By Claris Sayadian-Dodge
March 2022 Interview with Nancy Wilson as studioexpresso celebrates Women's History Month
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee (2013) and iconic artist, Nancy Wilson has recorded 16 albums and sold over 35 million recordings worldwide with her band Heart. Within that history-making career, her new album You and Me represents her very first solo studio album with a tender title track You and Me.
Well, kind'a her first. Actually, her first is Live at McCabes, and her second is Baby Guitars.
Wilson's new album of twelve songs sounds like an intimate conversation between two friends, a mother and daughter, perhaps between her and you, the listener. You and Me was recorded at home in Northern California with musicians contributing remotely during Covid. The title track You And Me, celebrates moms, including hers. The sound is comforting like chicken soup for the soul, just when you need it! Her beautiful voice shines over the lyrics: "You and me. Mama, welcome back, I feel you here. Gravity Always pulls us back together. For all time." The accompanying video for the song features family footage with sister Ann and their mom.
On You and Me, Wilson brings former collaborators on her side to include lyricist Sue Eniss, and longtime Heart drummer, Ben Smith. The album offers several covers with fresh interpretations for fans old and new. There's Dreams, by The Cranberries with Liv Warfield (of Prince’s New Power Generation).The Dragon is an ode to Layne Staley (Alice in Chains). Pearl Jam's 90s hit Daughter brings Wilson's female perspective, Springsteen's The Rising and Simon & Garfunkle's The Boxer, are among the inspired covers on the album. In Between, co-penned with Wilson's son, Curtis, features a B3 organ and its lyrics echo recurring topics like division and marginalization. The coming of age themes of spirituality and unconditional love are throughout. Walk Away is the break-up song and features Wilson's familiar voice embraced by orchestration.
You and Me is released on May 7 via her new label, Carry On Music. It is a touching tribute to moms everywhere including those living in our hearts. It's also a welcome anthem for healing a world that's recovering from a pandemic with the looming news of war. Somehow, You and Me makes you feel that it's all going to be all right.
A guitar hero to many, Nancy Wilson has her own guitar heroes, among them, Edwards Van Halen. A beautiful instrumental closes the album called 4Edward.
“I felt like I was once again able to reconnect with my pre-Heart self, my college-girl self, creating poetic, intimate and romantic songs, which pretty much is what I first brought in to Heart.”
These days Wilson engages with her young fans who sing Heart covers on social media - What About Love, These Dreams, and Barracuda! Now a new generation of musicians are discovering her songs.
2022 promises to be a busy year for philanthropist and entrepreneur Nancy Wilson who has appeared with the Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall and has plans to do more.
Earlier in February she recorded her vocals from Prairie Sun recording for Hillsides Gala benefit backed by a star studded rhythm section performing George Harrison's Here Comes The Sun with Elton John's long-time line up of Davey Johnstone, guitar, Kim Bullard, keys, John Mahon, vocals, audio/video, producer and John Stamos on drums.
Interview with Nancy Wilson
Note: During our interview, the sad news of Foo Fighter's drummer, Taylor Hawkins passing on March 25, began circulating.
Nancy and Taylro worked together. "Ironically, the song I wrote with Taylor (RIP) and Duff (McKagan of Guns N' Roses) is called Party At The Angel Ballroom…
I guess now he’s there…," Wilson told studioexpresso, and posted their picture together on her fbook.
SE: What inspired you to go solo?
NW: Because of the shutdown I found myself more inspired to use the down time to be creative and fulfill a long held promise to myself to someday make a real solo album especially since the rock touring industry was likewise shut down. I found the whole experience very fulfilling and inspiring.
SE: Who are some of your collaborators, your production team on your new album?
