Ann Wilson brings her incredible voice, emotion and passion to the stage in a new solo experience. Her 2017 tour is a show celebrating her years with Heart, songs that inspire her and solo material. Heart pioneered a pathway through music, setting precedents when none existed. From their roots in the ’70s to the bombast of the ‘80s to continuing popularity and endurance through the ‘90s and beyond, they have entertained and influenced millions around the world.
Recently Heart took a break, described by Wilson as an ‘artistic walkabout’ with each sister taking a breather, doing their own thing. Nancy formed Roadcase Royal and Ann is doing her solo Ann Wilson of Heart Tour.
The show is a stripped down, two hour, two set ‘evening with’ format with intermission. According to Wilson, that’s the way she likes it.
Shunning hotels Wilson’s traveling with her husband (Dean Wetter) ‘roughing it’ in a custom RV dubbed Sylvia. Enjoying as much of the wilderness and nature as schedule allows.
The summer tour has Wilson gracing stages nationwide performing select Heart classics, her favorite covers, tunes from her ’07 solo record Hope & Glory and 2015 and’16’s The Ann Wilson Thing EP’s. The show is billed as expect the unexpected.
This tour gives her the freedom to pursue other things and see what can be done beyond the world of Heart. “The purpose of this tour is to stretch out and do things I’ve never done before, to get some evolution going and see what’s out there,” she explains. “I’m doing a show that’s not Heart songs. I’m doing my own thing. That’s a brand new experience for me. It’s really cool, I’m really enjoying it. It’s working”
On whether the nightly cover tunes will stay or change, “We’ll move it around sometimes. We’re always changing. If something’s going really well, we use that order.” She puts her own twist on the cover tunes, “If’s there’s a song I wanna do, I do it my own way. I don’t have to adapt to anyone’s style.”
More solo music is on the horizon, “There’s new music coming and there’s new music on our EP’s we’re doing live, so yes.”
On Hearts current status and future, “Heart is on hiatus. If and when it does come out in the future, it won’t be the same. It’ll be something different,” she says. “We’re just seeing what happens now, just staying in the moment.”
Outside of music Wilson’s interested in new opportunities like voice over’s, “I was thinking more PSA’s, more like documentary or movie. A really good, meaningful voice over, they’re looking for things like that for me now.”
Wilson was born with the voice the world has heard, “It’s just the way it is. I’ve never [had] lessons or training. I saw a vocal coach a few times because I was having trouble hitting the high notes and he showed me how to warm up better. That was really helpful.”
Reflecting on breaking barriers in music early on, “I consider myself somebody who’s doing something that other people can look at and say, yeah that’s possible, being a woman in rock when nobody else was.”
Wilson talks about an early big show experience that happened in Montreal. “It was backing Rod Stewart in Montreal,” she recalls. “The band that was supposed to back him couldn’t make it and we were playing in a club out in the Prairie somewhere. They grabbed us to fill in.” She couldn’t remember the venue name but it was a 20,000 seat arena. “Our album was being played in Canada and was pretty huge in Montreal. We didn’t realize it was big [there]. We walked out in the opening slot and people knew who we were. That was a really cool moment for us. It was magic.”
Though beloved by many, Wilson didn’t enjoy the videos from the ‘80s, “Not particularly,” she admits. “Making those videos was pretty hard work. It would take a couple days where you’d have to be up the whole time with hair, makeup, clothes, stiletto heels all that stuff. Just really, hard work and you had to look fantastic the whole time even though you’d already been up for 24 hours. It was a lot harder than it looked and those things look so ridiculous now, they weren’t very timeless.”
Though they gained new fans from those songs and videos, older fans questioned their direction. “Yeah, that’s a positive. A lot of fans from the ‘70s thought we were selling out and being fake but a whole bunch of new ones came in.” Wilson describes the dated look of the videos saying they were, “posing, but that was the bargain you struck up in the ‘80s.”
Some might say, she has a voice for heavier music, but she’s more concerned with crafting a good song, over category. “I’ve always been more interested in cool lyrics and really good songs, than trying to emulate a genre.”
Wilson’s no stranger to a sound that’s become strange bedfellows with metal, the symphony. “Last June we played in Royal Elk Park and at the Royal Albert Hall with The Royal Philharmonic. Over the years we’ve done lots of projects with string sections and orchestra’s.”
Playing “Stairway to Heaven” at the Kennedy Center was an incredible experience. “Yeah, very cool, a great night, couldn’t have been more perfect.”
If they have recorded their “Stairway” yet, “Yeah, I think so. I think “Barracuda” is pretty iconic for us. “Crazy on You” and “Magic Man” are to but they aren’t on the same artistic level as “Stairway to Heaven.” They’re definitely known and have stood the test of time, especially “Barracuda” and “Crazy on You.”
In the past, bands like Metallica (through online voting) have given fans set list power over shows but Wilson isn’t a fan of the concept, “That’s an area I want to have control. It’d be interesting to see one though.”
She’s always in touch with fans online, “The fans are always talking to us. We’re aware of what they want to hear but we’re not just out there trying to grab their money. We’re trying to bring something new to them.”
On social media in general, “It’s really interesting to see what’s out there. It’s important to take everything you read with about a pound of salt,” she says.
Wilson hopes the show is a happy, collective middle ground for fans, “I hope people will come out and see the solo show, it’s really good. We’re having a really good response with it.”
Wilson and crew are playing the states through the fall then will regroup for 2018. The solo tour is a new chapter for Wilson and she’s very optimistic about the future, which includes a planned trip to India with her husband. “You never know what’s gonna happen. Whatever comes, I’m open to it.”
Feature image: Jess Griffin