Interview by Danny Coleman
“Expect the unexpected,” she said with a slight laugh. “Yeah that sums it up. I’ve never done a show like this; expect to be given something that’s new, old, wide awake. There will be my songs, cover songs that have special meaning to me, Heart songs and more; it’s definitely a production,” says legendary siren Ann Wilson as she discussed her new EP and upcoming tour.
Officially named, “The Ann Wilson of Heart Tour,” because she feels that it gives her a, “Point of recognition,” Wilson modestly suggests that she may have an “Identity crisis” of sorts, in part due to her already successful Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame music career. “Well, I’m very optimistic that people know who I am,” she said with a laugh. “Most people know me from Heart, they know the two sisters but around the country, there may be people who don’t know who I am. I’m always associated with Heart and now out on my own, this gives the people a chance to find out a bit about me and I also can’t take that recognition for granted.”
Part of what is undoubtedly one of, if not the most successful sister acts in rock music history, Wilson is no stranger to going it on her own as previous endeavors indicate. 2007 saw the release of her first solo album, “Hope & Glory,” which featured such rock luminaries as Elton John, k.d. lang, Alison Krauss, Gretchen Wilson, Wynonna Judd and more. Finding success with this effort, she then released two EPs under the moniker, “The Ann Wilson Thing.” The first, 2015’s, “The Ann Wilson Thing-#1,” was followed by the most recent, 2016’s, “Focus.” “I’d rather do four or five good songs than 14 mediocre ones,” she stated softly. “People just don’t buy albums anymore and they have no attention spans. There are not many artists who are deathless today and by that I mean making music that will be around forever. I don’t know whether it’s the artist or the people but things are not how they once were.”
Wilson says that her side projects have been well received by the critics and that there is rarely any comparison to Heart, something that suits her perfectly fine. “No, I don’t find that they compare me to Heart or anyone else for that matter. The critics have separated the two and I’ve gotten some reviews that Heart hardly ever gets. It’s kind of nice in a way, freeing even. I get to make music and because it’s new the press has nothing to go by, I have no skeletons so to speak. Geez, Heart has been around forty years; ya’ know? There’s a lot to go by there so when I go out on my own it’s kind of like Heart without the baggage (Laughs).”
Her current band line up features familiar faces such as one time Heart drummer Denny Fongheiser, long time Heart guitarist Craig Bartock and The Ann Wilson Thing bassist Andy Stoller. When asked if she ever felt exposed, more particularly, “Naked” on stage since she is now the primary focus and her sister and Heart band mates are not with her; Wilson responded with a laugh and an interesting perspective, “Naked yes but in a really beautiful way. I’m at my best on stage, it’s where I communicate easily through my songs and I get to stretch it out as a singer. My band is great, we’re all friends and they have a vested interest in my success, they’ve got skin in the game so to speak and I know they’ve got my back.”
Looking back on her career, Ann once again has a great perspective but it’s two moments which seem to stand out a bit more than others. “Being inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of fame was surreal, just really surreal. When you work so hard at something and you’re always working to create and maintain and to live up to certain expectations and suddenly your awarded this honor, an honor which is really from your peers and the industry; you feel like queen for a day but then the next day it’s right back to work. Now the Kennedy Center Honors was just, I’ve got to say it was completely sublime,” she explained, seemingly in awe of the entire event. “We started by going to the White House the day of the show and then the evening was just perfect, it was one of those times when everything went just right. The band, the choir, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones in the balcony and to perform that song for them and have it be flawless; it was just sublime and an incredible experience. When we were done, we got to sit at a table with Led Zeppelin and Kid Rock during dinner; it just kept getting better.”
So now she’s back on the road as the current tour kicks off on March 8 in the Wilson home town of Seattle, WA at the Moore Theatre, followed by dates in California, Colorado, Kansas and Louisiana before turning eastward starting in North and South Carolina.
March 25 sees this 20 shows in 31 days tour pull into New Jersey with the first of two Garden State appearances; this one at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, NJ. The next is April 4 in Englewood, NJ at the Bergen Performing Arts Center which is followed by an April 6 stop in suburban Philadelphia at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA.
Currently, this iconic singer is planning to expand the tour and her solo career along with it and then has her eyes on the prize; a well deserved vacation. “I’ want to continue to tour in 2017, ideally I’d like to do 80 shows this year. I’m also putting out a third EP by late summer and then my husband and I are going to travel,” she stated with a relieved laugh. “We’re going to go to India and possibly more countries, it’s what we enjoy and I always take something away from those trips be it musical, spiritual or whatever it is; so I’m looking forward to that.”
To discover more about Ann Wilson and this current tour or to purchase tickets; please go to www.annwilsonofheart.com.
Danny Coleman (Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 10 p.m. EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.)