Ann Wilson has built a career playing songs about love and life with her sister Nancy in the band Heart. With that group on hiatus, Ann Wilson decided to take the road under her own name. Drawing on Heart's history of hits as well as personal favorites from the wider rock cannon, Wilson has been playing to enthusiastic crowds on her current tour. She says that leaving the Heart name behind, at least for the moment, has given her some new freedom.
“The expectations that are on Heart after 40 years are pretty constraining, sort of like if you got to see the Eagles, you expect to hear ‘Hotel California,’ you expect to hear ‘Lyin’ Eyes,’” she says. “The same types of expectations are on Heart. When I go out by myself, none of that’s there.”
On her current dates, Wilson has been drawing from the Heart discography as well as from the songs of The Who, Yes, and Buffalo Springfield. More than a night of greatest hits, her current concerts, she says, shows fans the kinds of songs she connects with on a personal level.
“I mostly wanted to do songs that really turned me on,” she says. “That have a message. That really say something. The songs that are about love, I wanted them to be powerful love songs that really comment on the state of being crazy in love. I just really wanted the songs to speak loud.”
Many of the songs in her current show are about a familiar topic: Love. Wilson says that writing and singing about matters of the heart has helped her connect with her audience.
“There’s job security in that, but there’s also universality in that,” she offers. “You can write a song about love and maybe it doesn’t mean your romantic sweetheart. Maybe you’re really referring to a larger force or you’re referring to your life or something else. I think it’s a pretty wide-open topic. It’s got many levels.”
Wilson chose to start her tour in her hometown, Seattle, Washington. She says that even after all these years it remains a place for the artistically minded, if not always for the faint of heart.
“That isolation just serves to make the Seattle music scene different,” she says. “It’s just not beholden to the same set of rules that L.A. bands are which is just, ‘Have success at all costs. Do whatever you have to do image-wise, musically, or anything, just to move a needle.’ Up in Seattle, I don’t think those rules apply as much. It’s a tight-woven community and the weather is prohibitive to people who just want life to be all fun in the sun. It’s kind of dreary and grey and depressing, so people spend a lot of time inside. People have moods. Sometimes some good music comes out of that. And they’re kind of rebellious up there too.”
With a career that spans over 40 years, Wilson understands longevity and how to weather the storms that changing tastes and trends bring.
“I think the only way you can really weather it is by staying as close to who you really are as possible,” she notes. “If not just be who you really are. If you’re going to have a career, it’s not going to be because you go into any kind of disguise in order to sell yourself. If you’re going to have a career it’s going to be because you’re good and because you’re someone that appeals to people. Somebody with a full character and look and ideas intact.”
Ann Wilson of Heart performs at the Stiefel Theatre on Thursday, March 16.
Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.
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