Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
KICG 91.7 (IPR Classical) in Boone / Perry is off-air due to a power outage.

Nancy Wilson's Solo Album Isn't Copying Heart's Signature Sound


RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: There it is, that driving bass line. And then you ride it for a while, and you wait because you know it's coming. Ann Wilson's powerhouse of a voice comes in and we lose ourselves in one of the biggest hits of the late 1970s from one of the biggest musical groups at the time, Heart. Ann sang most of the vocals, Nancy played guitar.


HEART: (Singing) So this ain't the end. I saw you again today. I had to turn my heart away.

MARTIN: Before the pandemic, Heart was still touring together and playing hits like "Barracuda." But today, Nancy Wilson is finding her own voice. She's got a new solo album out called "You And Me."


NANCY WILSON: (Singing) I'm riding north on a West Coast train. Baptize me in this rocking rain.

MARTIN: Like everyone else, Nancy Wilson has spent the last year largely in isolation. But she says the timing worked out for her, quote, "a blessing inside of a larger curse." Wilson and her family had just moved to a new house in northern California when the pandemic shut everything down. So she focused on making space for her own music.

WILSON: There's an apartment over the garage area. So I moved all my cool instruments and, you know, microphones and amplifiers into my new space, which I've never had, believe it or not.

MARTIN: What? You've never had a dedicated studio.

WILSON: Just never a dedicated studio space to make a lot of racket, you know.


WILSON: And I could be as loud as I like and nobody's going to complain here. And so then I started writing because that gave me the license to kind of reconnect to my creative (laughter) almost a pre-Heart self, you know, the college girl self who had reams of poetry and was studying creative writing and literature and all the things that I was going to put in my back pocket when I joined Ann's band.

MARTIN: When you talk with Nancy Wilson, you get the sense that she has carried that idea for a long time, that Heart was always her sister's band. But when they were growing up, their parents nurtured the musical talent in both of them.

WILSON: Mostly with ukuleles, at first.

MARTIN: The ukulele is very underestimated as a musical instrument.

WILSON: Oh, the ukulele is my first boyfriend. Yeah.


WILSON: Ukulele.

MARTIN: Their father, John, sang in a barbershop quartet. Their mom, Lois, was a concert pianist. Nancy was really close to her mom, who died in 2006. We talked about how our loved ones can come back to us in our dreams, which was the inspiration for the title track on Nancy's new album.


WILSON: (Singing) You and me. Momma, welcome back. I feel you here. Gravity always pulls us back together for all time. We talk endlessly. And we stay up too late, meeting up in some suspended state.

Whenever you have a chance to feel like you've been together again, it's like a conversation outside of reality. It's a bird's eye view of a connection that you still have.


WILSON: (Singing) You and me, Momma, always you and me.

MARTIN: How did this album come together? I mean, what did you want this to be?

WILSON: I wanted it to be - usually writing songs, there was kind of a preordained requirement to make them sound like a Heart song. It's very different because I can - I'm able to just tell my own stories in my own way because I'm not trying to live up to a Heart signature sound.


HEART: (Singing) Till now, I always got by on my own. I never really cared until I met you.

MARTIN: That signature sound is what got Ann and Nancy Wilson inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.


WILSON: We're here to celebrate our lucky and perilous past, but we're not finished rocking just yet.


MARTIN: On that same night, Heart performed "Crazy On You."


MARTIN: The song begins with you doing this amazing acoustic intro. I mean, it's an intro that's so famous, it has its own title, right?

WILSON: It's called "Silver Wheels."


MARTIN: You are known for keeping acoustic guitar at the core of your music. Why was that so important to you?

WILSON: First of all, I guess acoustic was my first - my first marriage was the acoustic guitar.

MARTIN: Your first boyfriend was the ukulele.

WILSON: The ukulele.


MARTIN: The acoustic guitar.

WILSON: My first wedding happened with an acoustic guitar.


WILSON: It was like the perfect thing because you didn't have to haul gear. You didn't have to have an electrical outlet.


MARTIN: What do you play now?

WILSON: Well, I have a signature Martin acoustic that I worked with Martin Guitars to create a few years ago.


WILSON: That's my main man...


WILSON: ...As acoustic. But I have a big affair going with my 1963 Lake Placid Blue Telecaster, which is the electric, you know, side of my love story (laughter). And I do play mandolin and stuff and some autoharp and a little ukulele on the album as well. So, you know, I try to use a lot of colors from the palette that I know...


WILSON: ...To paint the colors into the music.


MARTIN: So many people over the years have talked about how your relationship with Ann is the foundation of your music. You have been together for so many years. You've taken breaks, as would be expected, some more protracted than others. But you've come back again. How do you think about that partnership?

WILSON: Well, you know, as a business partner, not so much, but as a sister, that's where I give it all the credit it deserves. Our friendship and our sisterhood and our musical partnership, that's where it's all at (laughter). I'll take the sisterhood. I'll take the musical partnership. That's what I pick.

MARTIN: Well, Nancy Wilson, it has been such a pleasure to talk with you. The new album is called "You And Me." Thank you so much.

WILSON: Rachel, thanks for having me, really fun. I love talking about music, so thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF NANCY WILSON SONG, "4 EDWARD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.