March 27, 2017
In the Spotlight with Wendy Thompson
Photos: Jess Griffin
Ann Wilson of the band Heart began her career in music long before she graduated from high school and brought her sister Nancy along to complete a duo of rock stars who created such hits songs as “How do I get you alone?”, “What about love?”, “Theses Dreams”, “Crazy on You”, “Magic Man”, “Barracuda”, “All I want to do is make love to you”, “Dog and Butterfly”, “Nothing at All” and “Stranded” among others. For several years, Wilson has been touring separately from Nancy as well as with the band. Her solo “Ann Wilson of Heart Tour” will be in the Washington, D.C. metro area twice in March, where she plans to perform some of Heart’s greatest hits, some new songs and also cover some of rock’s greatest hits. Wilson talked with the DC Spotlight Newspaper about her past, present, and future as well as the songs and musicians who inspired her illustrious career as one of America’s top rock singers.
Wendy Thompson Hi Ann. It’s so wonderful to finally meet you.
Ann Wilson Thank you.
Wendy Thompson I’m glad we got this chance to talk today. I am just mesmerized by your music. It’s so phenomenal and you know and I know it’s internationally known around the world. But I just want to say personally that I grew up on your music. It was the soundtrack of my childhood. I’m from the South, from Mississippi and even in the South, you were huge. Heart was huge…I know the world knows your music, but just from my personal standpoint, I grew up on your music and it still resonates with me and I glad to finally meet you.
Ann Wilson Well thank you. I’m glad to hear that.
Wendy Thompson I want to start first with a little bit about your childhood. You were an army brat or a military brat? You were traveling around with your parents when you were younger.
Ann Wilson Right. Yes.
Wendy Thompson Then when you graduated from high school, you moved on and decided to start a band? How old were you when you started the band.
Ann Wilson Well, I started the band when I was still in high school. When I got out of high school, I went to art college. And while I was in art college, I was still in the band too. And then I couldn’t do the classes and the band both so I chose the band.
Wendy Thompson So what made you want to become a rocker? During that time, there were so few women rockers. So what made you want to be a rock star?
Ann Wilson Well I never thought of being a rock star. I just wanted to play music. I never felt confined by being a woman. I just felt like a person who wanted to do rock. Who wanted to play music. So that’s basically what I did. I didn’t recognize that there was any kind of exclusionary clause in being female at that time.
Wendy Thompson So you inspired me and I’m sure you’ve inspired many many other girls. Back then who made you see yourself in the position that you’re in right now?
Ann Wilson The people who inspired me were all men. Elton John, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones. You know, the bands that were out on the radio at that time. Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple. Those were all the people I wanted to be like.
Wendy Thompson So your sister Nancy, you guys shared a career together as Heart, but for this tour that you’re on right now, you’re solo. What made you want to take that huge leap to go solo?
Ann Wilson We both are doing the solo thing this year. And we’ve toured with Heart every year…since we were young really, so we both just wanted to stretch out and do something different. You know, get a breath.
Wendy Thompson This is what I want to do. I want to plug an album of yours from the past that I think is just superb, and you mentioned Elton John a few minutes ago. The Hope and Glory album that you released in 2006 is just superb and if any of our readers or listeners have not gotten that album, they need to get it. Because on that album, you collaborated with Elton John, K. D. Lang, Allison Krauss, Wynonna Judd and just so many other people. How did you make that happen? How did you get all of them in a room? You know what I mean? How did you get them all on board?
Ann Wilson Yeh, right. Well, basically my producer Ben Mink and I went around the country — well first we sent out communication and said we’re doing this and I really hear you on it…and would you like to come collaborate. And they all said yes and we went around the country and collected their voices.
Wendy Thompson That is super!
Ann Wilson It was a really cool experience.
Wendy Thompson My favorite song is from my childhood…of yours, my favorite song of yours is from when I was probably about 8 is Dog and Butterfly. To me, it just epitomizes my childhood. It’s just so beautifully sung and so beautifully written.
Ann Wilson Thank you.
Wendy Thompson Is there like a story behind that song?
Ann Wilson Well, I just was looking out my window one day and my dog — I had a big sheep dog at that point — and she was running around in the orchard next door chasing a butterfly. Of course, she could never catch it, because she was a big galoot of a dog. But she wouldn’t stop trying. That just struck me as physical manifestation of — a metaphor of people going after dreams.
Wendy Thompson Awww, that’s beautiful.
Ann Wilson Impossible dreams maybe. So that’s where that started.
Wendy Thompson And you wrote that song?
Ann Wilson Yes.
