Interview with Heart singer Ann Wilson

Heart_328I spoke to Ann Wilson of Heart earlier this week to talk about their new CD/DVD, “Fanatic live from Caesars Colosseum” which is due for release on 24th February.  

Planetmosh: Your new album, Fanatic Live from Caesars Colosseum is due for release at the end of February.  First of all, what made you choose Windsor as the show to record for the album?  It must be hard to choose as you’ve played so many places over the years.

Ann:  I think we just chose it because it’s a great big room with lots of bells and whistles – you know, really great lighting.  We’re were going to film it so we wanted it to look really good of course. It was just another stop on the tour, it just happened to be the best room for cameras and lights.

Planetmosh: You’ve played so many places over the years and must have memories from a lot of them and so are spoilt for choice when it comes to places you’d like to record at.

Ann: Yeah.  I don’t have memories of all of them, but the good ones yes…… and the really bad ones too, those are the ones that stick in your mind.

Planetmosh:  Although the album doesnt include it, you ended the show with The Who cover “Love reign o’er me”.

Ann: Every so often we love doing a cover because those are the songs we did when we were coming up and playing in bars and clubs, that’s what we learned on.  It’s just fun, pure as that.  Sometimes we’ll do Zeppelin stuff, sometimes Who stuff, or something else.  It’s great.  Musicians are like that, you get together for a hoot and spend the whole time doing everyone elses songs and not your own.
What you want to do if you’re doing a cover is to choose one that people can’t believe they’re hearing you do.  They can’t believe that you would dare to touch it.  Then you get people with great big eyes and it becomes a challenge for you because you don’t want to screw up.

Some songs don’t really work.  You try to cover a song and you can work all day long on it and you just can’t make it light up.  We had that experience with the Led Zeppelin song “Whole lotta love”.  We were going to try that one – every musician wants to play that but we tried and tried and tried and we could not make it wake up.  Nobody can do that apart from Led Zepellin, or maybe Jason Bonham – we sure couldn’t do it, so we didn’t play it.

Planetmosh: How hard is it when you’re putting the setlist for a tour together? With 15 albums you’re spoilt for choice and can’t play everything the fans want to hear or you’d be doing a 5 hour show.

Ann: Yeah we have a lot of albums.  We try to go for songs that we’re not tired of and ones that we know will get the people up, because we’re still basically a bar band.  We still want to go in there and get the place up and get people to have a really good time, so those are the ones we pick, the songs that will really stand and be alive, be awake.  The more new stuff we can play, the more new stuff we will play.

Planetmosh: Watching the DVD, you look to be having a great time on stage, it’s not just the crowd enjoying it.

Ann: That’s important you know  Sometimes you see bands up there and you can tell they’re just going through the motions and to me that’s not the point.  If it gets to that point where you’re out there and you’re just doing lifestyle maintenance, making money just to pay the mortgage and you’re not getting off on the music then it’s not as exciting by far as a band that’s really into it and not just phoning it in.
It’s a big challenge to live up to because sometimes you really don’t feel like it, especially on tour when you’re really tired and you’re pouring out your soul all the time and sometimes you just want to stay quiet, but you can’t.

Planetmosh: You’re touring North America over the next couple of months as a continuation of the Fanatic tour.  With the distances involved it must be tiring.

Ann: Yeah.  You’ve got to figure that out – how to do that and stay healthy, because getting sleep and staying healthy is the key to it.  if you get sick then forget it – it’s all over.

Planetmosh: It must be particularly hard for yourself because a guitar player can play with a bad cold and people wouldn’t notice, but if you lose your voice then you can’t sing.

Ann: If you lose your voice, nobody knows why, they just think you’re starting to lose it – “she can’t do it any more, she can’t do the high notes”, they don’t know that you’re sick, they just think you’re failing.  I have a personal rule that if I’m sick, I don’t go up there.  We’ll come back and do the gig later, but I’m not going to go up there sick and not give people what they want.

Planetmosh: In December you cancelled plans to perform at Seaworld in Orlando.  

