Heart singer Ann Wilson has a simple philosophy these days about how she and sister Nancy Wilson should go about their career.
“At this point in our career, at this point in our creative life, there’s no point at all in not doing exactly what we feel like doing,” she says in a recent phone interview.
The Wilson sisters and Heart have certainly earned that privilege. The group has pretty much achieved everything a band could want in a career.
The group has had huge success — selling more than 35 million albums and notching 21 Top 40 hit singles and headlining the biggest arenas along the way. The Wilson sisters, in particular, have had a major impact on music, being among the first women to break into the rock scene and helping to open doors for several generations of female artists that have followed. Ann Wilson is universally hailed as one of rock’s greatest female singers, while Nancy Wilson has shown that as a guitarist, a woman can hold her own with most other guitarists around.
The influence of the Wilson sisters and Heart was confirmed in 2013 when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To say the least, Ann Wilson was blown away by the Hall of Fame recognition.
“If you’re thinking of rock as an institution, it is definitely the highest honor,” she says. “You can’t go any higher than that. It’s like getting an Oscar. So it was just an amazing feeling. I’m still processing it ... I’m honored. It’s very amazing.”
Now Wilson and Heart are getting back to work, but doing something that very much meets the criteria of being fun: a run of spring headlining shows. The group has toured extensively during what has been a busy past couple of years.
For starters, the period has seen the group release a forward-looking studio album, “Fanatic,” which stands up to the best Heart albums of the 1970s (“Dreamboat Annie” and “Dog and Butterfly”) and ’80s (1985’s “Heart”).
Produced by Ben Mink, it found the group experimented liberally with sonics on the spirited effort. The title song opens “Fanatic” with an attention-getting buzzing tone that makes one go “Is that a guitar? A synthesizer? A combination of the two? It doesn’t matter. It just sounds cool. And that’s just a start. Check out the electronic tones that greet the listener on “Skin And Bones” that give the song a bit of a futuristic accent, or the techno-funk touches that flavor “Million Miles.”
Wilson has high praise for Mink and his ability to create exciting sonic settings for the music on “Fanatic.”
“(Mink) knows good and well what Heart used to sound like in the ’70s and in the ’80s and the ’90s,” Wilson says. “But he’s a guy who is really dead set in the present. So he’s going to pay respect to us and who we are, but he’s always going to push us. And he really has a great sonic imagination and ability to come up with crazy ideas that really refer to us in an honest way. Like for instance, ‘Million Miles,’ it’s a tip of the hat to a folk song, but it’s definitely on steroids and it’s a crazy dance idea that just goes out into space. A song like ‘Skin And Bones,’ we got a lot of it on an iPhone in a hotel room and then went from there with it. He’s a guy who is really dead set in the present.
“So he’s going to pay respect to us and who we are, but he’s always going to push us. And he really has a great sonic imagination and ability to come up with crazy ideas that really refer to us in an honest way.”
“Fanatic” arrived in October 2012, about six months after a notable release — a career-spanning Heart box set called “Strange Euphoria,” which was populated with a generous number of demos, rare live cuts and unreleased tunes spanning the band’s career.
Wilson sisters collaborate on autobiography
If you’re a big enough Heart fan to want to read all about the band and the Wilson sisters, you certainly will want to check out “Kicking and Dreaming,” below, an autobiography by the Wilson sisters and Heart that was published in fall 2012.
Ann Wilson says she and Nancy didn’t hold back in telling their story, which chronicled the various highs and lows of Heart’s career, the band’s music and the challenges that came with being among the first women to front, write music and play instruments in a hard rocking band, as well as the private lives lived along the way.
“We decided pretty early on there was really no point in doing it if we were just going to do a big covered up whitewash,” she says . “What’s the point? You might as well just stay silent if you’re going to keep everything secret. So we told our story as openly and honestly as we can, having living children and everything. And so it’s a pretty interesting story.”