideas for them forward. In 2016, we had the technology to go back and make them wonderful. I wouldn’t say that I’m going make a habit of re-recording old songs, because my solo thing has two EPs out now that have new songs on them and another one in the works. I’m a little more interested in carving new ground. The new EP is set to release by summer 2017.
Out of all performances you’ve had, all the places you’ve traveled, what has been your all-time favorite moment throughout your career?
I guess the Kennedy Center honors where we got to participate in a tribute to Led Zeppelin. One of the most supreme events because of who was in the audience. There were Led Zeppelin remaining members, former President Obama and the First Lady, David Letterman, Stephen Colbert, Alex Baldwin, Dustin Hoffman, and tons of amazing people. We got to sing “Stairway to Heaven.” That night was perfect. We went to see the White House earlier in the day and then came back and did the show. It was just amazing, like a fairytale almost.