Nancy Wilson Heart & Soul

Nancy Wilson is half of the band Heart, a Heart which is currently broken. Her sister Ann has her band, The Ann Wilson Thing, while Nancy and three other members of Heart have a new group called Roadcase Royale. 

Vocalist Liv Warfield, from Prince fame joins Nancy in this musically daring and creatively rich band. The music is funky…it rocks and has pop influences. Yet there is still that Nancy Wilson classic rock vibe.  It is a true mixing of styles and a fresh approach. The band recently had to postpone touring as the opening act for Bob Seger when Bob fell ill.  The tour will be rescheduled…at least that is the word we are hearing.  

In the interview that follows Nancy discusses how the project was born, as well as some of the songs on the band’s debut album titled First Things First.  We also discuss how political Nancy thinks an artist should be and the two Heart covers on the Roadcase Royale album.  

We throw in a couple of questions about Heart’s current situation…giving hope that a heart once broken can be healed.

Jeb: Let’s just get this one out of the way.  Ann…Nancy…always mentioned in the same breath.  Are things bad?  Will there be a Heart?

Nancy: When Ann and I can get together and actually sit down and communicate and figure out what Heart is going to be or look like, then I’m all for that. And I have reached out quite a few different times – the time just hasn’t been right. However, I remain optimistic and right now, I’m mainly excited and staying focused on my new project, Roadcase Royale.

Jeb:  You are known as the leader of Heart…what you say goes.  Don’t deny it!  But…is that the case with this band? Are you the one in charge or is this something different?

Nancy: With Roadcase Royale we have a democracy at work– we all make decisions together, which takes the pressure off of me, which I’m happy to share with the band members.  A lot of the opportunities that came to Roadcase Royale came because of my position and tenure as a musician.

Jeb:  How did you meet Liv Warfield?

Nancy:  Well – I saw a clip online of her doing a song that was recommended to me by a friend. After seeing it I wanted to have her open up for Heart at the Hollywood Bowl when we performed there in 2015. After the first night show of two shows she made a point to introduce herself to me and we hit it off right there right then.

Jeb:  For those who have not listed to this band, in your own words describe the vibe…the look…the sound.  What is a Nancy fan going to discover about you with this new project?

Nancy: That I can rock without my sister! I sing more in Roadcase Royale–there’s a whole different side of me that is allowed to come out with my new band and playing with my favorite 3 Heart guys (Ben Smith, Chris Joyner and Dan Rothchild). And with Liv and Ryan Waters, who have inspired me musically more now than ever before. My style is more freeing as I get to try and explore new things in music and songwriting.

Jeb: I think I know you well enough to know you celebrate diversity.  Roadcase Royale certain is a reflection of that diversity.

Nancy:  The diversity in Roadcase Royale is one of the best things about this band.  With Liv as a front singer–her unique style is a plus in keeping her voice from comparison to the past.  She brings ultimate soulfulness with her to the table and it feels so refreshing to work with someone who is so energetic and talented.

Jeb:  Oh…before moving ahead…where did you come up with the name? 

Nancy:    I have a production company already named Roadcase Productions. When we were sitting around coming up with the band’s name I really wanted to use the image of a roadcase…almost like coming up with a beat up, scuffed up rock ‘n’ roll roadcase in contrast to the “royale” from Prince’s village. I think the contrast works really well for this band.

Jeb:  Is the fact that most of Heart are in this band too a bit of a slap in the face to your sister? 

Nancy:  No! Not at all Jeb! There was no competition surrounding those band members coming with me and I was happy about that. Ann was already doing her “Ann Wilson Thing.”

Jeb:  I wanna talk songs…. Let’s start with my favorite of the bunch as I am a rocker.  “The Dragon.”  Holy heck this is smoking’.  I know what the song is about but I want you to tell the readers in your own words.

Nancy:  When I finally finished this song with Roadcase Royale–the song already took on a much deeper meaning after losing more longtime friends in Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington to addiction. The song just got deeper and means more to play it more now than it ever did before.

Jeb:  You have politics and fun on this record.  You address the divided country.  I don’t want to get all Hate Trump/Hate Clinton divide as this is a musical publication.  But…what is a musician’s social responsibility?  And where do you draw the line?

Nancy: I’ve always wanted to avoid preaching thru music because music is there to help people survive any heavy climate in this country…which is heavier today than I’ve ever seen.   With that said music bears a responsibility to comment and put a context on the opinion of the artist…and not to be heavy handed preaching.

Jeb:  I am in recovery from addiction. Thirty years clean and sober.  I love the title of the album as that is a phrase used in recovery a lot. What does it mean to you and your band?

Nancy:   Wow – that’s great Jeb. Well, first of all, congratulations on your sobriety! The title, “First Things First” is a simple reference to starting over again, getting yourself reborn and reclaiming…meaning those that are important things to you in your life.

Jeb: Talk about the Heart songs.  “These Dreams” came out well.  It is not too much of a left turn, but it has more soulful vibe I think.

Nancy:   This version of “These Dreams” is my favorite of the many versions I have done throughout the years. It takes a really great song and allows the song to exist naturally. Plus trading off singing with Liv in the song gives it a whole new dimension, or layer, that I really enjoy.

Jeb: I like how you did a Heart remake from each era of the band.  “Even It Up” is freaking tough baby! I mean D. A. M. N.  I love the groove. This is not so much remade as it is reinvented.  But…it is still the same song.  

Nancy: [Laughs] When I first started writing the groove for “Even It Up” – it was an acoustic groove. It’s all gone circle back to the acoustic guitar where it all started. I love this version of “Even It Up.”

Jeb:  Too bad about the Seger tour getting cancelled.  Is Bob going to be okay?

Nancy: We’re waiting to hear more news. Our prayers and hopes are that Bob is doing better. We can’t wait to get back out there with him in 2018.

Jeb:  What are the tour plans now?

Nancy: Liv and I are doing a television appearance with Billy Gibbons for Rock The Troops in New York. I’m also looking forward to the holidays with family and waiting for the Seger dates to be rescheduled for the early part of next year.

Jeb:  Oh…I forgot this one.  Are you a Prince fan?  What’s your favorite song/album by the late great artist?

Nancy:  I have always been a huge Prince fan. I could make a playlist out of the many favorite songs including “When Doves Cry,” “Purple Rain,” “Little Red Corvette,” “1999,” “Diamonds and Pearls,” “Controversy” and on and on etcetera!    

Jeb:  Is this a ‘project’ going to go for album two?  Is this the real deal?

Nancy: We’ve actually already begun our songwriting process for the second album while we’re in limbo for the rescheduled tour dates. We’re always writing songs and constantly sending grooves and lyrics to each other via email. When we’re in the same room we finish everything.

Jeb:   You do know as much as we love this we love Heart too.  I say do both!  

Nancy:  [Laughs] I love them both too! Yes to both!

Jeb: Last one:  Roadcase Royale shows/proves rock is not dead.  It proves rock can be inventive, yet true to the past. Were you surprised at just how damn good this came out? 

Nancy: That’s really nice of you to say. Thank you. I find that I’m still surprised at how strong this album came out. I’m more excited to play live with this material. Everyone in the band gives so much. You see it on the stage and you hear it on the album as living proof.