Interview – Nancy Wilson of Heart

The road to success is never a smooth one and if there are detours along the way, it does not mean all hope is lost. Living proof of such words, Nancy Wilson has seen it all and four decades later stands tall as Rock-n-Roll royalty.

One half of  the core that makes up the legendary Heart, Wilson has experienced everything from the triumphs of success to the pitfalls that come along with it. Still with a burning desire to rock, Wilson and Heart returned in 2016 with their sixteenth studio album, Beautiful Broken, toured extensively,and now in 2017 she travels a new musical path with Roadcase Royale. In all aspects a surreal life journey, the humble musician sat down to talk the history of Heart, the bond between her and sister Ann, the inspiration behind Roadcase Royale and much more. – Coming together over four decades ago, Heart has since become one of the most iconic bands in Rock-n-Roll history. Throughout the years you have faced many of successes, changes, and obstacles. All that said, how would you describe the fantastical journey that yourself and Heart has been on?

Nancy Wilson – Well ‘fantastic’ is the right word. Fantastic describes it really well, because of the fact that we’ve been able to span four decades with the same band and we weren’t always at the top of the pile. We’ve had a few lows along the way, but we’ve managed to sort of reinvent and kickstart a few times when we’ve got back in the game. Overall, what I love about Heart is the way that many of our songs means so much to the people that love those songs, the fans. – Yes and the band has many of those memorable songs.It is a testament to the band’s will to go on – to get through those hard times like you said. To last as long as Heart has, it really is amazing.

Nancy Wilson – It’s a victory of epic proportions, let’s put it that way. 

Capitol – Now, through everything, at the center of Heart has always been yourself and your sister, Ann. Working with anyone in an artistic way can be a challenge, let alone a sibling. What has been the key to the chemistry that you two have shared through it all?

Nancy Wilson – I think that we’ve had so many obstacles – even with each other in a lot of ways, you know, ego wise, and giving each other enough space and stuff like that – but that’s what we’re good at. When times come around, for instance, recently, Ann needs more space from Heart and she needs to do something different from Heart. So I said, “Okay, too bad,” but I was kind of relying on Heart for my living this summer.  But I got comfortable with it and I said, “Okay, take your space and I’m going to figure out my own space,” and I got my new band!  So, actually it was a blessing in disguise. – Sometimes things work out for the best when we less expect it. Amidst all the years with Heart you have done solo projects, including a 2009 children’s record, Baby Guitars.  Most recently you teamed up with members of Prince’s band and famed vocalist Liv Warfield to form Roadcase Royale. You have released a single “Get Loud” which certainly has a R&B and Blues-like vibe. What can you tell about this new project? 

Nancy Wilson – Yeah, we’ve got the EPs worked now of mastered songs that we’re going to sort of roll out as they roll them out. The sound of Roadcase Royale, there’s a touch of Blues thrown in, there’s some R&B thrown in, but it’s definitely a Rock band.We’re doing a song called “The Dragon” that I wrote for Layne Staley of Alice in Chains – actually before he OD’d. It was a song I could never get it to fly in Heart for some reason, it just wasn’t a Heart song. This is kind of like a Grunge song from Seattle back in the day. Finally got it finished and Roadcase Royale is the band to do it.

There’s a song called “Insaniac” that’s super heavy Rock, and then we’ve got a couple of ballad-like songs. We’re just so flexible, I guess you could say, as Heart was always flexible; there’s a lot of different directions that Heart would go, from ballads to being kind of Metal. We have heavy Rock with a little R&B and Blues, but a very muscular-type sound.

Roadcase Royale band promotional photo
Roadcase Royale band promotional photo – Very cool. It sounds like a very compelling project and you are actually performing at the 5th Annual Rock Against MS Benefit Concert & Award Show on March 25th out in Los Angeles, CA. How did you become involved with this event?

Nancy Wilson – Well actually because of Nancy B. Sayle who puts it on every yea. She’s hooked into the Rock community for many years as publicity agent for many Rock people. So, she heard about Roadcase Royale and reached out and said, “Would you like to debut your brand-new Rock band at this Fifth Annual Rock Against MS show?” We were said, “You bet we do!” We’ve been in the studio, we’ve been rehearsing; we have seven songs that are mastered and we’re ready to throw a couple of Heart tunes in there, into our live set.

We’re just so flattered and honored just to bring out the band in such a beautiful theater like The Los Angeles Theatre, in particular, with a lot of other Rock people around and industry people around. It’s an awesome opportunity for this new band. – It sounds like it. You are going to be sharing the stage with some really fantastic musicians. Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains will be there, Steve Adler formerly of Guns N’ Roses, among many, many others. It should really be an exciting event.

Nancy Wilson – Mike Inez of Alice in Chains will be there too. He actually was in Heart for a while. He played bass with Heart for a few years in the meantime before Alice in Chains got back together. It is a Rock club and there’s a lot of guys that we’ve been around the old corral a few times with. 

It’ll be fun to see the comedians and it’ll be fun to see people get some awards: they’re going to honor Richard Pryor –  who incidentally happens to be related to Liv Warfield, my singer. It’s going to be a really cool collusion of stuff.

