Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart in studio on the Jim Kerr Rock and Roll Morning Show, on Q104.3 in New York, the day before their new album, “Red Velvet Car“, is released – Monday, August 30th, 2010.
Thought I’d give the site a makeover, what with today having been a special day
Hope you enjoy it as much as I’ve been enjoying “Red Velvet Car” from morning to night
Ann & Nancy Wilson of Heart on The Today Show – August 31st, 2010.
Turn the volume up some and be sure to watch in HD, full screen… and all should be well!
Acoustic version of the song, “Red Velvet Car“, taped live from ShopNBC on Sunday, August 29th, 2010.
WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Even as rock music struggles to regain its early vitality and creative pulse, Heart isn’t losing heart. After 35 years, the Seattle band that blazed a trail for female rockers refuses to coast or pull over.
On Tuesday, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, the group’s only remaining founders, unveil 13th studio album Red Velvet Car, their first since 2004’s Jupiter’s Darling.
Intimate, intense and anchored by Ann’s powerhouse vocals and Nancy’s aggressive acoustic guitar, the album recalls such groundbreaking works as 1976 debut Dreamboat Annie, 1977’s Little Queen and 1978’s Dog & Butterfly.
Car may be new, but the odometer is maxed out.
“This is a traveling album with old-fashioned grooves and songs that have to do with where we’ve been,” says Ann, 60, pointing to road tunes Wheels and Death Valley.
Lyricist Nancy, 56, says the transit theme is literal and figurative, personal and universal.
“It’s the ache and loneliness of modern life,” she says, huddled next to Ann on a couch in the Sunset Marquis hotel bar. “The character of the world now seems to be travel. There’s less a feeling of the stay-at-home family that plays Monopoly or even watches TV together. Everyone disappears into private technology. You’re in a vehicle, in a comfort zone, on your way through something.”
The Wilsons, who’ve toured all summer and have dates booked through 2010, know a thing or two about travel. Daughters of a Marine father, they moved frequently as kids but didn’t learn how to live out of a suitcase until rock stardom set them on a continuous cycle of recording and touring. They’ve sold more than 30 million albums and piled up 21 top 40 hits, starting in the ’70s with Crazy on You, Barracuda, Magic Man and Straight On.
Their legacy and finances secure, they could easily retire or ride the oldies circuit.
“They’ve got fire and commitment and never want to lose the idea that they are creative, vital musicians,” says Car producer Ben Mink, who also produced albums by K.D. Lang, Feist and Barenaked Ladies, as well as Ann’s 2007 solo disc, Hope & Glory. “Their talent is off the map, and a lot of it comes from being natural. They’re like the Everly Brothers. They don’t really have to work out harmonies. They just read each other’s genetic code.”
And while contemporary hitmakers rely on Auto-Tune, Pro Tools and drum machines, Heart kept the beat without studio pacemakers.
“You have to acknowledge that it’s 2010, but you can’t get too clever with technology,” Mink says. “Their fans are too smart and have too much history with Heart. I tried to get incredible performances, something that’s honest to the moment and keeps the integrity.”
Playing to their strengths
With rock mired in radio silence and sluggish sales, will Red Velvet Car roll off the lot?
“I have a naïve belief that if something is honest and catchy and good, it will make it out in the world,” Mink says.
Ann laments how waning radio support sends so many worthy records into a “black hole.”
“The business is hard to pin down, and everyone is scrambling to be heard,” she says.
Heartened by positive reaction, including a thumbs-up in Rolling Stone, “it feels like there might be a snowball’s chance in hell this time,” Nancy says. “If it can get from us to people’s ears without stalling in between, it will be fine.
“There’s an appreciation for bands that are human,” she says. “People tell us, ‘Wow, you actually sing and play!’ Pop acts are going by so quickly, the sense of disposability is overwhelming. The sound of pop today is stunning. It’s found a whole new color in music. But it’s about the sound, not about people.”
Mink got to the heart of Heart by focusing on, but not exaggerating, core strengths.
“It was gratifying to hear us sound like us,” Ann says. “Most other producers we worked with said, ‘Come on, Ann, just belt it out, knock down the wall with your voice.’ Ben was more, ‘Hold back, let’s bring your soul out. You don’t have to be a sledgehammer.’ That was valuable to me.”
