September 22, 2017 Interview – Nancy Wilson of Heart & Roadcase Royale
Life moves in mysterious ways, and sometimes, when you least expect it, something wonderful can transpire. Such is the case for Nancy Wilson, faced with the reality Rock-n-Roll icons Heart were taking a break in 2017. Following years of success, writing, recording, and touring with her sister Ann, Nancy Wilson turned an uncertain year into a one packed with possibilities, going on to launch her new band Roadcase Royale. A passion project brought together by Nancy and powerful R&B Vocalist Liv Warfield, Roadcase Royale have just begun writing their story as they prepare to release their debut album First Things First on September 22nd. Currently on the road, headlining shows, as well as supporting Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, Nancy Wilson took the time to discuss her fond memories of Heart, diving into a new chapter in her life with Roadcase Royale, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – The year 2017 has been an interesting year for you. As you had mentioned, the break from Heart came unexpectedly, but it has ended up being a blessing in disguise with the birth of Roadcase Royale. Tell us, how are you feeling about how this year has unfolded?
Nancy Wilson – So far it has been one of the more challenging years, but it turned on a dime when I started working with Roadcase Royale to one of the most inspired times. Like you said, it is a blessing in disguise from the things which got me to this place. Putting Heart on the back burner has allowed me to go forward into a whole new territory. I feel like this is a destinity situation for me. It is something I never thought I was going to end up doing, but something I really want to do. I did The Lovemongers, which also had Ann (Wilson) and of course Heart, this is the first other real band I have ever been part of in a very long time. It is super exciting and it feels so fresh. Hence the album title, First Things First. This new band is making me very happy!
CrypticRock.com – As we had spoken of, Roadcase Royale is comprised of a really great mix of musicians including Liv Warfield. The band’s debut album is quite an mix of styles. There are Blues, Hard Rock, as well as Soul elements. What was it like putting this album together?
Nancy Wilson – One of the first conversations I had with Liv, when she was opening at the Hollywood Bowl for Heart, was her saying, “I love your Rock band!” I told her, “I love your R&B band!” but she said she wanted to do more Rock. I told her I want to do that and more R&B. I love playing funky; Heart does have ocassional funky moments along the way, but putting those elements together would be really fun! So we made a plan to get together with her guitar player Ryan Waters, both of them who are from the world of Prince. We said, “We are going to do this and not just say we are going to do it.” We actually did it! We got together in New York when Heart was still on the road and had some drinks with Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen, they told us, “Go for it! You have to do it! It is going to work great!”
We had a little cheerleader team so went further and made it happen with my three guys from Heart – Chris Joyner (keys), Dan Rothchild (bass), and Ben Smith (drums) – along with Liv, Ryan, and I. It just started to emerge right off the bat and it was pretty amazing how quickly we all fell together as we had been playing together forever. I think we are all experienced players with a lot of discipline and passion for the same ethics. It just worked right away and worked fast; we started recording in less than 2 weeks.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly sounds like an exciting new adventure. Roadcase Royale also allows you a chance to sing a bit more. You have displayed a really beautiful lead singing voice through the years a part of Heart. Has Roadcase Royale allowed you a chance to expand your horizons as a vocalist?
Nancy Wilson – It is funny because I never really had a lot of confidence as a lead singer. A lot of guitar players are not necessarily lead singers. In Heart, I was always sort of tiptoeing through one or two songs an album, or one or two songs a show. With Roadcase Royale, Liv said, “You have to sing more, I love your voice, you have to sing more!” I said, “You are kidding me, really?” (laughs) She gave me a little more confidence that I had felt I was never really encouraged to have before. I am glad for that, I am not a perfect singer, but I am a character singer for sure. I love singing and I love harmony singing. We did a lot of harmonies with Roadcase Royale and I am doing more than usual lead singing too. That makes it super fun as well as just being a brand new band. We are just ready to go and kick ass!
CrypticRock.com – That is fantastic to hear and it is also great to hear you sing more. Set for release on September 22nd, First Things First has a mix of great tunes, and one of the tracks is a re-recorded version of Heart’s “These Dreams.” What was it like revisiting this track and re-recording it?