5th-annual-RAMS – Yes, and as you said, it is more than just music. There will be comedians there such as Bill Burr, there will be art exhibits,  and it is all for a good cause and that makes it truly fantastic. Speaking of Liv Warfield, what has it been like working with her and the rest of Roadcase Royale thus far?

Nancy Wilson – Well, you know, it was such a natural sort of way that we all fell together. I’d seen Liv Warfield on the The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon doing an amazing song with The Roots, and we were thinking about who might open at that time for us, for the two nights at the Hollywood Bowl. We thought, “Let’s get Liv Warfield to open!” So we got those guys – she and her band at the time, and her guitar player Ryan Waters.

Both Liv and Ryan are Prince proteges from Prince & The New Power Generation. When we all got together for the Hollywood Bowl we hit it off really great. Me and Liv in particular just became fast friends and were were like, “We ought to do something together, we should do something somehow.  So let’s not just be people who say we’re going to do it, let’s actually do it.”  So we did!

She brought her guitar player Ryan Waters and I brought my three guys – rhythm section Dan Rothchild (bass), Ben Smith (drums) and Chris Joyner (keys). We hit it off immediately, and we started to sound like something from the first day. We learned a song, we made it our own, and we’re started writing in some sort of way.  It’s a natural thing. We’ve have gotten back together now three times so far, and we got together last week so we can learn the rest of our set for the March 25th event. – Fantastic. This sounds like this will be your main focus in 2017. With the EP and this benefit concert, can fans expect more live shows to be announced?

Nancy Wilson – Yes, we’re working with the CAA right now, lining up some dates for April and hopefully through the summer. We’re just seeing what’s out there. I was kind of waiting to see what was going to happen with Heart first that we have a lot of windows as far as other opportunities, opening for other bands. We’re talking about residencies in certain cities, and then trying to get summer planned out too. So I have a feeling that this is going to work out really well.

Roadcase Royale promotional photo
Roadcase Royale promotional photo – It will definitely be something different and something to look forward to. Sometimes a little diversion from what you usually do is a good thing, especially if you have other songs that perhaps did not fit with Heart.

Nancy Wilson – Yeah, exactly. It gives me a little more base to step out as a singer too, which I like doing. Liv is a great harmonies as a singer when I sing lead. It’s just feeling so good!  

With the people in the band, we’re feeling like a democracy, so we’re sending the band out as a democracy. We share the pie equally. Nobody feels like a side man in this band, everyone shares in the partnership and in whatever pie we cut up. That’s really rare for any Rock band and it’s working out well; the vibe in the band is so strong and so positive, and we’re like a little family already. It’s wonderful! – It certainly sounds wonderful. Having that equal say in things is sort of rare in any Rock band. Being a Rock musician as long as you have, you have seen a lot. As we spoke about the ups the downs of everything. You departing from Heart for a little period, came back to the band, but been there through it all to build this legacy. Through it all, what are some of the more important things you have learned?

Nancy Wilson – Whoa. That’s a far reaching question but a really good one. I have learned pretty much what not to do. There are so many things that you need to stay present for and if you’re going to go and pain kill all the time and self-medicate too much, then you can’t be present for the job at hand. I had to go through a bad divorce situation and all kinds of stuff. The hardest part for me was to learn how to keep it together and not to painkiller, so that’s one of the harder lessons.

Having eternal patience with my sister. She’s gone through so many phases of her own and so many ways of her own addictive behaviour that I had to help her get through and protect her from.  There’s so many lifetimes in a life and we’ve been out there for four decades; so, oh god, that’s at least four lifetimes (laughs).

She picks me up where I need to be picked up, and I’ve picked her up where she needed to be picked up. If one of us was ailing, the other would go out front and do tap dance out front in the times when the other one couldn’t. We’ve always had each other to lean on and that’s been a good thing. Every turn of the road brings a whole new set of challenges and, as humans, you don’t want to just check out, you want to stay clear with your positive intentions.

Heart live at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater Wantagh, NY 7-28-16
Heart live at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater Wantagh, NY 7-28-16 – Those are some very interesting and valuable lessons to learn. You could say they could be applied to any faction of life. My last question is actually pertaining to films. CrypticRock covers a broad range of music as well as Horror and Sci-Fi movies. If you are a fan of either genre, do you have any favorites?

Nancy Wilson – Well, Science Fiction I love. From early Science Fiction stuff like The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and the classics like that.  Horror, I’m more of a fan of the classics too – like Alfred Hitchcock, not the gratuitous sort of Horror stuff.  I really like the well-crafted, anything that’s well-crafted in any genre in movies I’m a real fan of.

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox
Paramount Pictures – No question. There is something to be said about the atmosphere a film can create with dialogue, music, and acting.

Nancy Wilson – Oh yeah, I never really was much of an actor. I did a lot more of the music for film than I did acting in film, because I realized that I had to get up way too early to be an actor. (laughs)  

For more on Nancy Wilson: Facebook
For more on Heart: | Facebook | Twitter
For more on Roadcase Royale: |  Facebook | Twitter
For more on Rock Against MS: | Facebook
Purchase tickets for the March 25th show: Ticketfly

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