Interview by Danny Coleman
“Heart By Heart plays a lot of Heart music,” says original Heart bassist Steve Fossen. We play mostly from the 70’s catalog, we do a few 80’s songs and we try to play the music note for note as it was recorded and written.”
Steve Fossen and drummer Mike DeRosier are 2013 Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame inductees and given the success which they achieved with Heart, a trip to the hallowed halls was inevitable.
Fossen was there from the beginning, forming what would become the nucleus of the future juggernaut way back in 1967 when he and the Fisher brothers formed The Army. Bands come and go, change directions and personnel, some stay the same and others like Heart become the product of morphing over time.
Unfortunately, Fossen and DeRosier’s time with the band ended circa 1982, well after the group was entrenched in accolades, massive fans, hits and million selling albums but Fossen and some of the earliest members have kept in touch and over the years have performed together; such is the case now with Heart By Heart. Fossen tells the story of the group’s forming and like most great rock ‘n’ roll tales it just all kind of fell into place.
“Back in 2008, Roger Fisher, Mike Derozier and I wanted to play some Heart songs at a party that we were doing downtown and we had heard about Somar; she had a Heart tribute band that she was playing in called, “Straight On.” We heard that she could sing the Heart material and she knew it so we had her come and sing with us and she’s a very intelligent and nice person so we got along well. That was in February and then over the course of the spring and summer I would run into her at different parties and clubs and we developed a friendship and then that evolved into a romance and once we were romantically connected we started a bass and vocal duo and we’d play songs like, “Dog and Butterfly,” “Crazy On You,” “Alone” and at first we started out at friend’s dinner parties and then evolved into bistros; we even did a wedding and a funeral and we were having a lot of fun just doing that. Then people heard about it and we got a call from a booking agent from Alaska and he called us and wanted us to open up for Dwight Yoakam at a show he was doing in Anchorage and we thought that a duo would be a little light to open a show so we asked Mike Derozier and Randy Hansen our original guitar player to help us out and we put together a 45 minute set and we were all set to go to Alaska and then at the last minute Dwight Yoakam decided not to play the show but we had a band; so thank you Dwight (laughs). Then some friends of ours had a benefit for, “Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Awareness” and we raised a good amount of money and from that gig a lot of booking agents heard about us and started booking us around Seattle and Tacoma areas and the next thing you know we were playing shows all over the place. We started coming back to the East Coast about four years ago and now this year we’ve branched out to the Midwest and we did Florida, California, Virginia, Maryland, New York and now Pennsylvania.”
August 9 sees Heart By Heart at The Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, PA for an 8 p.m. show followed by an already sold out show on August 13 in Mount Gretna. Tickets range from a scant $15 to around $45 between the two venues.
Fossen seems totally at ease with the lineup and seems to be having an unexpected resurgence in not only the band’s travel itinerary but a rebirth of Heart’s music; something he says his former band mates, the Wilson sisters are OK with. “We have Mike DeRosier our drummer, we have Somar Macek on lead vocals and she is also my wife, we have Lizzy Damont who does acoustic and electric guitars as well as piano, keyboards and backing vocals and Chad Quist on guitars. I spoke with Ann not too long ago and she was totally cool with it as long as we keep it true to the original works. Let’s put it this way, they’ve not given us any indication that they are not blessing it (laughs).”
Heart by Heart is governed by the same philosophy today which Fossen and previous band mates employed over the years and that’s realizing that everyone is and has uniqueness. “You play clubs and the audiences are people just like every place you play and they’re very enthusiastic about your music but it’s a real confined and concentrated area and if you set your goals and standards high enough you’ll play good no matter how many people are out in the audience. So by the time we got to the point with Heart where we were playing 15,000 seat arenas we were so confident and such a finely tuned entity; I mean there was more pressure and everything but we could still pull it off because we had that experience under our belts. Our philosophy was that we were playing for basically one person at a time and I play for myself too because I have very high standards and I want to do as well as I can to present myself and my skills the best that I can but if you think about it you’re playing for one person at a time whether there’s 20 people or 300,000 in the crowd because everyone is experiencing your performance one person at a time. We always try our best to do our best and if you have that in mind and never take anything for granted and be as good as you know that you can be all of the other things will fall into place automatically.”
He also has advice for up and coming bands and musicians who are out there trying to make it in the music biz, “Hold onto your dreams, work hard at it. Have faith because sometimes it’s going to be very discouraging and sometimes it’s going to be fun and you want to be in a position where any opportunity that comes along your band is ready to take advantage of that; when opportunity knocks you answer the door.”
Opportunity knocks twice in Pennsylvania this week and here’s hoping that we answer the door to see these legendary musicians playing times legendary tunes.
To discover more about Heart By Heart or purchase tickets, please go to www.heartbyheart.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.)