Ann Wilson, possessor of one of the most bombastic voices in rock, is soft spoken on the phone. Maybe she’s nursing her voice from a recent performance, maybe she’s been doing press interviews all day, but you have to lean into the phone to hear her. When you do hear that familiar voice though, you get tingles. The singer (and, frequently, writer) of some of the biggest songs to come out of rock music, her resume of hits reads like a jukebox in a biker bar. “Barracuda,” “Crazy on You,” “Magic Man,” “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You,” “Alone,” and “Bad Animals,” are just a few of the songs that have kept Wilson a major draw on the tour scene from the late ‘70s and onward.
Best known as the lead vocalist for Heart, a band she fronted with lead guitarist and sister, Nancy, Ann is doing her own thing right now. Family drama has split up the act (for the time being), but Wilson has the recognizable pipes you’ll be expecting if you head down to her show at the Centennial Terrace on Thursday, August 10.
We couldn’t wait that long, and neither should you. We asked Ann a few questions about what she does best— here’s what she had to say:
Have you ever played Toledo before?
I remember the first time we played there, I was walking around in the street. I think we went shopping. It was really cold and bitter.
You were recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How was that experience?
It was a cool night. It was quite an honor as you can image. For one night, you get to be queen for a day. And then the next day, you go back to work.
How did Chris Cornell end up being the one to induct you?
I think that the Rock Hall went and solicited him and asked him if he wanted to do it. They always try to come up with someone who’s a really big fan who’s well known, or who they feel just applies to your type of work. It was cool though.
You have Bad Animal, your recording studio in Seattle. He’s from Seattle, did he ever record there?
Yeah, just about everyone who’s been in a band has been through there at some point. I think Alice in Chains is in there now.
What’s your favorite song to play in concert?
Right now, it’s this Yes song that I do as a cover, called “Your Move.” I like that one a lot.
Doing a solo act, are you bringing a lot of new material? Or are the audience getting a lot of classic Heart songs?
I do four Heart songs that have been reimagined, and three originals from the last couple years. And then a whole bunch of fun, surprising covers. I just love to sing as a singer, so it’s not a Heart show at all, a repackaged thing with more Heart stuff, it’s definitely my own thing.
Is it still a pretty high velocity performance or have you mellowed things out?
Yeah, it’s high velocity— there are some rockers, but there’s also more depth to it. It’s not just banging ‘em out, it’s not just phoning them in, it’s going some different places. We have a video program on the video wall behind us that we worked on really personally for each song, so it’s like a little movie presentation that’s a total experience for people.
Do you still get the thrill of performing after all these years?
More than ever, yeah. Constantly.
What’s your favorite thing about being on tour?
The time on stage. And my husband and I travel around together in a customized bus and we get to be alone. We get to travel around, sleep under the stars, and then we go do shows. It’s a pretty good life. The way I’m doing it now, it’s the best it’s ever been.
Does it feel different to not have Nancy not being the one on guitar with you?
No, we’re not focusing that much on the acoustic guitar in this particular show. If it focuses on any one instrument, I’d say it’s the keyboards and we have this really super talented keyboard player named Daniel Walker, from Seattle. And it’s the first time he’s ever been in a band on this level. And he’s so talented and so unspoiled; just every night, he really blows me away.
Crazy on You
Who’s the next musical act that can kind of carry the Heart mantle?
I don’t know about that— I don’t know that anyone’s ever going to carry the Heart “mantle,” but there are a few artists that I really dig, that I think are doing super quality. And one of them is (The) Muse. Another on is Lucinda Williams. She’s not a new artist, but she’s one of the best songwriters of prose. Those are really my two favorites at the moment.
Was Heart about getting girls into rocking out, or were you just doing your thing?
We never considered ourselves women when we started— Nancy was just 8 and I was 13. We were just kids and we just wanted to play guitars and we didn’t have any idea of what we were getting into. Later on, people were like, ‘Hey, you guys are chicks, you’re not supposed to be rocking.’ And there were certain rules and identities we were supposed to have, but we didn’t really follow those rules.
What’s your craziest moment from rock and roll?
That’s impossible to say, there have been so many that have been really, really nutty. When I look back on it, I say, if you stay around long enough, you pretty much see it all. You see crazy people and weather and destruction and brilliance and beauty that are very extreme moments. It’s worth staying around for.
There’s a rumor you wanted to send a platinum record to Colonel Sanders because KFC fired you— and that was the impetus to start the band. True?
They did fire me, but I never considered sending him a platinum record. I was just a kid, I went to work there as a summer job in high school. It was a pretty gross job in those days, it was all greasy back there and I just couldn’t handle it. After three days, they let me go because I had a bad attitude. I guess I was slipping around on the grease in the kitchen, bitching, and they didn’t want that. They wanted the other employees to be happy and smiley, so they let me go. But that’s okay, I didn’t mind losing that job.
Do you have a stopping point in mind?
I don’t have a stopping point in mind, but I think I’ll know when my body can no longer do the physical work of doing what I do. I’m getting to the point now where I don’t want to be on a hamster wheel, just running and running and running and running, year after year. Tour, tour, tour. I want to do the really special shows and the meaningful appearances and really be there for that and not get all grumpy and worn out. Because when I was 25, I was already getting worn out. It’s a hard life, touring— even when you’re young. When you get older, you have to really budget your energy and make sure you don’t get overwhelmed and not give people the quality that they came to hear.
Be sure to check out Ann Wilson at the Centennial Terrace (5773 Centennial Rd., Sylvania) on Thursday, August 10 at 8pm. Tickets range from $32-$60. For more information, check out centennialterrace.org!