Home Rock music Heart’s Ann Wilson paved the way for women, even though she didn’t know it

Heart’s Ann Wilson paved the way for women, even though she didn’t know it

Heart’s Ann Wilson paved the way for women, even though she didn’t know it

Ann Wilson stops Hard Rock Casino on Friday, July 1, during his national tour supporting his new disc “Fierce Bliss”. The operatic soprano is best known for her contributions to ’70s hard rockers Heart, with mega-hits like “Barracuda” and “Crazy On You.” Almost half a century later, Wilson continues to record, tour and inspire new generations of musicians and listeners. When we spoke recently, I asked about his songwriting and singing heritage, his sobriety, and how to avoid band drama.

Ann Wilson is playing at Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati on Friday, July 1.

Question: Heart started in Seattle, but had to go up to Canada for a minute. Did your time in Seattle or outside the United States during a period of training for your music affect your songwriting?

Answer: Oh, yes, really. When I started writing songs, it was in Vancouver, BC, and we lived in the countryside. So our first songs, “Magic Man” and “Crazy of you” and “Dreamboat Annie,” and all of those songs on the first record were all written in the woods in Canada. We didn’t start writing the “Little Queen” album or the following albums until after we came back to the United States. But I think those early songs written in Canada really have their own character. There is a sense of purity and wholesomeness that I used to ride up there. And so you can feel that in some of those great early songs, like “How Deep it Goes” and “Here Song” and all that.

Q: Tell me about your songwriting process. I think of “Barracuda” as an example. It sounds like you have a reaction to something that happened in your life and you are able to turn it into a song.

A: Yeah. For me, in general, these are phrases that I think feed directly into the groove of the music. When a lyrical idea and a musical groove come together, it can be fantastic. Like in the song “These Dreams”, all that dreamlike character of the lyrics against the rhythmic syncopated synth track works really well. We’re always looking for things like this, and when it comes up, you know it right away. It’s not something to think about. It’s a matter of feeling. It’s really special when that happens.

Q: You are part of the first popular hard rock band made up of women and you have influenced so many people after you. As a pioneer in a predominantly male genre, would you say you were treated differently?

A: Neither Nancy nor I went to Heart thinking we were going to be some kind of trailblazer or something. We were just kids playing guitar. Really, we didn’t think of ourselves as girls or boys or anything. We were just musicians.

Q: I remember being emotional, and still am, watching you at the Kennedy Center Honors performance when you played “Stairway” in front of Led Zeppelin, and you’ve played with Queen and a handful of other legendary characters. You’re in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but you’re still going to places like Cincinnati. What drives you to keep shooting?

A: Well, there are people in Cincinnati. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big city or a small town or whatever. Where there are people, that’s where we’ll go because our thing is to play for people.

Q: You’ve been sober for over a decade now. How has this change affected your outlook on life?

A: I think it was a very good thing for me to do, and I benefited a lot from it. In terms of mental health and clarity and everything. I’m really glad I did this. These days I’ll have a glass of wine with a meal, but that’s it. And that’s my thing is to come and rest on a moderate place like that and not have to be so militaristic about it. So far it has worked very well. You can go to a party and you can have a drink all night and not be the one left behind and feel resentful, but you don’t have to go get turned on and botched either. So it’s actually a life-affirming thing. I like it.

Ann Wilson is playing at Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati on Friday, July 1.

Q: You have worked with several different musicians in your band and with Heart. Do you have any wisdom for handling group drama?

A: I think it’s good for band members to know that if there’s any drama, it’s usually just as likely to come from people outside of the band members, like wives, boyfriends – satellites. They could bring drama into the band circle as easily as the band members themselves. So I would suggest, if you’re going down the road, maybe don’t bring the old lady. Just be a good person and call her or something. Let her know she is home. All is well on the road. But the more satellites you carry with you, the more drama there will be. This is my experience.

Anne Wilson

When: 8 p.m. on Friday 1 July.

Where: Hard Rock Casino, 1000 Broadway Street, downtown.

Tickets: $34-$104.