You And Me is a self-produced album which had a working title “The Lab” at first because everyone who worked on it with me were all working from their own separate “labs” at home. The lab Seattle were mainly comprised of all my players in their own home studios. Ben Smith on drums. Andy Stoller on bass. Danno Walker on keys and Ryan Waters on lead guitar. (Mainly the band that played on the last big Heart tour in 2019). Also there was the lab in Denver, Austin, and California. I brought some friends in to guest star like Taylor Hawkins (RIP), Duff Mckagan, Sammy Hagar, Sue Ennis, and Eric Tessmer. The cover songs on the album basically chose themselves. I already had recorded Daughter for a film called I Am All Girls. Tony Levin, Rami Antoun, Eric Tessmer and David Rice also played on that track. (The album is) Mixed by Tim Palmer and produced by David Rice…all songs on the album were mastered by Justin Shturtz at Sterling Sound.
SE: How did you go about choosing songs for this album - beautiful combination of originals and covers?
The Boxer was a natural since I’d been singing it all summer on the last Heart tour. The Inbetween started out as creative writing assignment my boy Curtis brought home one day from school and I thought it embodied a whimsical take on the divisive politics swirling around us.
SE: Your favorite guitar and any other gear in NW arsenal? NW:
My beloved lake placid blue ‘63 Telecaster and my Signature Martin acoustic are the favorites along with a The Gibson mandolin made in the 1920s.
SE: Do you do most of your writing on the guitar or prefer other instruments? Is there a time of day that you feel more creative? NW:
I spend nights and mornings sometimes in bed working on lyrics on my phone and as far as writing music I feel that afternoons on guitar or the piano are my best time to write.
SE: You’re a guitar hero to many. Album closes with 4Edward. Who are some of your guitar heroes?
Among my many guitar heroes I’d place David Gilmore first. Jimmy Page, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, Jerry Cantrell, Ryan Waters, Prince and Eddy VH of course.
SE: Young fans are now posting Heart covers. What's your take away from it? NW:
Many young fans take it upon themselves to post themselves singing and playing Heart songs. My take away is how good they are and how much they love those songs. It’s so great to see so many girls tackling the guitar these days and getting so accomplished.
SE: Who worked on the video for You and Me? NW:
The home movies in the video for the title track You And Me was edited by Jeff Bond who works with my record company Carry On Music.
SE: As a woman singer/songwriter and entrepreneur, what’s your best advice to women musicians starting out?
For a woman just getting started in my line of work, my standard joke is “I’d turn back if I were you!” But seriously I would advise anyone to check their ego at the door and do the homework. Play well with others and be a good support system for the young people who are just starting out.
SE: Speaking of entrepreneurship, you owned one of the top Seattle studios called Bad Animals X, designed by nonzero architecture where Heart, R.E.M., Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sound Garden and Alice in Chains recorded.
What was that experience like?
I think I was a little too ambitious and naïve to have Studio X built in Seattle with no real business or money management know how. We lost a ton of money. But at least we got a world class studio put up in Seattle.
SE: You’ve played with the Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall. What was that show like?
NW: We had such an awesome show with the symphony late last September. Benaroya Hall is one of the best looking and sounding rooms I ever got to play. I brought my new singer Kimberly Nicole with me and my Heart/solo album band. It was the first stage I’d set foot on in two years. We played all the big Heart hits and a few of my new songs. Kimberly got three standing O’s during the performance.
SE: Who is the arranger and/or music director when you have an orchestra with you?
The collaborator I worked with on the songs using strings is the main musical director for the symphony Andrew Joslyn who also arranged and played strings on my album.
SE: What was on your mind when you were writing and recording the song You and Me?
I wrote You And Me along with Sue Ennis my long time bestie and collaborator. She had a previous version of the song that she’d written after her moms passing years before and we retooled the words together to paint a more universal image of a conversation in zero gravity with a lost loved one. I’d written some words down after I dreamed of talking to my mom. I think the song is relatable to so many who still feel in touch with those who are missing from our lives.
SE: Your favorite beverage?
A cold martini made by my husband.
SE: It's Oscar weekend. IF you were to write score for a movie, who would be the director and leading actor?
Tough question! The Godfather, Little Miss Sunshine and Young Frankenstein are top five favorites…Billy Wilder was always one of the best directors ever and I think Meryl Streep is untouchable as far as leading actors go.