The trio’s ethic of going for sincerity, bold acoustic rock and a vibrant live sound embodied “pre-’80s Heart,” Nancy says.
The ’80s delivered Heart’s only chart-toppers, 1985’s self-titled album and singles These Dreams and Alone, plus such hits as Who Will You Run To, Never and What About Love. But it’s not a phase they embrace with unconditional pride. Adapting to the MTV revolution, they tilted toward pop, collaborated with outside writers, joined the parade of video vixens and “slightly bruised our holy artistic integrity,” Nancy jokes.
The early days had been tough enough in a male-dominated genre that tended to see women as eye candy or not at all. Heart’s first label fanned rumors that the Wilsons were lesbian lovers in a risqué tabloid-style ad depicting the bare-shouldered pair above the caption: “Heart’s Wilson Sisters Confess: ‘It Was Only Our First Time!’ ”
“We felt exploited every single minute,” Ann says. “We have always fought it by taking every opportunity to be ourselves. We’d get nasty and say stuff people wish we wouldn’t.
“In the ’80s, our band was fading away, and we thought we’d have to jump overboard. The subservience is so insidious, sometimes you don’t see it happening until you look around and go, ‘wait, I’m wearing a corset, I’ve got on false fingernails and stilettos, and my back’s killing me. Why am I doing this?’ ”
Nancy interjects, “And I’m paying the bill for two days of inordinately expensive video!”
“It was a survival technique,” Nancy says. “New hair, new management, get the stylist, reinvent. It was a fun costume party at first, but by the end of the ’80s, because it had been such a cocaine- and ego-driven thing, it devoured itself. We ran back to Seattle with our tail between our legs, in debt even though we’d made more money than ever.”
During the video chapter, Ann, who had put on pounds since Heart’s arrival, was swaddled neck to ankles and pressured by record executives and even band members to lose weight. While annoyed by the fixation on her heft rather than her hefty voice, she was more riled by the industry’s handling of Nancy.
“It stuck in my craw that they treated her as a sex object because she’s a beautiful blond woman,” Ann says. “It was always, ‘Come on, babe, simper for us.’ The worst stereotypic, sleazy, greasy things. Once we got to the end of our rope, we put on the combat boots.”
In 2002, Ann underwent Lap-Band (adjustable gastric band) surgery. To please herself.
“There was no pressure from anywhere at that point,” she says. “I’ve gone through my whole career being talked about, and I could have gone on being talked about. The company offered the surgery for free if I’d talk about it, and I figured I might help other people. I got my eating under control. I still go up and down, but I don’t pig out. It helped me train myself.”
‘Rock mom’ living
Dieting, sexism, cratering CD sales and lung-crushing corsets have been minor challenges compared with juggling a globe-trotting career with motherhood, both women say. Nancy and filmmaker Cameron Crowe, married since 1986, have 10-year-old twin boys and live in Los Angeles. Ann is a single mom to a daughter, 19, and son, 12, in Seattle.
“With the kindly help of a therapist, I have come to realize I don’t have to feel guilty about having this calling,” Ann says. “I was called to be a mother, and I was also called to be a singer. And I cannot desert either one.”
Nancy turns to Ann and says: “I need to go to your therapist. When I became a mom, I was a little naïve. It’s a little lonely being a rock mom in a soccer-mom world.”
Ann adds sympathetically: “And the stay-at-home moms are wary of rock moms. You can cut the vibe with a stick.”
They’ve found one remedy to ease the pain of home tugging at their Heart strings.
“You never really adjust, but it helps to have each other, big time,” Ann says. “I can tell when one little muscle in Nancy’s face starts to twitch, it’s time to knock it off for the day.”
Despite a revolving lineup (the duo currently is backed by a guitarist, bassist, keyboardist and drummer), Heart has yet to be rocked by sibling rivalry.
“We never argue,” Nancy says. “There’s no time for drama like that. You have to get on with the business of life.”
The Wilsons hope to keep Heart going regardless of the industry’s unpredictable swings. Sisterhood is forever, and for now, Heart’s in the right place.
“I started writing an autobiography a couple years ago, but I found myself getting really cranky,” Nancy says. “I realized I wasn’t ready to sum it up. Looking back felt wrong.”
Ann, who also abandoned a memoir, chimes in, “I felt that, too! The story doesn’t have an ending yet.”