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Dear Guitar Hero: Nancy Wilson

Dear Guitar Hero: Nancy Wilson

I always thought of myself as a “magic man,” but I want to ask you your definition of “magic man.” —L.R.

[laughs] Well, I think a “magic man,” a man who’s truly magic, is someone who’s quite romantic and spiritual and has that special…I don’t know…“thing” that would attract a “rockin’ girl.” [laughs] There are a lot of magic men out there, so if you consider yourself one, well, all right!


Although your sister, Ann, sings lead on most Heart songs, you’ve sung quite a few yourself. Do you feel as though you don’t get your due as a singer? —Les Gorney

I really love singing. I love singing harmony, mostly. Generally, I think of myself as a guitar player, but when I do find the right song to sing lead on, I try to do my best. I mean, Ann has such an incredible voice—her gift just dropped out of the sky. I don’t pretend to compete with that. So I feel no sense of imbalance there. I’m happy to do whatever singing is needed on my part.


Heart have some amazing riffs. “Barracuda” is my all-time favorite. If you had to pick your favorite Heart riff, which would it be, and why? —Joel Holland

One of my favorites is the intro to “Mistral Wind” [from 1978’s Dog & Butterfly]. It’s not one of our better-known songs, but I’ve always liked it a lot. When I wrote that part, it sounded very dissonant and odd to me, but it really worked with the words. I’m very proud of the way the riff married with the lyrics.


I understand that Heart have a new album coming out soon. What can we expect? Are there any radical changes to the band’s sound? —T. Cecere

Yes, we do have a new album out soon called Red Velvet Car. I wouldn’t describe it as having any radical changes, but I think the acoustic guitars are more aggressive than ever. The way we recorded the acoustics, you get every inch of the wood sonically. I think when people hear this album they’ll be surprised at how acoustic guitars can almost out-rock electrics when they’re played and recorded in certain ways. But there are a lot of electrics on it, too.


Even though you’ve done some ballads, Heart have always been a rock band, and a cool one at that. Why do you think you managed to stay cool when so many other bands started to get cheesy? —Jack Foster

[laughs] That’s a really well-worded question! I think we’ve managed to avoid cheesiness by remaining authentic. By that, I mean, we’ve always tried to stay creative in our own way. We don’t always go out and do the summer tours where you play the hits; rather, we’ll stay off the road and write and make new albums. We never tried to follow trends; we always tried to stay vital.


Because [director] Cameron Crowe is your husband, does that make it harder or easier to work on his soundtracks? Do you ever tell him, “I’ll stick to the music, you stick to the filmmaking”? —Gary Kanopka

In some ways, it’s been very hard for me to be involved in his films. A lot of people assume it’s kind of a “teacher’s pet” syndrome going on. It’s a drag when you get that sense that people are thinking, Oh, of course the guy’s wife gets to score the film. They don’t know that I had to work three times harder to prove that I was qualified. And Cameron is pretty hard to please. He has very specific ideas of what he wants on a musical level, which is probably more than a lot of directors and writers.




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