WHAT: Ann Wilson of Heart
with Styx and John Waite
WHERE: Resch Center, Green Bay
WHEN: 7 PM Saturday, December 29, 2018
COST: Tickets start at $35. VIP Package seats and Platinum seats are also available.
Powerhouse rock vocalist Ann Wilson and sister Nancy headed up the supergroup Heart for over four decades until the band went on hiatus several years ago. They were responsible for the release of such mega hits as “Crazy On You,” “Magic Man,” “Dreamboat Annie,” “Barracuda,” “These Dreams,” “Alone,” “Never,” and “What About Love,” to name a few.
Since then, Wilson has worked on several solo projects. Most recently, Wilson released a tribute album, Immortal (2018), honoring works of recently passed artists including Tom Petty, David Bowie, Lesley Gore, Leonard Cohen, Chris Cornell, Jack Bruce of Cream, Amy Winehouse, Glenn Frey of the Eagles, George Michael, and Gerry Rafferty.
Ann Wilson will perform at the Resch Center in Green Bay on Saturday, December 29, along with Styx and John Waite. Part of the proceeds from this major rock event will benefit the Make a Wish Foundation, Ribbon of Hope Foundation, Fox Valley Humane Association, Rock to the Rescue, Happily Ever After Animal Sanctuary, Inc., and the Red Cross for wild fire relief in California, where help is still needed.
Ann recently phoned me from Florida to chat.
Jane Spietz: What part did your family play in shaping your musical development?
Ann Wilson: My parents were both musical people. My dad had a great baritone singing voice. He loved to recite poetry at parties. My mother was a trained classical pianist. The aunts and uncles were all fun kind of ukulele playing, campfire singing people. Whenever we all got together there is always music going on. My parents always headed playing in the house will probably crack something on the. All genres. Classical, opera, folk music, jazz, blues. That was the atmosphere we grew up in. So it wasn’t very much of a stretch. We just continued on in our own way.
JS: In the early days of Heart, you and Nancy faced a sexist mindset that rock ‘n’ roll bands led by women would be unsuccessful in the music scene.
AW: The music scene, where women were concerned back then, was just a reflection of the rest of culture. Women were expected to stay in their place, stay out of the men’s way, and take subordinate roles. For instance in the music scene, they were secretaries, receptionists, assistants, and things like that. There were no female managers or rock stars or producers to speak of. There would be an occasional musician like Carol Kaye or Susie Quattro who were really down. It opened up and evolved just like in other parts of culture. It’s a long slow process.
JS: Do you feel that attitudes have changed over the years to be more accepting and inclusive in all areas of society?
AW: I think that’s the struggle that we’re all involved in now in this country. Forcing that to happen. All-inclusiveness is not going to just happen on its own by magic. It’s going to have to be pushed and shoved and asked for. Whether it be women or the gay community or the LGBTQ community, people of all color whatever. All that stuff has to be consciously brought about. We’re doing it more and more all the time but not without a fight.
JS: I’m curious, which artists do you enjoy listening to these days?
AW: I like world music the best. I listen to a lot of world music. That’s what I really like to listen to the most. All different kinds of African and Brazilian artists. Still like the best of classic rock. I like anything that’s good.
JS: I have read that you now follow a much simpler lifestyle. What made you decide to take that path?
AW: I met my husband four years ago now. When we got together, he lived a very basic, simple lifestyle. And I was living a very big, inflated, materialistic lifestyle that I wasn’t happy in. So when we got together, he influenced me to try living more basically. Since then we’ve established a life together that’s much more realistic. I really like it. It’s comfortable and it’s homey. There’s just not so much stuff to be responsible to and how much money just hemorrhaging out all the time on stuff. It’s just much more real lifestyle. It’s much more meaningful. It helps me to remember who I was when I first started doing music. When I lived at home with my parents also lived very basically. For instance, when my husband and I are all touring on my solo thing or with Heart, we own our own bus so we live on our bus. We go to the show, play it and then we get on our bus and go to a campground in the next city and just camp overnight. So we’re out in nature all the time. I really like it. It helps me keep track of myself.
JS: Your beautiful tribute album, Immortal, was released in September, honoring musicians who have recently passed. What was the impetus for its creation?
