Decades later, Heart still crazy, crazy on rock

heartNancy Wilson, second from left, and Ann Wilson, far right, emerged as the most prominent female rock'n'roll artists in the 1970s.

Heart has been rocking hard for over three decades, but leading sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson don't seem to be slowing down.

After exploding onto the stage in 1976 with a debut album that produced three chart-making hits including the now-classic "Magic Man" and "Crazy on You", the band went on to record nine albums achieving gold or platinum status.

"Being taken seriously as front-people in a band was difficult, especially at the beginning," Nancy Wilson says. "We were like a novelty at first."

While they may have taken the world a bit by surprise, their powerful guitar riffs and passionate voices have struck a chord with fans and fellow bands that they landed a spot on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock" in 2005.

Co-founder Nancy Wilson recently spoke with the Hook.

The Hook: What inspired such a passion for rock in the first place?
Nancy Wilson: We were sort of bowled over when we first saw The Beatles as little kids on TV. We got inspired and spent the rest of our lives aiming ourselves like pistols in that direction.

The Hook: What kinds of challenges had to be overcome in order to be taken seriously as female rockers?
NW: It was hard to be taken seriously, there was a perception that girls don't do that kind of stuff. Even know, there are looks on guys' faces who are not expecting to see women doing powerful rock songs. We are very dogged and determined about our love for what we do and we have each other, a good survival mechanism.

The Hook: As women under a constant microscope, was body image ever a factor?
NW: It was kind of bothersome, especially in the 80s, when MTV got going and image was more important than the music for while. We survived that, kept being interested in music, writing songs. Even if the pop culture image-makers were not always on our side, our fan base was always very loyal.

The Hook: What inspires most of your songs?
NW: Real life inspires us–- we're not poseurs. When we write songs, we write about stuff that sticks on a more universal, poetic level– we stay clear of whiny, victim stuff.

The Hook: You've been part of the rock scene for decades; what do you feel is one of the biggest changes the genre has seen?
NW: Everything's changed a few times since we got started. The business side is sort of disappearing– nowadays, people figure out ways to release themselves and be noticed. The music has changed over the years, with the grunge explosion out of Seattle. It turned the business on its ear, but that's the healthy thing for business to do about every 10 years.

The Hook: Do you have any advice for a new generation of aspiring female rockers?
NW: Be aware of image makers who want to control how you look and sound and write your songs. The main thing is to learn your craft, learn to play, take it out on the road a little, and become good at it!

The Hook: Was playing alongside your sister ever a challenge–- any sibling rivalry?
NW: We never squabbled about anything; we were so busy trying to weave a magic spell with our music.

The Hook: You and Ann were both involved with other members of Heart when you first became a band in the 70s– how was that experience? Do you regret it?
NW: It was not a good idea to be involved with your bandmates! That time was crazy, things were busting open career-wise. I advise against it wholeheartedly; there's an emotional politics with it, to not bring work back into the bedroom.

The Hook: What can we see from Heart in the future?
NW: We hope to have an album that gets on the map in the fall– there's going to be a bit of a different, stylistic thing happening. We'll blend more of my vocals in with Ann's to create a similar, yet newer sound, with more harmonies and me singing lead.

The Hook: As such an iconic female musician, do you feel fulfilled?
NW: I feel completely fulfilled. That's why we became a rock band– for the uplifting, inspiring gift of music.

Heart plays at the Charlottesville Pavilion on 5/20. Andy Waldeck opens. The show starts at 7:00 pm and tickets run between $35 and $67.

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1 comment

Loved Heart since they started out. So glad to see they're still going strong!