Nancy Wilson – I really think this new version is my favorite. That song has been reinterpreted live over the years with Heart. For a while it was more of the ’80s style of production, then an acoustic version, and then, for a while, I was playing mandolin, then halfway between the versions. This time it turned much more into an updated take on the song, which also borrows from Liv. I trade off the verse vocals with her for the higher, stronger parts of the song and back again. It has a new character and sound. It is still a very recognizable, beautiful song and one of the coolest songs I personally think there is. I just love the sound of Liv chiming in with that and all the harmonies. It is my favorite version, and there has been many!
CrypticRock.com – It certainly did come out well. This album has a little something for everyone. The song “The Dragon” even offers a little of an Alice in Chains feel to it.
Nancy Wilson – Yea, that is a song that I started back in the day of the Seattle explosion of the early/mid-90s for Layne Staley of Alice in Chains. At the time, he was a super addict and heading the way of disaster; everyone who loved him really saw that coming. For some odd reason, I could never finish that song. I tried finishing it with Heart, but it was never suppose to be a Heart song. I kind of took a run at it with Jerry Cantrell, but it was too painful of a thing to want to work on for him. Even Sammy Hagar was like, “Eh…. I will get back to you.”
Finally, when we were working with Roadcase Royale, I said to Dan, “All this songs needs is a simple bridge, can you bring one for it?” Overnight, he went home and came up with this chanting thing that plugged right in and finished the song. We recorded it and finally the song is now there for not only Layne Staley but Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Robin Williams, and all these people who take a dark way out. Or, anyone who is on their way with some sort of insidious addiction; it is a conscious tale. Hopefully it might be able to help some people not go there.
CrypticRock.com – That is wonderful that you were able to finally get the song complete, and hopefully it will help people struggling with demons. Now, Roadcase Royale has some headlining shows coming up. That has to be very exciting.
Nancy Wilson – For sure! Opening for Bob Seger is super cool! I know in my bones that this band and Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet band is just going to meld. The two styles are going to be a really good match. He has a lot of Rock and Soul in his band, voice, songs, and so do we. I think it will be a great match. I know they are great people and we have cool people too, it will be pleasant.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and Bob Seger is a fantastic vocalist and songwriter; that will be a great bill. Now, in regards to Heart, the band has very rich history in Rock-n-Roll and have been quite influential. That in mind, 2016 marked the 40th anniversary of 1976’s Dreamboat Annie. That is an important record for numerous reasons -one is that you and Ann chose to handle the writing of it all yourselves. Looking back all these years later, what are your thoughts on that period?
Nancy Wilson – That period is interesting now for me starting with the new band with how similar I felt to starting with a brand new band for Dreamboat Annie. With all the hopes and huge expectations that we would get one with a big Rock career with big stages, be applauded, and get noticed, somehow get on the Rock-n-Roll map. Dreamboat Annie was a really exciting time. I remember getting into Vancouver BC, Mushroom Records had a studio there called Can-Base Studio. A lot of songs we tried to write during practices and soundchecks.
Then we got into the recording studio that looked to us like this huge room with a control room and isolation booths. It was scary when we walked in there and so impressive. We felt, “It is a real studio!” Quite a few years later, we go together there with The Lovemongers, walked in, and it was kind of a little hole in the wall studio. The perception was so massively different after the more experienced years go by, you walk in and say, “What a cute little place.” It is so interesting, but give us a room, any room, and we will make good music.
CrypticRock.com – That is pretty funny. It is so true how perception changes as time goes by. What we once thought was massive ends up not looking so after other experiences. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. Last we spoke, you had said you are not a huge fan of Horror, but what are some new movies you have seen in 2017 that you enjoyed?
Nancy Wilson – I saw a Documentary about Muscle Shoals which I adore. I want to see Dunkirk real bad. I like the series Stranger Things, that feels like a movie to me. TV is starting to evolve into movies. I have just been so at work with music I don’t see that many films. I love the Documentary called The Defiant Ones about Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. I am just a little out of touch with the visual because I am working so much on the audio.