Entertainment behind the scenes
Ann and Nancy Wilson, the pioneering duo behind Seattle rock band Heart, have taken time out from their busy touring and family schedules to record the group’s first album in six years. “Red Velvet Car,” which comes out on Aug. 31 through Sony’s Legacy Recordings division, is the follow-up to 2006′s “Jupiter’s Darling,” which quickly disappeared after being under-promoted by now-defunct label Sovereign Records.
The sisters (Nancy, 56, at left; Ann, 59, right) previewed three songs from the new album, dusted off the hits “Crazy On You” and “Barracuda,” and shared anecdotes about their career during a Q&A session at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles on Monday.
They collaborated on the album with Heart guitarist Craig Bartok, and also brought in k.d. lang’s songwriting partner Ben Mink to co-write songs, play on and co-produce the album with them. They described it as an autobiographical project, and Ann said the process was “was pretty darn easy.”
The title track, she said, is “about that night when maybe you’ve hit bottom or you’re stuck some place out in the rain, and you have no recourse but to get on the phone and call your best friend and say, ‘Help! Come get me!’ And the person comes, in a red velvet car.
“That type of thing is what we’re dealing with on this record,” she added. ”There aren’t a bunch of real lacy, lily love songs on this record.”
Another song, “Sand,” was inspired by Ann’s gardener who died of AIDS, and asked that his ashes be scattered in her garden. She duly complied. “Hey You” is a love song 10 years in the making to Nancy’s husband, director Cameron Crowe. Ann’s 19-year-old daughter, Marie, with whom her mother has had a difficult relationship in recent years, is the object of “There You Go Again.” “She will not conform,” Nancy said with a hint of irony.
“As a parent now I can say that the scariest thing is to watch your kids float, to not really know what they wanna do,” Ann said a little later. “To be 18, 19, 20 and still feeling like, … ‘I don’t wanna do anything except smoke dope.’ We were just focused, you know-”
“-Even though we smoked dope,” Nancy interrupted to big laughs.
They recalled being dumbstruck by the Beatles’ appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964, and Nancy vowed there and then that, “we didn’t want to be the girlfriends of the Beatles, we wanted to be the Beatles.”
But their first encounter with another British band was less inspirational. They were still, as Ann put it, “young maidens” when Led Zeppelin stopped at Seattle’s Green Lake Aquatheater during their second U.S. tour in May 1969. The girls were appalled by the sexual innuendo of “The Lemon Song.”
Said Ann: “We ended up leaving because we were so shocked … They were challenging to young girls.”
Added Nancy: “They had tight jeans!”
Robin Williams, who stars in the movie “World’s Greatest Dad” opening on Friday, had a brush with mortality back in March when he had to undergo surgery to replace a faulty valve in his heart.
He talked to Reuters about the movie, and you can read that here. But in the video below, sitting next to his friend and comedian Robert “Bobcat” Goldthwait – the filmmaker behind “World’s Greatest Dad” – Williams discusses the heart operation.
(Corrects name of Heart album to Jupiters Darling, in paragraph 9)
Ann and Nancy Wilson, the frontwomen of veteran Seattle rock group Heart, and British musician/producer Jeff Lynne will share the secrets of their success during panel sessions at a music industry convention in Hollywood this week.
They are the top-billed attractions at the fourth annual ASCAP “I Create Music” Expo, which runs April 23-25 at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel. Other panels will feature such heavy-hitters as Chaka Khan, Natasha Bedingfield, Wyclef Jean and songwriter Billy Steinberg.
The Wilson sisters will also receive the Founders Awards during ASCAP’s 26th annual Pop Awards dinner at the venue on Wednesday. The black-tie dinner honors the writers and publishers of the year’s most-played compositions represented by ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers).
“Being honored as songwriters is really important to us,” Nancy Wilson told Reuters. “We usually get passed over on a lot of lists … I’m not sure why.”
“When you consider all the incredible songs that have been written, you never feel worthy enough as a writer. Being a fan of great writing, you’re always, “Oh my god, but I’m not Bob Dylan!” If we do some little version of spirit-lifting for people with our songs then we’ve done a good job.”
Heart — with Nancy on guitar and Ann on vocals — broke through in the 1970s with such eventual classic-rock staples as “Barracuda,” “Crazy on You” and “Magic Man.” They enjoyed a renaissance in the 1980s with ballads from outside writers, such as “These Dreams” and “What About Love?”
These days Heart are reaching a younger demographic thanks to Guitar Hero and “American Idol”
“We still get compensated for the work,” Wilson said. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving if songs keep on rolling. The catalog of course has done pretty well overall, which is kinda surprising in the climate of today’s nonmusic business.”
In between lucrative casino gigs and co-headlining tours with Journey, Heart are slowly recording a new album, the follow-up to 2004′s “Jupiters Darling,” and hope to release it in the summer of 2010.
Lynne, the bearded Svengali famed for leading the art-rock band Electric Light Orchestra, is also working on a solo album, which he hopes to release later this year. It would be the follow-up to his first solo outing, 1990′s “Armchair Theatre.”
ASCAP will present him with a lifetime achievement award before he discusses his career during Friday’s session.
He jokingly told Reuters that his pearls of wisdom might include such nuggets as “just do what I do” and “get a good lawyer.”
“You’ve just gotta love it,” he said in a more serious vein. “You can’t really do it unless you love it to bits, and you’d rather be doing it than anything else. I’m still getting thrilled with music even after 40 years of doing it professionally.”
As with Heart, Electric Light Orchestra is experiencing a bit of a resurgence among younger fans, Lynne said. He has just finished producing five tracks at his home studio with singer/songwriter Regina Spektor, and plans to work on some songs with Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh.