By: Jason Saulnier at Music Legends
Talk about your guitar legends. Well we have one here and her name is Nancy Wilson. Nancy Wilson talks about Heart’s latest Blu-Ray release, Night At Sky Church. The Heart album delivers the classics and the latest, both in a astonishing sound and visual qualities.
In our Guitar International interview, Nancy Wilson talks about her guitar tone that she unleashes with her amplifiers and guitars while on stage and that are on full display on Heart’s Blu-Ray live recording. She also offers up some insights about the guitar collection she has at home. Nancy shares her knowledge of technology and what the future holds with it.
Wilson has led the life of a musician that includes stints on the road and she tells us of her experiences on tour with one of the top rock groups in the world.
Heart has been playing for over four decades with genres from hard rock to folk rock. Heart has sold more then 30 million records worldwide, a major accomplishment for any musician. Heart has released 13 CD’s with its last release Red Velvet Car. Based on the group’s recent concerts, there’s no slowing them down. We can expect Nancy to crank out her legendary guitar riffs for many more years, as well as indulge us with new material along the way.
Jason Saulnier: Hi, Nancy. How’s it going with you?
Nancy Wilson: Pretty good. How are you doing?
Jason: I’m doing very good. I’m talking to you now, finally. Nancy Wilson of Heart.
Jason: Life must be good.
Nancy: Life is good. We’re lucky to have a rock job and we like our job and we do it well. Somebody pays us to do our job.
Jason: Night at Sky Church, the new DVD and Blu-ray. It’s an awesome product, I see.
Nancy: Oh, thanks. We had a lot of fun putting that together in Seattle, our hometown, right after we finished making the album, Red Velvet Car, we decided to film a show for the album and it was quite a night. There’s nothing like playing for your hometown. Then we also had a couple of special guests and help celebrate the new album with us. Alison Krauss came and sang. Then Link played, our producer, who plays fiddles, too, and guitar. We just had a really great night at Sky Church. We’re happy that it’s out on Blu-ray.
Jason: Not DVDs, the Blu-ray quality, you know. It’s a whole different world today.
Nancy: Blu-ray is pretty cool. I’m not a fan of high definition, per se. I prefer the look of film [Laughs] quite honestly. I think it’s a really good show. Blu-ray, I don’t know about the system, but I think with the right system and the 5.1 surround sound, that’s the one you want.
Jason: Listen for the Night at Sky Church album, the live DVD and Blu-ray. What were the song selections like, to pick out the songs to play this concert, or was it just another day for Heart?
Nancy: No, we rehearsed for a couple of weeks, trying to figure out which of the new songs were gonna work best for us to play live. We had to narrow it down for a couple of weeks and just pick the ones that were the most exciting, that were the most natural fit for the show, and try not to load too many new songs into the live show because there’s only so much unfamiliar territory that you want to cover with your band, with your people who love all of your other stuff, too. I think we struck a pretty good balance between familiar and new in that show.
Jason: Nancy, recording Red Velvet Car versus Night at Sky Church, would you say it’s the same equipments for your guitars and amps?
Nancy: Pretty much the same equipment, some of the same guitars, but in the studio we had access to much more equipment and many more instruments and specialty guitars. Guitars that we take on the road, we take the guitars that can handle more heat and cold. We go through Canada at 40 below; then we go through America in the summer where it’s 104, 110 in Dallas. So we have to take guitars live out with us that are a little more battle axes.
Jason: Roadworthy battle axes.
Nancy: Battle axes, yeah!
Jason: For your guitar collection, is it very big today? Have you been collecting from the first album?
Nancy: I’ve been collecting…a lot of guitars I’ve collected since Dreamboat Annie days. I’ve got a lot of very nice guitars including an original Flying V, a ‘50s Flying V that’s probably the crown of my collection, and a beautiful blue Tele, an old SG I love, some beautiful old acoustics, a custom acoustic built by Ed Myronick out of Vancouver, BC. I have a new signature model Martin guitar that I helped design with Martin. I have some really nice…an old mandolin, a mandocello and a mandola that all match. I’ve been playing around with some baritone guitars more recently. I collect ukuleles and hum-a-zoos. Hum-a-zoos are very important. I’m quite a collector.
Jason: You’re an all-around collector of guitars and music.
Nancy: I like old pianos as well. I have a 100-year old piano, and four nice pianos in various locations.
Jason: Nancy, if you take a 70-year old guitar versus what they make today, do you think they’ll get back to that quality someday in the future?
Nancy: Well, I don’t think there’s any way that a new guitar can match an older guitar, simply because the quality of wood that’s left today is different. The actual time, the way a guitar is seasoned over time is every much a part of what it sounds like, the dirt in it. The molecules have aligned themselves from all of the playing and the soul that is infused into a guitar after it’s been loved for a long time is gonna make it sound better [Laughs] than anything you can build today.
Jason: We hope it’s gonna sound better. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Nancy: There’s always an exception, but a good guitar will be better.
Jason: Guaranteed. How is it recording in the studios today with all this new technology?
Nancy: A lot of the new technology is becoming…they’re inventing new things to imitate the old technology better and better, so the sounds that we got, for instance, on Dreamboat Annie everything was tubes: amplifiers, microphones, consoles, mixing boards with tubes in. They’re starting to get closer to the tube sound, which is cool, because it takes less time and there’s more convenience with the digital technology. Up until more recently, the sound has been really disappointing, so hopefully it will continue to get warmer and better and more analog and more vinyl sounding as technology catches up to quality. It can.
Jason: What’s your eyes on like amp simulations and stuff to match the tube amplifiers? Today they’re starting to come out with good amplifiers like for tubes and which aren’t tubes actually; amp simulation.
Nancy: Amp Farm and stuff like that?
Nancy: Those are sounding pretty decent, pretty darn good. Like I say, they’re really imitating a lot of great sounds these days pretty well with digital stuff, and the pedals and stuff like that. It’s pretty darn good. There’s nothing as sweet as the way the air gets moved from a real amplifier in a room with a really good microphone [Laughs]. There’s just nothing as sweet as that, but it’s so cool the way technology is coming in that way, very helpful.
Jason: Then you don’t need to bring big Marshall stacks with you.
Nancy: [Laughing] Yeah.
Jason: One final question here: how’s life on the road for Nancy Wilson these days?
Nancy: Life on the road is rewarding and challenging. The rewarding part is the part on stage and everything else is challenging [Laughing].
Jason: Is it a lot of work to do that year after year?
Nancy: Oh, it’s a good job. I will not knock my job. I would rather work at a rock job than an office job. We don’t have to work in the fluorescent lights at eight in the morning.
Jason: That’s true.
Nancy: It’s hard to drag yourself around the country in this heat. The logistics of travel can be very daunting, but the inspiration and the muse, chasing the muse with songwriting as we go and playing awesome shows is the reward system. It’s a beautiful thing.