In the 1970s, Heart—featuring wild-haired Seattle sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson—filled arenas with their muscular, commanding hard-rock anthems: “Crazy on You,” “Magic Man,” “Barracuda.” In the ’80s they did it again, albeit with a lot more AquaNet.
The ’90s and ’00s have been quieter, more focused on family and side projects like the Lovemongers and Nancy’s frequent soundtrack collaborations (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire, and Vanilla Sky among them) with her husband, filmmaker Cameron Crowe.
This summer, however, Heart returns after a six-year hiatus with new album, Red Velvet Car, to be released August 31, and a tour to support it through late September. EW spoke to Nancy about coming up as one of the first (and finest) female guitarists in the testosterone world of stadium rock, working out the band’s new album, and who’s on her personal playlist.
EW: So before this interview, I was doing some research and ended up going on kind of a YouTube bender watching old Heart clips. Do you find yourself ever revisiting those, or have your kids [Wilson and Crowe are parents to ten-year-old twin boys] ferreted them out?
Nancy Wilson: You mean like a Heart marathon? My boys are ten, and they’ve seen a few things, but I don’t intentionally take them there [laughs]. It can be kind of embarrassing because of the hairdos and the kinds of fashion statements that we thought we needed to make in those various eras. I mean, was there ever enough hairspray? But the boys see a few things and they go, “Is that you?” and it’s kind of cute because it’s like “Yes, Mama has lived many lifetimes.” We started very, very young, and I was about 20 when our first album came out—that’s a lot of lives ago.
EW: When the Runaways movie was released earlier this year, so many people were dubbing it the story of the first female rock band. But even though your band was co-ed, I tend to think of Heart as one of the first true girl rock bands, because you didn’t have a Svengali-type figure like Kim Fowley…
NW: Well, there is a definite sound with all-girl bands, a good rudimentary sound, and that’s what’s cool and punk about all-girl bands, that you still find, largely—it’s really kind of primal. We’ve always been more …. weird compared to most bands, girls or no. We’re a pretty heavy rock band with an acoustic element, and I’m still trying to find one who compares, can you? [Laughs] So I guess we made our own category somehow.
EW: Did you feel like you had to fight a lot of sexism coming up, as women in hard rock, or did you feel that they welcomed you?
It was definitely about skill. Starting out, we were quite little and we had no perception of what boys and girls were supposed to do, so we were basically aimed like pistols, without a sexual reference to go to. Unlike other rock people who had every battle to win, we had parents who said “You’re good at this, you could probably do this.” I think in some ways that was because of Ann’s naturally incredible voice—she was just way off the scale talent-wise, which our parents recognized as a gift. [Later though] it was like The Wizard of Oz: “I’d turn back if I were you! Tigers and bears, oh my…” because it is not a path I would advise most people to go. READ FULL STORY