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Heart Revel in ‘The Bravery of Being Stridently Individual’

Jason Merritt, Getty Images

Think your schedule is packed to the gills? Then you haven’t seen Ann and Nancy Wilson’s datebook for the rest of 2012. This week’s release of the box set ‘Strange Euphoria’ (read more about that in part one of our Heart interview) precedes the band’s usual slate of summer tour dates and the release of their first book. Due Sept. 18, ‘Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock & Roll’ is a collaboration with author/journalist Charles Cross (who’s also notable for his biography of Nirvana‘s Kurt Cobain, ‘Heavier Than Heaven’) — and a way for the Wilsons to tell the story of Heart in their own words. There’s no rest for the weary authors, though: On Oct. 2, Heart will release their fourteenth studio album, ‘Fanatic.’ During a wide-ranging interview, Ann and Nancy Wilson talked about the relationship between ‘Strange Euphoria’ and their upcoming body of work.

You guys have a record, ‘Fanatic,’ coming out this fall. Did putting together the box set inform your 2012 mindset at all, or influence the way you approached the upcoming record?

Ann Wilson: Well, the two don’t really connect consciously, for me at least. Our new album, it’s just us just slamming into what we are right now. I don’t really feel that comfortable in the retrospective feeling when it comes to making our new stuff. You know, I want the new stuff to always be up to the minute.

Nancy Wilson: Also, as we were making the ‘Fanatic’ album, we were kind of sifting through a lot of crazy original new older stuff for the box set. And in a certain way, I think it informed us how brave we were attempting to be along the way — and in some ways gave ourselves a little bit more permission to be a little more unusual on the new one.

AW: There’s no reason at this point to do anything except exactly what we want to do. We’re past the point of going, “Is it okay?”

NW: “Will you reject us if we’re weird?” [laughs]

As a fan, that’s exciting to hear you guys be in this mindset.

NW: Yeah, it’s the bravery of being stridently individual, which is a good thing.

Did curating the set coincide with you guys writing the memoir? Because of the liner notes and how personal they are, ‘Strange Euphoria’ really feels like kind of an introduction, a way to set people up for the book later this year.

AW: God, you know, yeah, what’s with all of this stuff all of the sudden? When we started working with Charles [Cross] on the book, it became obvious that it was time to…from being with Charles, he was a person who could really get in and help us tell the story and write the liner notes. We didn’t consciously go, “Okay — book and box set,” but that’s how it happened. I think Charles is a really important part of that.

NW: I think when we started talking with him — what was it, maybe a year and a half or so ago? He came out on the tour and rode on the bus and we did a lot of talks and he started gathering…

AW: He went to Vancouver….

NW: Yeah, and looked around at the places where we started. I think the book sort of helped snowball Sony/Legacy [into] wanting to do the box set and the new album, so there’s a lot about us right now! [laughs]

AW: It’s the opportunity now to really tell the story along with the music, you know? Here’s the story and here’s the old music and the new music. It’s a great big ball of fire we’re putting out this year!

Your fans are very excited, too.

AW: You know, they are the best. Whenever I think of the fans, the Heartmongers as we call them, and I think of them having this box in one hand, ‘Fanatic’ in the other hand and the book on the table, it’s like, “There you go, you guys — this one’s for you!”

Who you are now, in 2012 — what would you tell the younger versions of yourselves found in some of the earlier songs on ‘Strange Euphoria’? What sort of advice would you give them, as you look back at the people you were then?

AW: It would depend on which decade, I guess.

NW: I’d say put your ear to the ground and stick with college radio. That’s where you’re going to get the cool, strident individuals, and a lot of good, authentic grooves are coming out of college radio. [Also] Sirius XMU is a really great station. I’d say lean away from pitch correction and lean into the sound of college radio.

AW: Yeah, and the minute you try as a songwriter or an artist to mimic what’s happening out there on the radio or on MTV or something, it’s way too late for that. The minute you try and outguess what the next big thing is going to do and latch your train onto it, forget it — the moment has just passed. The ship has sailed. The only thing to do is really just do what you’re going to do and do it with authenticity.

NW: As Jerry Cantrell from Alice In Chains always told us, “Just find your groove and lean on it until people want to puke!”

AW: That’s very sage advice for a songwriter.

Next: Part One of Our Heart Interview

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