In Advance of Her Hard Rock Live Solo Show and an Appearance at the Upcoming Inductions, Heart's Ann Wilson Talks About Her Legacy

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click to enlarge In Advance of Her Hard Rock Live Solo Show and an Appearance at the Upcoming Inductions, Heart's Ann Wilson Talks About Her Legacy
Jess Griffin
It was a long time coming, but the hard rock group Heart finally got inducted into the Rock Hall in 2013. Heart singer Ann Wilson says she didn’t take the recognition lightly.

“I think for most people that get inducted into the Rock Hall, especially if they’re rock musicians, it’s very surreal,” says Wilson via phone. She performs at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 7, at Hard Rock Live. “It’s about rebellion and rebelling against institutions. When you’re going to be inducted into an institution, it gives you a moment’s pause. When you get up there, and you’re queen for a day, it’s wonderful to be recognized like that, and it really is meaningful.”

After performing at Hard Rock Live and then playing a couple of shows in Illinois, Wilson will return to town for the Rock Hall Inductions that take place on April 14 at Public Hall. She’ll induct the Moody Blues.

“It’s going to be a real honor to me,” she says of the upcoming Inductions. “[The Moody Blues] always meant a lot to me, starting from when I was at art school back in the '60s. I liked their ideas and the fact that they were progressive for their time. They weren’t ironic. They were real. I really appreciated that and still do.”

For her solo show at Hard Rock Live, Wilson plans to play at least a couple of Heart songs.

"I think the Heart songs I have imported into my solo career are the ones that stand the test of time the best. I’m doing 'Crazy on You' and 'Barracuda,'" she says. "I can’t remember what the other ones are right now. I’m changing the set all the time. They’re just good songs that stand the test of time."

She’ll also include songs from her solo debut, 2007’s Hope & Glory. On that album, she teamed up with singers such as k.d. lang, Elton John and Shawn Colvin to cover tunes by the likes of Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and John Lennon. Her cover of Lennon's "Isolation," a song she describes as "primal," still often makes its way into her sets. She effectively whispers her way through her eerie rendition of the track.

“It truly was great,” she says of recording the album. "That was the first time I worked with [producer] Ben Mink. We’re working again now on my second solo album. It was an amazing project. It opened up a whole new sky for me. I could do what I wanted. I wasn’t expected to model myself after what I’d been in Heart for all those years.”

Wilson is also busy recording Songs for the Living, an album that reunites her with original Heart producer Mike Flicker. The disc will pay homage to the musicians who've died in the past few years and include covers of songs by Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Tom Petty, Chris Cornell and Amy Winehouse.

“The deaths just kept coming over the past three or four years,” Wilson says, who was close friends with Soundgarden/Audioslave singer Chris Cornell. “It’s been a tsunami of exits — Leonard Cohen, Tom Petty, Chris Cornell. These are people you wouldn’t expect to all of a sudden get up and leave. I thought it would be cool to honor those people and put songs from each of them on an album. I’ve never done a Leonard Cohen or a Chris Cornell song or an Amy Winehouse song. They’re just fun for me to do.”

She says she transforms Lesley Gore’s “You Don't Own Me” from being a "'60s teen girl anthem” to a song whose message will serve for everyone in 2018. And she has rearranged Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black.”

“That one I will really change a lot,” she says of the Winehouse track. “I’ll make it into a Frank Sinatra string session with no groove. I just want the words to sit over some beautiful strings.”

The album will also include a hard-driving rendition of the Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane” that Wilson says has become a “heavy percussive heavy thing.” “It’s way more grinding than it ever was in a whole different way — in a more jungle way,” she says.

The album's subtitle, "Vol. 1," even suggests a second volume will follow.

While Wilson remains plenty busy these days (she'll also hit the road later this summer with Jeff Beck and Paul Rodgers), the music industry has changed so much since Wilson’s career started. Very few artists manage to rack up the kind of platinum sales that Heart did back in the day. So what keeps Wilson going?

“I think the reason I can keep doing it is that I never went into it to sell records,” she says. “I went into for the experience of doing the music. The idea of being a rock star just came along. What’s left for me is the original motivation, which is really deep inside me. It’s really cool when you take away the idea of selling records. It gives you a new kind of freedom."

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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