Heart’s Ann Wilson says her band is currently enjoying `the moment’. That moment sees Ann, Sister Nancy and the latest incarnation of Heart launch into a Canadian tour which kicks off March 9th in Penticton BC and concludes March 25th at the Bell Centre in Montreal (full tour in Concert Connection).
Along the way, the Wilson sisters will drop by Toronto’s Canadian Music Week Friday March 22nd at the Marriot Hotel where they will be featured as guest speakers at the event. This comes the night after performing at Massey Hall.
“I’m not sure what we are going to do yet, we are still putting together our set list for Canada,” allowed Wilson on the phone prior to launching their latest foray into Canada’s hinterland. “ At the CMW I think we’re supposed to do a question and answer segment with the audience and then do an acoustic set which shouldn’t be a problem for us. We love that kind of setting.”
“Wait on a minute” you ask. “I thought Music Express only featured Canadian artists?” Well you’re right there…but Seattle-based Heart was bona fide Canadian landed immigrants at one point and actually won the Best Group Juno Award in 1977. In subsequent years they have forged enough connections to be considered honorary Canadians.
“We consider ourselves North Westerners. We only live a stone’s throw from Vancouver and in the early days we inter-related with all the musicians from that area so we never saw the US-Canadian border as any boundary,” acknowledged Wilson.
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It was at Vancouver’s Mushroom Studios in 1976 that Heart recorded their debut album, Dreamboat Annie with local producer Mike Flicker. An album that spawned `Crazy On You’ and `Magic Man’, would go on to sell millions of copies and today be considered one of rock music’s most seminal releases. Heart fell out with Mushroom Records’ chief Shelly Siegel shortly afterwards, joining Columbia Records’ Portrait label to record five more back-to-back chart topping albums including `Little Queen’ and `Dog And Butterfly’before switching over to Capitol.
In the subsequent thirty odd years, Heart has sold over 35 million records, endured more ups and downs than your average Canada’s Wonderland roller coaster- yet still maintained a strong link with Canada.
[quote]“I hate it when people play `Stairway To Heaven’ because they always trash it, but I liked that one.”[/quote]It was Ann who teamed up with Loverboy’s Mike Reno to sing `Almost Paradise’ from the 1984 Footloose movie soundtrack. It was Heart who took a discarded song from Toronto’s Brian Allen and Sheron Alton and turned “What About Love” into a song of their own on their 1985 Heart comeback album. And throughout their US touring, have assisted Canadian bands, allowing Honeymoon Suite to open for them in 1986 and even allowed the original seven-piece Prism band to showcase during Heart’s Little Queen 1977 homecoming concert in Seattle.
Through it all, Heart have been constant visitors to Canada, as recently as 2011 executing a national tour of our country before returning to Toronto in mid-summer to open for Def Leppard at the Molson Amphitheatre.
With this year’s tour, the Wilson sisters have plenty to celebrate as the year 2012 was truly magical for them. In June of last year they released “Strange Euphoria” a boxed set of demos’, outtakes and various `Odds and Sods’ “which showed a different side of us musically, that we are a multifaceted group” .
September 18th saw the release of the Wilsons’ autobiography; Kicking And Dreaming – A Story Of Heart Soul And Rock And Roll. Co-written by Seattle journalist Charles R. Cross, who also penned biographies by Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix, Wilson describes the experience of writing a book to be very therapeutic for the Wilsons. “I mean, once you start revealing stuff, you kind of have to keep on going. It’s funny but you think you’re revealing something that the reader doesn’t find interesting and then there are people who claim what you wrote about never happened at all!”
Seven days later Heart was honored by the band’s star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame and then seven days after that, they released `Fanatic’ their latest CD release, produced by Canadian Ben Mink, which immediately entered the Billboard Rock Charts and sent them off on a U.S tour.
Photography by: Charles Hope
But the honors kept coming. On December 11th it was announced that Heart will be inducted into Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (along with Rush). “We’ve been eligible for quite a while but when we didn’t get nominated it was like `what are we chopped liver!’ Then last year we got nominated but didn’t get elected, so Nancy and I just shrugged our shoulders and pretended we didn’t care anymore – but secretly we did care.”
“Then this year we got elected and yes we are thrilled to be inducted and all the recognition that goes along with that,” enthused Wilson. “It validates 37 years of hard work and reflects that we never gave up and never got down on ourselves.” Heart will be inducted into the hall in April by Soundgarden frontman, and fellow Seattle native Chris Cornell.
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And then to top off a phenomenal year, Heart honored Led Zeppelin at the Kennedy Center in New York December 26th with a rousing rendition of “Stairway To Heaven” that reduced Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant to tears (yes that is John Bonham’s son Jason wearing the bowler hat on the drumkit).
“We were just happy to please Robert (Plant), Jimmy (Page) and John-Paul (Jones). If they had been the only three people in the room, we wouldn’t have cared. Robert told me afterwards “I hate it when people play `Stairway To Heaven’ because they always trash it, but I liked that one.” I took that as such a compliment.”
Although Zeppelin songs have always played a part of Heart’s set list; they had purposely stayed away from `Stairway To Heaven’ until that concert. “It’s such a challenge to do that song justice” Wilson noted.
It’s not surprising though that Heart plays Zeppelin or other classic rock songs. “At the end of the day Heart is a garage band,” confirmed Wilson. “We started out doing covers and for a lead singer, that’s the most fun. That allowed us to gain confidence to write our own material and I think you can hear those influences in our earlier material.”
Following a year where virtually every dream came true for the band…what’s next? “Well we haven’t won a Grammy Award yet” deadpans Wilson. “Really, we are a band that plays for the moment. We could have turned into one of those classic nostalgia bands that lives off their past glories and are just in it for the money, but that’s not us!
“Nancy and I have this joke that every 10 years or so we have to re-invent ourselves,” she continues. “We have to write new songs, we have to challenge ourselves. We know that people don’t listen to 14-song CD’s anymore, that their attention spans are short. But as long as we can find an audience and connect with them. Ultimately, that’s what makes us happy.”
To contact Heart go to www.heart-music.com