Music Notes: Struggling To Be Free

Heart frontwoman embarks on a solo tour.

At 66, she remains the reigning queen of rock, with the same unmistakably powerful pipes that blazed through such hits as “Barracuda,” “Crazy On You” and “Even It Up.” But even with the almost 45-year career of her legendary Hall of Fame band Heart still going strong, Ann Wilson yearns for more, a chance to get out from under the behemoth she helped create, and find other outlets. She spoke to Washington Life about her musical desires –and even a little politics.

WASHINGTON LIFE: After seeing Heart last summer in the Washington area, it’s clear that at 66 your voice still remains as strong as ever. What do you attribute that to?
ANN WILSON: That’s a nice compliment. Honestly, I just think it’s stopping some things, like smoking and drinking. Now, I live a pretty healthy life. And I don’t always scream and yell at shows by doing other things than just Heart. It also really helps when you put the songs in just the right key for yourself.

WL: What’s the main motivation for you to do a solo tour?
AW: I’m always struggling to be free from even the best situations. I’m always moving on. Though I really enjoyed last year touring and everything, I felt that I wanted to get out from under the expectations that are on Heart and just see where it would take me. I’m really not satisfied with being a nostalgia act, so it’s a chance for me to stretch out. That’s part of the reason for me doing this thing this year.

WL: What can people expect when they come see you and your band at The Birchmere?

AW: This is the first time I’ve done a solo tour of this scale. Last year, we did just small little jaunts out. This is the first time it’s full scale. I’m really looking forward to it; it’s going to be really fun. Hopefully when people come to the show, they know that they’re only going to get maybe 50 percent Heart songs, and the rest are going to be things that I choose to do ? like really super cool covers and other songs I’ve written.

WL: To what do you attribute the longevity of yourself and Heart? Is it the songs, or is it the familiarity? I know I feel so wonderfully comfortable when I hear your music.

AW: I think it is the latter, what you just said, to a large degree. It’s also the fact that we keep showing up. Ever since about the turn of the century, we’ve been touring, so people can come out and they can see something and hear something that they love.

WL: You’re no stranger to Washington, having lobbied on Capitol Hill for fairer payments to musicians by online music portals. Is that still a focus for you?

AW: Right now, to be honest, I see that there are a lot more important things that would need skin – way more important things than that. Funding for Planned Parenthood, for example. I’m much more apt to get out there and lobby for women’s education and reproductive rights right now.

WL: What has your career in music given you that you couldn’t have gotten elsewhere?
AW: A complete connection to people. It’s a blessing being able to stand up in front of thousands of people and feel that you’re connecting with their one mind. Their common mind. That’s pretty powerful stuff. It’s hard enough in real life to connect with one person, so that’s the thing that I’ve been given through all these years.

Ann Wilson will perform at the Birchmere on March 29; 7:30 pm; $110; 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, Va. For more information, visit birchmere.com.

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