The year 2016 was going fantastically for Heart.
The band had a new hit album on its hands, with Beautiful Broken reaching No. 9 on the Billboard Rock Albums chart. The band performed at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, recording the obviously named Live at the Royal Albert Hall With the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and embarked on a tour with Joan Jett and Cheap Trick.
Then, on Aug. 27, that fantastic streak came to a halt: Ann Wilson’s husband, Dean Wetter, reportedly assaulted Nancy Wilson’s two teenage sons after a concert in Auburn, Wash., resulting in his arrest.
The sisters have each issued statements regarding the incident—and have decided to play as solo acts, for at least the time being.
Ann Wilson will be performing at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino at 8 p.m., Friday, May 19.
During a recent phone interview, Ann Wilson discussed her solo trek, which includes a couple of members of Heart: lead guitarist Craig Bartock and former drummer Denny Fongheiser.
“Craig Bartock has been playing with Heart for 15 years, and he and I were writing songs together before this latest thing, and I thought he’d be a perfect fit,” Wilson said. “Denny Fongheiser played in Heart back in the ’90s, and I’ve always thought that he was my favorite drummer out of all the Heart drummers. He’s a fantastic percussionist and a great all-around guy with imagination and capabilities. I went back to him, and I’m really glad I did.”
Ann Wilson released a solo album, Hope and Glory, in 2007, which consisted of covers and a lineup of special guests that included Elton John, Wynonna Judd and Alison Krauss, to name a few. She also recently put out two digital EPs under the name of The Ann Wilson Thing. Wilson is known to sing powerful Led Zeppelin covers, and has done so with Heart during live performances.
“I think with covers, you walk a fine line between doing the song justice and honor, or messing up the original intent,” she said. “With a Led Zeppelin song, I wouldn’t want to take it into jazz or anything like that; I’d like to keep it as rock. But performance-wise, with a song like ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ by The Who, we start out pretty soft and gentle, but then it explodes. You can really hear the words, and the rock and edgy feeling of that song is retained. When you do covers, the songs are iconic and holy, so you just don’t want to go playing God with them too much.”
I saw Heart last year when the group last stopped at Fantasy Springs, and I can say that Ann Wilson, now 66, still has one of the most powerful voices in rock ’n’ roll.
“I can hear differences after 40 years throughout all the distance and miles,” she said with a laugh. “There’s a little more gravel in it, but that’s natural for usage. I think that what I do is I take it real seriously. I don’t do physical things that will tear it up, like smoke, drink, drugs and that type of stuff. It’s just a matter of health. You have to warm up and take care of it, just like any other part of your body that you’re going to work out.”
She recently released a list of artists and albums she loves; one of them was the British rock band Muse.
“I was turned onto Muse by a former boyfriend. As time went along, I just got more and more into them and listened to the different albums,” she said. “I was impressed by how they didn’t just fool around, and there was always a message. They have everything that Queen had, except for Freddy Mercury. It’s quite an amazing band, and it’s got everything: gentleness, sophistication, and it’s super hard rock. I don’t know why it’s not more beloved by everybody.”
Wilson has a new album in the works; she said fans should expect some experimentation, and possibly some new territory.
“As the songs get written, each one is different,” she said. “Some are blues; some are rock; and some are acoustic. We just bring the material into my studio here in my house, and we start working on them. It’s kind of like a variety show. They’ll feature my voice, of course, but I’m trying to stretch out and do different things than be a rock singer; I want to try all kinds of things out. I can’t really say what to expect, because I don’t know myself yet.”
What can fans expect at her Fantasy Springs show?
“It’s going to be a few Heart songs; it’s going to be the new stuff I’ve written over the past year; and it’s a really surprising list of covers,” she said. “It’s a full experience. Every song has a program, and you’ll have a visual to go along with it. It’ll be very cool.”
Ann Wilson will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, May 19, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $39 to $69. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.