Rock and roll is no longer the boys-only club it was when Heart let itself in. When Dreamboat Annie debuted in 1975, the Seattle sisters could have taken over the world if they wanted to.
“There’s still a long way to go, because I think that the real thing is for men and women to work together,” Ann told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay over the phone from her house on the St. Johns River. “I think women have changed the business a lot, because it's not only musicians, but it's managers, attorneys, publicists and just all levels of the entertainment industry."
Many of us had some sort of epiphany or awakening during the worst of COVID-19, whether it was regarding identity, occupation, or something else entirely. Wilson’s was linked to songwriting.
“Just looking out the window over this big, beautiful river we live on gave me lots of time to think, daydream, and be peaceful. That’s the state I have to be in to write,” Ann recalled. Thus Fierce Bliss was born, and the writing on it is solid, too. Ann tackles the toxicity of fame and fortune—specifically the Hollywood sort—on “A Moment in Heaven,” and on “Black Wing,” she anthropomorphizes some birds she saw on the St. John’s during lockdown.
Though her songwriting chops are sharp, there’s nothing like an Ann Wilson-ified rock cover, of which she has done many, from Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" to Pink Floyd's "Goodbye Blue Sky."
While not entirely made up of covers—unlike her previous record Immortal, which saluted musicians that died in the 2010s—Fierce Bliss still features a number of them, such as Eurythmics’ “Missionary Man,” Jeff Buckley’s “Forget Her,” and most notably, a duet with Vince Gill on Queen’s “Love Of My Life.”
“He’s a triple threat,” Wilson commented. “I wanted to do it with a man. Because my voice is a little raspy and stuff, I wanted a man's voice to sound really beautiful and angelic, and so there was only one choice, and it was Vince.”
Another key element of Fierce Bliss is that Roger Dean—famous for his work with one of Ann’s favorite bands, Yes, designed the album cover.
“Don't be afraid to sound human, because that way, you're going to have an identity and you're going to stand out."tweet this
“I got in touch with Roger, I told him the name of the record, and he really liked it,” Wilson explained. And she really loved the name he gave the piece he dreamed up: “Parrot On Ice.” But then again, it’s hard to not admire something that Dean has created.
“We’re going to put this album out on vinyl, and I thought about how great it would be if people could have the experience of listening to the vinyl, and holding this piece of art in their hands at the same time,” Wilson added.
Recently, Ann stated that her and Nancy are currently kept apart thanks to differences in how they want the legacy of Heart executed. Nancy wants to take the nostalgic brand route, while Ann wants to continue breaking barriers and trying new things. She does, however, try and keep up with the times while maintaining Heart's original sound. Ann appreciates how Billie Eilish and Lucy Hale are “trying to be original,” but personally, she’s always rocking out—and vocally warming up—to the likes of Lucinda Williams, U2, and Emmylou Harris.
“Usually, I’m sitting in my dressing room getting ready. I have a little blaster in there, and I sing along with someone else's CD. And it's way more fun and interesting than just singing scales, which is really boring,” she declared.
When asked what advice she has for young, up-and-coming artists, Ann urged them to ditch the autotune, and not to worry about what other people want them to sound like. “Don't be afraid to sound human, because that way, you're going to have an identity and you're going to stand out. If you sound exactly like everybody else, and you sound autotuned and robotic, then you're just going to be anonymous.”
So, this ain’t the end, you’ll see Ann again, when she arrives at the Tampa Hard Rock Events Center next week, where there’s guaranteed to be zero sign of autotune in the venue. She will, however, crack out her iconic, high-pitched wails, a few covers, and if she’s feeling extra bold, a flute solo, if she feels like dusting off Heart’s “Love Alive.”