Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Anne Wilson of the legendary band Heart can certainly tell a few stories. A career that has spanned 4 decades and over 30 million albums sold is testament to that. But when one looks at this iconic staple of the Rock genre, one question often comes to mind: what does it take to establish such a vigorous and influential career? Could the answer simply be “we did things our way” or is it the act of creating so many timeless classics that have stood the test of time? Perhaps it has something to do with honoring some of the past’s greatest influential bands, like Led Zeppelin? Whatever the case maybe, one thing is certain, Anne Wilson and Heart have engraved their names among Rock’s royalty and there is certainly nothing wrong with that!!!
Anne Wilson was kind enough to share a few minutes with us on this Exclusive Interview given to the only UK publication at the time. We like to thank her for her time and the honor.
Good evening, Ann!
Ann: Are you in Ireland? It sounds like I am talking to someone from that part of the world.
Yes, North Ireland. This has proved to be quite a challenge to sum up your career in less than twenty minutes so here goes. The latest album Home for the Holidays captures one of your now traditional concerts. Why did you decide that now proved an opportune moment for its release?
Ann: Well we wanted to do something that was sort of like a holiday wish for the welfare of the world. A lot of the songs on this album, like “Ring Them Bells” for instance, by Bob Dylan, is really a song of spiritual outreach in support of the well being of the world. What better time to call for a better world than at Christmas time or the season time?
You are also appearing with stars such as Stevie Wonder at the Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade which is to be televised. Many bands seem to take a break and have a rest at that time of year but not Heart?
Ann: We don’t work on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve but there are a lot of opportunities to go out and have fun around the season rather than just to sit at home and stuff your face with food (laughs) …has never been our bag, man.
Your admiration for Led Zeppelin is well renowned, with Heart having covered several of their tunes over the years. What was it like to perform at the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors Tribute to them? Your rendition of “Stairway to Heaven” appeared to generate a very emotional response from the surviving members of the band.
Ann: Yes, the whole reason that we agreed to do that was to please them and this was their night to be honored. I think that when you look at the footage of that on YouTube or wherever you want to see it, that they were moved. It was very nice to be fated as the teachers and masters that they are. I think Robert Plant was emotional for many different reasons, not the least of he was looking down there and seeing his very good friend John Bonham’s boy playing drums. That would bring a tear to anybody’s eye I think…
In 2012 Heart had a successful book and also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. How do you attempt to explain the bands enduring popularity even when the MTV era has long since vanished?
Ann: Thank goodness! Well you know, how do we enjoy it? I don’t think it is a matter for enjoyment or not enjoyment. You do what you do and you come and you give to people and you really dig doing it and that is what is important.
I actually meant how has the band lasted throughout the years, how do you explain that?
Ann: I think we have just hung in there and we have always meant what we have said. I am very suspicious of fraud in artists and I think that if you are “not real” out there then you should just go and do something else. I think being real with it is the answer to your question.
This year you have sat in and played with The Roots and both you and Nancy also sat in with the Foo Fighters. Do you both keep in touch with current musical trends and new bands?
Ann: To a certain point, yeah, but I find myself getting off on music that might not be in the top ten charts, you know? I love Chris Whitley, I love, well, Muse; they are just beyond belief to me. I love World Music a lot.
You mentioned World Music, have you actually heard the latest Robert Plant album which is in that musical vein?
Ann: Yeah, I love that record, especially that song “Little Maggie.”
When you play the very old songs live-tracks, from Dog and Butterfly or Dreamboat Annie for example, do you feel that they still have the same meaning for you and Nancy?
Ann: Some do, some don’t – like for example the song “Magic Man” for me I really have to reach down to sing that song sincerely now. It was written specifically about a specific guy that I was loving at the time. (laughing) I am so far past that right now that it is so hard now to access those same feelings with any kind of sincerity. With “Magic Man” probably a stretch for me, it may go on the shelf to have a rest for a while and be replaced by others.
If you were on a desert island and could only take one album by Heart and one by Led Zeppelin what would they be?
Ann: Hmmm, that’s a good question. I would take, lets see… from Heart I would probably take Fanatic. From Led Zeppelin, ahhh… Houses of the Holy.
What have been the personal highs and lows of your musical career?
Ann: Well, the lows have been, you know, at times because I am a woman and Nancy is a woman. We have had to fight and struggle and scratch to be taken seriously. I mean that is harder and more frustrating than any kind of image problem or anything like that. It’s just a basic primary, “hey we are out here,” you know, and we are standing on the same ground that the men do. Why does that make us silly or not credible? That has been the lowest part of the struggle to not be taken seriously.
What about the high points then?
