Heart is an American rock band who first found success in Canada before later becoming a supergroup in the United States and worldwide.Over the group’s four decade history, the band has had three primary lineups, with the constant members being lead singer Ann Wilson and guitarist Nancy Wilson. Heart rose to fame in the mid 1970s with music influenced by hard rock and heavy metal as well as folk music. Their popularity declined in the early 1980s, but the band enjoyed a comeback starting in 1985 and experienced even greater success with AOR hits and hard rock ballads into the 1990s.
With Jupiter’s Darling (2004) and Red Velvet Car (2010), Heart made a return to their hard rock and acoustic folk roots. To date, Heart has sold over 30 million records worldwide.Heart was ranked number 57 on VH1′s “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock”.
With Top 10 albums on the Billboard Album Chart in the 1970′s, 80′s, 90′s, and most recently 2010 Heart is among the most commercially enduring Hard Rock bands in history.
I recently spoke with Ann about the band and Heart’s new material coming out.
Q: How did you and Nancy get into music and how did you come to join Heart?
Ann: Well, you know, we came from a musical family, so we were just naturally in music from the time we can remember. Heart just kind of came out of other bands that we were in. It kind of evolved out of other bands we were in into Heart. Pretty natural process, you know?
Q: Which album that you’ve recorded means the most to you and why?
Ann: Well, of course, our brand new one that’s coming out in October, means the most to me at this point, because it’s brand new and it’s what we’re doing at the moment called Fanatic out on Sony on October 2nd. If I had to choose an older album, which I think was what you really were asking, I think it would probably be Bebe le Strange, because that was the album where I got to play bass on a couple songs like “Even it Up” and I got to be actually more than a singer on that record, and we had more of a production voice on that one too, I think. That was a pretty cool punk album.
Q: What is your favorite song that you and Nancy wrote, and one that you’ve written and why?
Ann: Wow, ok. I’m trying to cast over the setlist that’s in my mind. I guess, “Crazy on You” because that song, the message it was saying back then, may as well been written yesterday, you know? It’s just talking about how nutty and out of control and over the top the world is, but yet, when you love somebody, and you’re really close with somebody, you can get strength and peace from your love. So, that’s why I love “Crazy on You.” Now, one that I wrote all by myself? Maybe, “Sweet Darlin’,” because that’s just a plain and simple, romantic, like tears falling, heart swelling love song.
Q: How big of a contribution and influence has Led Zeppelin been to your music and as a songwriter?
Ann: Probably not so much as a songwriter, but they’ve had a huge influence on me as a singer, as us live, I think, because they first demonstrated how you can have really super heavy rock that really was folk music on steroids. You know, with acoustic guitar or acoustic instruments at the center, and then it just gets huge, and that’s something Nancy and I can really relate to. We could really relate to that. That was a really big influence that they had on us.
Q: Other than Zeppelin, who are your other influences?
Ann: Well, as a singer I would say Aretha Franklin, Elton John. All the people that had big careers when I was a kid, you know, Elton and The Stones, and all of them, The Beatles. As a band, at this point, I think we’re beyond other people’s influences. At the beginning, I think we were influences a lot by Zeppelin and by Elton John, because we were in these clubs playing cover songs basically. Back then, in clubs, you played what was being played on the radio, with all those guys that had hits in the 70s.
Q: In 2006, you released an album called Hope & Glory. Branching out as a solo performer and collaborating with many big name artists, what was that like for you and how did that come about?
Ann: Oh man, that was my first solo album in my life. The only one I’ve ever done, and I worked with them. They got it, produced it. I got to have a bunch of cool people come in, and guest on it like Elton John, Rufus Wainwright, Shawn Colvin, k.d. lang, Gretchen Wilson; a whole bunch of people. It was fun. It was really fun for me. I felt a little tentative at first, because I’ve never not performed with Nancy, so how I solved that was, I got Nancy to perform on my solo album. Make me relax, you know? That was a great experience.
Q: In 1992, you recorded with Alice in Chains. How did that come to be, and how did Layne Staley’s death affect your relationship together, as I noticed Mike Inez has been playing with you for a while?
Ann: Mike Inez played with us for a couple years. He’s back with Alice now of course. Well, that whole thing came about because we all live out her in Seattle. It’s kind of a small city, and you bump into each other, you know? You hear each other’s music. You go to each other’s shows. You end up on stage with each other, and ultimately, you end up at my house in a party situation. Everybody’s hanging out. Everybody’s going through stuff. There was a lot of heavy stuff happening in the 90’s in Seattle among musicians, and we all supported each other. They’re great guys. They’re still really dear brothers.
Q: Where did you come up with the idea of Red Velvet Car?
Ann: We wrote a bunch of songs and one of them was called Red Velvet Car, we picked that to be the name of the album, the title song, because that song talks about supporting somebody. Kind of like what I was just saying about the Seattle musicians of the 90’s. How you’re there for your friends when they need you badly, and that happens to be what “Red Velvet Car” seems to be about too.
Q: How did you come to form The Lovemongers?
Ann: We had just come off the road with Heart in 1991, and it was during the first Gulf War way back then. They were having a benefit in Seattle for the Red Cross. It was called Support the Troops by Bringing Them Home Benefit for the Red Cross, and they just wanted us to come and sing acoustically. We didn’t feel ready enough just walking up with a couple acoustic guitars. We were still in rock mode. So we asked a couple friends of ours and sort of fill it out with us, and the show was so amazing, and we decided to keep doing it. As it turned out, it was the perfect way to decompress from the stress of Heart in the 80’s. We got to redefine ourselves through The Lovemongers, and it made us ready to come back 10 years later as ourselves again; sort of detox if you will.
Q: On June 5th, you release a brand new box-set Strange Euphoria. How did that come about?
Ann: Well, we’ve been wanting to do a box-set for years, you know, and not just a compilation of hits, but a real box-set that has all kinds of stuff you’ve never heard before, you can’t get anywhere else; demos, alternate versions, funny stuff, live versions; just creepy stuff, but just stuff from our personal archives. It took us a while to get it together, but we finally did! If I can only get it in my hand; it’s really awesome.
Q: Your music has had an impact on many songwriters and artists around the world. Did you ever think you’d come as far as you have, and do you have any regrets in the music business?
Ann: I never thought I come as far as being here now, talking to you in 2012 ever. You know, you can’t even imagine two years ahead when you’re 25, but it’s been an incredible experience so far, and it still is. I still have a lot of dreams for the future; musical dreams for the future. As far as regrets? Oh yeah. The music industry is a bitch. It really isn’t kind to anybody unless you’re number one on the charts. Then, it’s kind to you. But the minute you become number two, then it’s not kind to you. My regrets? I think going to too many parties in the 80’s.
Q: What’s next for you and Heart?
Ann: Well, with the new box-set and the new book coming out this year; our first memoir coming out, and our new tour, there is so many stuff coming out this year that years spoken for, and probably most of next year. So that’s about far in advance as I can imagine.
Be sure to catch Heart at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino on July 6th. Get tickets here: http://www.horseshoehammond.com/casinos/horseshoe-hammond/casino-entertainment/heart-detail.html
Also, make sure to buy Heart’s new box-set Strange Euphoria on June 5th available here: http://www.amazon.com/Strange-Euphoria-Amazon-com-Exclusive-Heart/dp/B007U1FEPS/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1337273203&sr=1-2