Beyond the Boys’ Club: Ann Wilson of Heart

"There were difficulties that we came upon at the very beginning caused by misogyny and sexism"

Ann Wilson Beyond the Boys Club
Ann Wilson, photo by Criss Cain

    Beyond the Boys’ Club is a monthly column from journalist and radio host Anne Erickson, focusing on women in the heavy music genres, as they offer their perspectives on the music industry and discuss their personal experiences. Erickson is also a music artist herself and has a new EP and single, “Last Love,” with Upon Wings. The latest edition of Beyond the Boys’ Club features an interview with the legendary Ann Wilson of Heart.

    As one of the founding members of female-led rock mainstays Heart, Ann Wilson knows just how difficult it was for women to break into rock music decades ago. She also knows what it takes to have staying power as a musical artist, as Wilson is still releasing imaginative new music and playing jam-packed shows.

    Wilson released her latest solo album, Fierce Bliss, earlier this year via Silver Lining Music. The solo release marks her first featuring mostly original songs, including lead single “Greed,” which is about the materialism plaguing America and the world today.


    Wilson checked in with Heavy Consequence for the latest edition of “Beyond the Boys’ Club,” discussing the new album, why she chose to release original songs this time around, her pioneering days as a women in rock music and more. Read the full interview below, and check out Heavy Consequence‘s recent review of Ann Wilson in concert here.

    This is your first solo album that features original material rather than cover songs. What made now the right time to release a record with original songs?

    During the pandemic lockdown, I had a chance to actually write. I spent some serious time spent writing, and I came up with things that I thought were worth recording and putting on a record.


    Tell me about the story behind the album’s first single, “Greed,” and what inspired you to write it.

    It was a couple of things. It was a personal situation, where I was accused of being greedy with myself. (Laughs) Then, another aspect was I had been watching a bunch of news and following the political scene, and it occurred to me that greed is in control in this particular time in our culture. It’s not only the people that run the country, but the people themselves who are in this country. They are at this level of materialism that I’ve never seen before. I’m not going to lie — I like to do some shopping myself, and me and billions of other people seem to be doing that over the top right now. It’s never enough.

    This record has a great live feel. Was that on purpose? Did you set out to make a live-sounding record?


    Yes! We actually were all in the same room and everything. I was in the vocal booth, but the band was all out in the room together, so there’s that ringing of strings and harmonics and everything that you get with a live recording.

    Tell me about Kenny Wayne Shephard’s involvement with the album and how you know him. He’s such a great guitarist.

    Kenny and I have an attorney in common, and it was our attorney’s idea that we get together and do something. So, I got together a list of songs, and on it was “Bridge of Sighs” and “Missionary Man.” And Kenny came in and just tore it up, and then we became friends. We’ve done a couple other things together, too, and he’s a great player.


    You’re on the road now. What’s it like getting back to live music after shows were shut down?

    I guess there was a year when I didn’t perform because of the pandemic, but we managed to keep going most of the time. We’ve been touring last year and this year and everything, so I feel pretty current with it… But to lose a year, it’s huge. A year is almost the length of time that makes you get nervous before going out on stage again!

    Looking back at your career with Heart, is there a singular moment that stands out above the rest?

    So many things. I guess the Kennedy Center honors. Being inducted into the Rock Hall. Those are achievement things, but just living a life of the gypsy musician has been the thing about being in a band all these years that I get off on so much.


    Do you feel that Heart was a pioneering act for women in rock music?

    Yeah, I think so. We weren’t the only ones, but we were among the first. The way things were back when we started are pretty unrecognizable to how things are today. Nowadays, it’s not a novelty to be a woman in rock anymore, because everyone gets treated equally. Male or female, you’re all just commodities. (Laughs) I suppose that’s a type of equality.

    Could you sense at the time that you were doing something really different, being women in rock?

    Well, yeah. There were difficulties that we came upon at the very beginning caused by misogyny and sexism. But, I don’t think Nancy and I ever went about it with the thought that, “We’re going to be the first women.” We were just children who wanted to do music and didn’t understand why we shouldn’t do it just because we are girls.

    Do you think there’s more pressure on women in the music industry to look a certain way to get fans?


    Oh, totally. That hasn’t changed much. That’s one of the things that has not changed. (Laughs) And I think some of the greatest perpetuators of that are women, because they agree to it. And if you don’t agree to be a hyper-sexualized little chickie, somebody else will, so it doesn’t matter whether you do or not. You’re just out of the picture, because someone else will step up and agree to do it. And taking that kind of a pose and having that become your image is the same as agreeing to a short career. Maybe you’ll have a couple of hits, but people will get tired of it and move onto the next little Barbie doll.

    What changes have you seen for women in rock music over the years?

    The biggest change is much greater acceptance of women having credibility, because that was one of our biggest challenges at the get-go: credibility. It was almost like you were a novelty and token woman. Now, there are so many that we are being forced to up our game and be more than bodies. We are being expected to be excellent, and that’s what it takes.