It’s been one of the saddest hiatuses in rock music, but for those hoping Ann and Nancy Wilson will have a change of Heart and get the classic rock band back together soon, singer Ann cautions it won’t ever be like it was before.
When: 8 p.m. June 16
Where: House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn
“It’s never going to come back to that old way,” admits Wilson, nearly a year after a much reported family disagreement on a tour bus involving her husband and sister Nancy’s twin sons that resulted in the former’s assault charges and the near dissolution of the Wilsons’ personal and professional relationship. While Ann Wilson says she doesn’t “really know” if Heart will survive after the fracas, her thoughts are instead focused on the future.
“I’m not putting a deadline on that right now. My mission currently is about evolving, and I expect anything I do musically also to evolve,” she says, currently on the road again and headed to House of Blues June 16. “I’m just out here exploring and seeing what I still can bring to this world because I don’t just want to be chasing a paycheck for lifestyle maintenance. That’s not enough for me. I’m doing this project now for love.”
That project is Wilson’s latest solo tour that combines selections from Heart’s incredible four-decades-long rock catalog (“Crazy on You,” “Barracuda” and “Alone” among them) with a carefully curated selection of covers such as The Who’s “The Real Me,” The Black Crowes’ “She Talks to Angels” and a chill-inducing rendition of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins “I Put a Spell on You” that exemplifies just how well one of the best vocal ranges has stood the test of time.
“I chose the songs for completely selfish reasons,” Wilson says, admitting that getting a good night of sleep and regularly taking vitamin C has kept her instrument in shape. “When I was learning how to sing way back when, I was always doing other people’s songs so even today it doesn’t really matter to me if it’s something I wrote or something someone else wrote — if it’s a great song then I love performing it.”
Another one she debuted recently was Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” which she performed on the Jimmy Kimmel show May 18, just hours after it was reported that singer Chris Cornell had passed away.
“He was my friend and I know that he wouldn’t want people to hang around missing him and crying and being regretful about his passing,” says Wilson who, along with Nancy, was an instrumental cog in the grunge movement.
The sisters grew up in a Seattle suburb and stayed there into adulthood. In the early ‘90s after being pioneers for women in hard rock and achieving scores of their own success with albums “Dreamboat Annie” and “Dog & Butterfly,” they had opened up a recording studio in town, named Bad Animals, which became ground zero for the scene. Nancy was also married to director Cameron Crowe at the time and Heart’s side project The Lovemongers contributed a song to the soundtrack of his cult classic movie “Singles.”
Nancy has also moved on recently with new project Roadcase Royale. “I’ve heard a song or two of theirs online. It’s good work,” Wilson says, commending her sister. “I’m really happy to see Nancy having a good time, stretching out herself. She’s a good guitar player and fine singer and there’s no reason why she has to be in my shadow forever.”
Although Wilson admits it’s odd not to have Nancy on stage with her, slinging the crazy desperado acoustic intro to “Crazy on You” or wielding the thumping hum of “Barracuda’s” signature riff, she does say she enjoys the freedom her latest tour offers.
“The sky’s the limit with my solo work. I’m not even expected to do rock if I don’t want to,” she says, noting that her Americana-tinged solo project The Ann Wilson Thing will also be returning by next year. “With Heart I’m portraying songs I’ve been doing since I was 25 years old, there’s always been more of a showbiz attitude in that role.”
For decades, she says, she had to constantly serve up the “triple threat” of singing, acting and looking the part that she says was expected of women in music, especially in the ’80s with the onslaught of the pop machine that brought about label pushback for more pop work, costuming and body shaming. “But any woman who has every gotten into the industry in any era agreed to all those things put on her, that’s how bad she wanted to be a star, she would accept that stuff,” she says candidly, breathing a sigh of relief now that that veil has been lifted.
“In my solo work I finally feel more real,” she says. “It’s all me. And I’m proud to be out there every night carving new ground because I don’t want to get caught in a rut.”
Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.