Heart pumped its way into the lifeblood of American rock ’n’ roll in the ‘70s with iconic singles such as “Crazy On You,” “Magic Man” and “Dreamboat Annie.” Now 39 years later, rock’s most famous sisters, Ann and Nancy Wilson, are still doing what they did as little girls – making music. In June, the duo released Strange Euphoria, a box set of hits and live performances, and now Heart is in the midst of another tour. Ann Wilson phoned us from Seattle to fill us in on how she balances life on the road, advice for upcoming female musicians and why having Nancy Wilson for a sister rocks.
With your latest album, Fanatic, how does this musically compare to some of the others you’ve released?
“This album has some of the best lyrics we’ve written. On a musical level, it’s definitely the most rock album we’ve ever done. It really stands up. I think it’s our best work. It’s quite focused and it’s got opinions and beautiful, good song writing. I like it.”
What prompted you want to finally write Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock & Roll?
“People have been wanting to write a book about Heart for years and years. Many people have approached us and we just weren’t ready. It became known that Charles Cross could do it. That was different because we know Charlie and he’s from here [Seattle] and he knows the Seattle music scene intimately. He understands what this place and the musicians here are all about so I felt that he’d be the one. So that’s really how all the points came together.”
Will you ever do a reality show or movie?
“No plans for a reality show ever in this lifetime – as long as I draw breath, no. But a movie? Sure, if somebody wants to do that I’d be all over it.”
What’s the funniest on-stage moment you and Nancy have had?
“There are a lot of funny ones. Our audience can be funny. We’ll look out and see our audience doing little, funny stuff sometimes and we love it.”
Is it strange being a celebrity and having people want to take photos with you and talk with you?
“It depends on if you’re ready for it. Most of the time people are great.”
What are you most thankful for this year?
“My health. I’m grateful for my health because we’ve been working incredibly hard and I’m glad for my health, my focus and my ability to stay on task.”
What are the secrets you use to keep your powerful voice in shape?
“I don’t smoke, I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t do a lot of things other people would consider consistent with a rock star image. I don’t do anything that would dry it out or tear it up. I just try to be nice to it. It’s a part of me and I want to show it love so it’ll show me love back.”
What’s the best and most difficult part of being on this musical journey with your sister?
“The best part about being on a journey with Nancy Wilson is she’s herself. If you knew her like I do, it’s like being on a journey with the most interesting, funny, loving, and creative person ever that I’ve known since she was born. She can save me from a really depressed mood and can turn me around even when I’m wrong. She’s amazing and I get to stand beside her on stage every night and play music. That’s the best part. The worst part probably is that she needs space from all this. She’s a free spirit and she doesn’t need to be swamped by too many demands. She’s a little more delicate in that regard so she needs a little bit of protection and space.”
Do you tend to do more of the celebrity appearances and interviews?
“Oh yeah, it doesn’t stop. You’ve got to keep on doing them and do a lot of them.”
How do you keep being on the road and the rest of your life in balance?
“I personally meditate and that helps because that will really keep me calm and clear. I can’t even tell you how much that helps. It gets chaotic out there and there are layers and layers of things that need to be attended to and places to go and many important impressions to make that can’t be blown. There’s stress. I can keep it all together--it’s possible especially when you know you’re going to be off by Christmas.”
Speaking of holiday time, what’s Christmas like with the Wilson girls?
“We just hang out and sit around. If it’s snowing, we go out and kick around in the snow with the dogs and the kids. We’re pretty normal that way.”
If you could choose one song from your career that really speaks to your soul, what would it be?
“‘Dear Old America.’ That song is really about my father and it’s dedicated to him. It comes through his eyes. That’s a family song.”
When you’re not touring or making music what do you enjoy doing?
“In the last five years, I haven’t had a chance to really do anything when I’m not on the road because the road follows me back here. There’s always interviews and work to be done. I haven’t really had a chance to take a vacation or anything like that in quite a while. I love going out in the yard. I have an herb garden out there. Like I said, it’s pretty normal stuff. I also like going out in Seattle and listening to music in little bars. I like to slip into a little place and hear somebody play.”
Are there any bands you’re listening to right now?
“I enjoy Alabama Shakes a lot. I think my favorite music though is world music. I like the real ancient stuff. I like Bedouin music.”
What do you think has been Heart’s secret to longevity?
“Being sisters and all, there’s a long line there in our lives. We just started out in our parent’s house in our bedroom playing guitars together and in a matter of speaking, that’s what we’re still doing. We have a band around us and we’re traveling from place to place, but we’re still looking at each other and playing guitar just like when we were kids. It’s the Peter Pan syndrome.”
I read you wear M.A.C. products. Do you have any favorites?
“Yes, definitely. I like the eyelid primer and you cannot beat the Liquidlast liquid eyeliner. That liner is not going anywhere and, you know, that’s really good onstage with rock ’n’ roll. “
Being on the road all these years, what has been the best part?
“The best part of being on the road is the camaraderie within the band and the traveling crew and then the time up on stage being with the audience. That’s what makes it all worth while because it sure as heck isn’t the aggravation of travel.”
What’s something Heart fans would be surprised to know about you?
“If they read our book they might find out a few things. Our books will be available at our merch stand at our show. You can get a signed book.”
Are you doing any covers at the Fort Lauderdale show?
“We’re doing one, but since Shawn Colvin’s on the tour, we might be doing more. We really want to do something her.”
Do you plan your set lists out or make it more spontaneous?
“It’s similar in most cities, but we like to change it up as often as possible so that nobody gets complacent. We play four times a week so we want to keep it awake and alive.
What’s your favorite cover to perform live?
“There’s so many. I really like covering Led Zeppelin’s ‘Going To California.’ I like doing that one a lot.”
Do you have any advice for a female singer/songwriter trying to make it now, what would you tell them?
“Try to make it now, but don’t expect anything miraculous just because you’re a girl. It’s no easier now than it was in the beginning. It’s just shape-shifted. If you let yourself, you’re going to get put into a sexist box and it will all be about the way you look and you’ll be interchangeable with five or 10 other girls. You have to make sure you’re really, really, really good and you have something unusual and different and you’re 100 percent driven and committed to sacrifice everything.”
Heart will perform at Seminole Hard Rock Live 7 p.m. in Hollywood Nov. 4. Shawn Colvin will open. Tickets cost $44-$74. Call 954-797-5531 or visit Hardrocklivehollywoodfl.com for details.
Contact Joanie Cox firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her tweets at Twitter.com/joaniecox.