AW: For a while there we were losing our most iconic artists at a really fast rate. Within five years or so we lost Leslie Gore, Chris Cornell, Tom Petty, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Glenn Frey, and Amy Winehouse. It is just crazy. I started thinking this is a whole generation of people who are all going at once. Their work is so beautiful that it should be passed on like an oral tradition. So I wanted to make a collection, like an anthology, of my favorite songs of their work. I went in and got songs I like best. Not necessarily the big hits, but the ones that I like the best, and I made Immortal. I took the songs and did them my own way.
JS: You included a feminist classic that was certainly ahead of its time, “You Don’t Own Me,” by Leslie Gore.
AW: “You Don’t Own Me” has been a feminist anthem, for sure. It’s been different things in different decades. When Joan Jett did it, I think it was almost like a lesbian anthem. I think that when I did it I meant it to be more about diversity. All people standing up and asking for respect. Not just women. Of course, including women, but not only women. Gay people, trans people, people of color, everybody. This is an era where we have to learn as a race that we’re all here together and nobody gets to hog the spotlight. Everybody’s here. (Laughs) So I thought of “You Don’t Own Me” way more universally than purely a feminist anthem.
JS: A rendition of David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans” was also chosen. Might this selection have been a personal reflection on the turmoil in today’s society?
AW: Oh, completely, yeah. I chose songs that I hoped would be relevant in today’s world. Strike a nerve. As in the case of “I’m Afraid of Americans,” written by David Bowie, a British person who was looking at Americans through a sardonic eye. I was thinking, yeah, you know we could stand to look at ourselves in another way with a little bit of humor and non-egotism. So I really enjoy doing that song a lot.
JS: It was 6 years ago almost to the day that your late friend and fellow Seattleite Chris Cornell inducted Heart into the R & R hall of fame. It must have been very meaningful for you to cover “I Am the Highway” for Immortal.
AW: Oh yeah, Chris was a fine person. Intelligent, sharp, funny, talented, and passionate. I thought that this song, “I Am the Highway,” embodied him a lot. It was one of the songs he did that I thought hit me the deepest.
JS: You also chose “Politician” in honor of the great bassist Jack Bruce, formerly of Cream. What was in your mind when you picked that song?
AW: Well, “Politician” is a song that was written and came out back in 1968. It was written at a time when we were just sort of thinking about the establishment. Like, being anti-establishment, in more general terms. But nowadays, that song, “Politician” really hits home in a specific way. It’s a song about politicians as salesmen and order takers. I think that it’s more relevant than ever now. Probably more so than when it came out.
JS: You had some special guests featured on Immortal.
AW: I was looking to find a guitar player who specialized in just playing guitar. So I asked Warren Haynes of Government Mule to play on a couple of songs. He came and played on “You Don’t Own Me” and on “Luna.” He’s got that southern rock thing just down. He had so much fun with the Allman Brothers. He’s my favorite southern rock guitar player. Very smart, really good. He’s up there, in my mind, with Clapton and Jack Beck. He’s so good. And then I needed someone to play strings so I asked my friend Ben Mink, who I made three albums with, with Heart and my first solo album. He came and played strings on “A Thousand Kisses Deep” and on “Back to Black.” And then on “Politician” I needed two riffing guitars to do solos so I asked Doyle Bramhall II and a good friend from Seattle, Tyler Boley, to play solos. You know Doyle is the Eric Clapton shadow guy now. Eric is his mentor and he’s been playing with Eric now for a long time. And Tyler is just this madman from Seattle just barely hanging on to sanity. (Laughs) He plays guitar like a hell on fire. So I’ve got these two different styles. One that’s kind of a slow hand and then one that’s just so passionate and crazy and insane for “Politician.”
JS: Ann, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask, will there be a reunion of Heart?
AW: Well, I’m not at liberty to discuss that right now. Of course there will be at some time. There is a lot of talk going on right now. We just really can’t announce it yet.
JS: You will be appearing with Styx and John Waite at the Resch Center in Green Bay on December 29. What can your fans expect to experience that evening?
AW: I’m going to be doing a set that’s a culmination of what I’ve been doing the last two years in my solo work, along with some Heart songs, some original songs I’ve written in the last couple years, and the rest will be songs from Immortal. I’ve got a really fantastic band that I’ve been working with the last couple years. It’s just great to end up the year on this note and then next year, whatever happens will happen.
Photos courtesy of Jess Griffin and Kimberly Adamis.