Ann: When we took the gig, well Nancy and I aren’t always paying the closest attention to every detail of our booking process – that’s what the booking agent is for.  So this gig for Orlando came in and looked good so we took it, then we came to find out later that it was at Seaworld, and there was a huge groundswell of anti-Seaworld feeling happening in this country after the documentary Blackfish came out about the Orca whales and how they’re treated.  Once we watched that, there was no two ways about it, both our consciences said “sorry no we can’t do this, we can’t sign our name to it”, any more than we could have taken those gigs to play in South Africa in the 80s during apartheid – we turned down all of those too.
It’s too bad because there’s a lot of good things about Seaworld – they make a lot of people happy, they have animal rescue programs and things like that, but there’s also this dark side whcih can’t be ignored.  When artists found out what was really going on a lot of people backed out of this years concert series.

Planetmosh: You last toured the UK and Europe 10 years ago.  Is there any likelihood of a UK or European tour this year?

Ann: I really want to come back, it’s been way too long.  I think the key will be that we have the right itinerary because we want to come over and play all over Britain and Europe, and we need the right shows, the right festivals, get it all together, have a good album out that people like, so we’re not just coming over as some sort of nostalgia band, because we don’t want to do that after ten years.

Planetmosh:  You recently sang the National Anthem at the NFL NFC Championship Game in Seattle, something you’ve done before. Do you feel any extra pressure compared to a Heart show – you’re out there alone in the spotlight.

Ann: Oh my god, there’s no comparison, there was way more pressure.  There were 68,000 people there, and there were 80 million people watching on TV.  I didn’t even want to think about the people watching on TV – it was hard enough thinking about the people that were present. I just went out, it was freezing cold and I thought I was going to be able to wear a beanie to keep me warm but at the last minute they said “oh no, it’s hats off for the national anthem” so I was out there bare-headed freezing my butt off, but it was really a big thrill playing to a crowd that big and that pumped.  It was good that my hometown team won the game too because if they’d lost I’d have been blamed

Planetmosh: I believe your music has appeared in a new episode of TV series Family guy.  Were you involved at all?

Ann: Oh yeah we sang the parts.  “What about beans” and “These beans”, we went into the studio and sang those parts.  It was cute.  They showed the episode a couple of weeks ago here.  It’s a funny little bit, there’s something going on in the scene and then there’s this little bitty Heart on the table singing “What about beans” and “These beans”, because they’re talking about beans.  it probably doesn’t make sense until you see it.

Planetmosh:  Even after 40 years of Heart, you’re still doing new things.

Ann: Oh yeah, that’s necessary, you have to keep doing new stuff otherwise you just become a jukebox for your former self, you just become a cartoon character of your own memories and the peoples memories.  I think it’s better even though people only want to hear the big hits, it’s important to go out there and also serve yourself.

Planetmosh:  I think some people want to hear the big hits, while some fans want to hear some of the more obscure stuff – I guess you can’t please everyone without doing a hour show.

Ann: Yeah you really can’t please everybody, so please yourself (laughs).  I think that’s the hard part because when you play new stuff you have to be real honest with yourself about what worked.  You can’t just play it because you love it because it’s something new. So when we are playing the songs from “Fanatic” we have to be really careful to only choose the ones that make peoples eyes light up in the way we’ve seen all these years.

Planetmosh: You must hear a lot of the same questions from music journalists, so which question are you most bored of being asked ?

Ann:  I guess probably the one about being a woman in rock because that’s just not even an unusual thing any more.  There are so many women in the rock scene that it’s not unusual, but that’s a question that we still get asked – “what’s it like, is it different for you than it is for a man?”. Of course I can’t answer that one very easily.

Planetmosh: Thank you very much for you time

Ann: Thanks very much

HEART release “Fanatic Live” Deluxe Edition, DVD & Blu-ray
HEART release “Fanatic Live” Deluxe Edition, DVD & Blu-ray

Check out what Planetmosh reviewer Mark Ashby thought of the new Heart DVD/CD, Fanatic live from Caesars Colosseum –
HEART: “FANATIC LIVE FROM CAESARS COLOSSEUM” is released by Frontiers Records on CD+DVD Deluxe Edition, DVD and Blu-ray on 24th February. Further info:






About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.