Wendy Thompson That is impressive. That is such a beautiful song. It almost brings me to tears when I listen to it even now. It’s just so well-written. So you also have an autobiography that you and your sister (Nancy) wrote together: “Kicking and Dreaming”? Is that correct? In that autobiography, you guys like recount your journey to fame as Heart and you talk about your previous marriages, and your struggle with weight and other struggles. We all have our struggles and everything, but what has been your hardest struggle and what has been your greatest success?
Ann Wilson I think my hardest struggle has been doing all those life struggle but doing them in public. Just…a lot of people have problems in love and problems with weight or alcohol or substances…or depression, or whatever it is, but they get to do it in private, you know. And they don’t get written about in the newspaper…and that’s been sort of like a super big challenge for me in my life. And then I’ll tell you my biggest success was knowing when the right moment was to give myself freely in love. Because it’s so easy just to be self-protected all the time.
Wendy Thompson Because you recently got married…
Ann Wilson Yes, two years ago now.
Wendy Thompson And you have two kids you adopted?
Ann Wilson Yes, I did.
Wendy Thompson That’s wonderful. So how old are your kids right now.
Ann Wilson 26 and almost 19
Wendy Thompson Oh, that’s great. That’s super. So does any of your family travel with you?
Ann Wilson At this point, it’s my husband and I. Those are the only family I have traveling.
Wendy Thompson So you’re on this new tour?
Ann Wilson It’s called the “The Ann Wilson of Heart Tour”.
Wendy Thompson So you were at Rams Head in Annapolis this past week and you’ll be at the Birchmere on Wednesday…I know a lot of artists who come here and give concerts, but very few can do two shows in the same venue, in the same area. So you must have a lot of people who love you around here, because it’s very hard for them to put two shows in the same area at about the same time. So that’s pretty impressive. So your fans, what will they see at your show; what will they hear?
Ann Wilson They’ll hear just a few, not many, but just a few Heart songs re-imagined. They’ll hear some new songs I’ve written in the last year or so and they’ll hear some amazing covers that I really love that inspired me. We have a full video program for every song on the video wall behind the band and it’s just a great little show.
Wendy Thompson So let me ask you this, out of all your songs — I know songs are like babies — I wouldn’t say what’s your favorite one, because you probably have a lot of favorite ones. But when you’re on stage and you’re like rocking out, which song is it that you’re like in heaven when you sing it?
Ann Wilson A song called “Don’t Give Up” by Peter Gabriel. I like doing that one.
Wendy Thompson Is there a personal reason for that?
Ann Wilson Oh, I just think it’s a beautiful song. It’s universal to people who feel overwhelmed and with their problems, reminding them that they have backup, they have friends, they have family. They’re not alone in the world…I really like it.
Wendy Thompson That’s a great mantra too: Don’t give up. So what are you working on now, what are your fans, what can we look for in the future from you?
Ann Wilson I’m going to tour all year. So I’ll be on the road until the end of October, I believe. And then after that my husband and I are going to travel. We’re going to go to India. We’re going to spend some time in Mexico. During that time, we’re going to decide what to do next year.
Wendy Thompson That sounds good. That sounds like a great plan.
Ann Wilson Yeh…
Wendy Thompson Well, it’s been great talking to you. I can’t say enough about your music. You know, I’m a little black kid from Mississippi and you influenced me and I can remember jumping from the sofa with air guitars to your music. It was so cool trying to be like Heart.
Ann Wilson Oh, thank you
Wendy Thompson I really do appreciate your music. I hope you have a great show at the Birchmere and I’m going to try to get out there to see it too.
LOCAL TOUR DATES
Ann Wilson of Heart March 29, 2017 7:30pm Birchmere, Alexandria, VA Buy Tickets
|Wed||3/15||Denver, CO||Paramount Theatre|
|Thu||3/16||Salina, KS||Steifel Theatre for the Performing Arts|
|Sat||3/18||Lake Charles, LA||Golden Nugget|
|Sun||3/19||New Orleans, LA||House of Blues|
|Tue||3/21||Wilmington, NC||Cape Fear Community College Theatre|
|Wed||3/22||Charleston, SC||Charleston Music Hall|
|Thu||3/23||Greenville, SC||Peace Center for the Creative Arts|
|Sat||3/25||Morristown, NJ||Mayo Performing Arts Center|
|Sun||3/26||Annapolis, MD||Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts|
|Wed||3/29||Alexandria, VA||The Birchmere|
|Thu||3/30||Westbury, NY||The Westbury Theater|
|Sat||4/1||Peekskill, NY||Paramount Hudson Valley|
|Sun||4/2||Londonderry, NH||Tupelo Music Hall|
|Tue||4/4||Englewood, NJ||Bergen Performing Arts Center|
|Thu||4/6||Philadelphia, PA||Keswick Theatre|
|Fri||4/7||Cranston, RI||Park Theatre PAC|