Ann: The highs are obvious; it is a chance to get up and stand and really let your soul pour and touch the light. That is a big high for me. When things are going well you make really good money, and if you are careful with it you can have a good life. That’s part of it. You get to be with people, to connect with people and hopefully you can help people. So many times people have come up to us and said “I have this friend who has terminal cancer, she would really like to meet you,” so we would meet this person and they will go away, you know… glowing. That’s a very big high.
Your relationship with Nancy, both as a sibling and as a band mate always seems so strong – when writing songs do you ever argue over who sings the lead on a great new track?
Ann: No, we don’t argue, we collaborate. We are able to put aside any kind of ego stuff and I think we both have really good ideas that are pretty hand in glove. We have been playing guitar together and jamming since we were just little children. We have different ideas, Nancy is a much better instrumentalist than I am. She just leaves me in the dirt you know… I am more of a lyricist, I think, and I know what a good melody would be. We each have a piece of the puzzle that fits, and yeah it works.
If you were not a musician what would you have liked to have been?
Ann: Well, I have never been able to figure that one out. For a while I thought I would like to work in radio and have a radio show and use my voice like (puts on a different voice) “Hi, this is Anne Wilson and here is Queen singing… “We Are the Champions.”” (laughs) That hardly exists now so I don’t know. I think I would volunteer.
Are there any goals, dreams and ambitions that you still have to achieve?
Ann: Yeah, we want to make a new, well, we are actually beginning a new project now which is going to be an EP which is going to have a theme. It is going to be the sharpest, heaviest, and the most incredible four or five songs that we can produce, that we can come up with. Nancy and I are both really committed to that right now. We don’t think things too far in advance – we don’t think too far ahead. So we are in the moment.
How do you view the musical legacy that you have created?
Ann: I look back on it really fondly because so many people have responded so well to it. Some of the songs have really stood the test of time. I think that in those cases the ideas were good they were universal. They got people off and they still do. A song like”Barracuda,” “Dog and Butterfly,”or “Crazy on You,” you still hear those. When we play them live you look what happens inside of people eyes and its great, you know.
You obviously don’t then get tired of playing those songs?
Ann: No, not those ones that I mentioned. Most of them are still good to play.”Crazy on You” is the most physically challenging and it always was from day one. I have to be really ready for that one physically. No, I don’t get tired of it.
Obviously fans are always going to be asking for you to come and play gigs in particular places. I actually saw you play in Belfast back in 1990 on the Brigade tour – I think your only time that the band played live in Belfast. Do you recall anything about that particular experience?
Ann: Yeah, I will never forget that. When we went to Belfast last time there had been a lot of trouble and a lot of violence. The place looked like… well, it was a war zone. The security at the airport was extreme, way more than it is now, with the kind of terrorism that we have now. It was terrifying. Then when we got there and we actually got on stage and played the audience was so open and so responsive. It was like a football crowd. They were the 12th man you know, and they were out there. I will never forget that.
Well the city in recent years has seen a lot of investment and new development and there is still an audience for Heart.
Ann: Well, we are trying our best to get over there. To just get over there in this good and wonderful shape that we want to present it in is so expensive. We have to come up with the money somewhere so we can do it right. We don’t just want to go over there and put on some kind of sloppy show. It’s got to be good you know – and we will do it! We will do it.
Just a couple of questions to finish on. What in your life are you most proud of?
Ann: Well, personally? Or professionally?
Both if you have the time.
Ann: Professionally, I am really proud of what Nancy and I have been able to achieve and sustain over all these years. Anybody can make it and hang around for eighteen months or two years or something. In 2016 it will be our fortieth year, and just on the financial side we are making more money than we have ever made. We are still wide awake and trying to evolve. That makes me proud, because that means it is real. Personally? I am proud of my own personal ability to be open and to open my heart and be flexible. Not get shut down by the fears and rigours of life. Not to think “Oh this is too hard, I’m out. I don’t do that!” I can come back, I can be in it – and that’s what really makes me proud of myself.
I am sure that over the years you have sat through many interviews. If you could sit down as yourself and interview somebody-who would you choose and why?
Ann: I would love to talk with Chris Whitley only he is dead. I would have loved to have talked with Jim Morrison. Somebody who is living…probably Mr Plant. I would love to interview him as a journalist. I wonder if he would open up to me because I am a woman… or whether that would be an obstacle. I know that Jimmy Page probably would. There are some very awfully interesting people out there. That is a good question I would have to ponder that one a little bit. (laughs)
Ok, my time is up – thanks for taking the time to chat to me this evening.
Ann: Thank you – you have some really great questions. You are welcome, my pleasure.