The Wilson Sisters of Heart: From Rock to Lullabies
Filed under: Celeb Parents
As leaders of the rock group Heart, they've had numerous hit songs including "Crazy on You," "Magic Man," "These Dreams" and "Never." They acquired a new generation of fans when "Barracuda" was featured in the Guitar Hero 3 video game. They also performed the tune with Fergie on the television show "American Idol."
Their latest project aims at an even younger audience. Guitarist Nancy Wilson has released "Baby Guitars," a collection of original acoustic lullabies. The sisters also collaborated on "Dog & Butterfly," a children's book based on their hit song from 1979. ParentDish spoke to the Wilson sisters about their incredible longevity, the new book, their latest CD and how they balance being rock stars with being mothers.
ParentDish: How old were you when you started playing music together?
Nancy Wilson: I was about 8 1/2, Ann was about 13. We were steeped in every kind of music, [we sang] as a family. We had music coming out of our pores. It was a natural when we saw The Beatles on TV to head straight for those guitars. [Laughs.]
NW: The biggest obstacle we ever faced was in the 80's. It was the big-stakes, big-dollar, big-ego-driven era. We had the rockiest time trying to balance out what we really wanted [with] how much time we could be at home ... life versus career. That's always been the hardest thing as women in rock. If you're successful, you have to know how to say no to all the offers so you do have a home life. And if you're not as successful you have to work harder and still fit in your home life. And try to balance your schedule with other people in your family, and your kids, where you don't get separated all the time.
Ann Wilson: It's hard. My 18-year-old girl doesn't want to come out on the road anymore. She's old enough to take care of herself while I'm gone. But my [11-year-old] son is too young to be left here without me. They've been coming out on the road since they were babies. My son was out when he was four weeks old. He wants to come out, he loves it.
PD: So it's up to him, he can decide whether or not he wants to come on tour with you?
AW: Well, it's not really up to him. [Laughs.] I just tell him when, and he always says yes.
PD: Do you want your kids to go into the music business?
NW and AW: [Laugh]
NW: That's a really loaded question. I think both of my boys are talented. [Editor's Note: Nancy has 10-year-old twins.] One is a naturally good singer. And my other son, he's a good writer. We've written songs together. It makes me really nervous because of who I and their Auntie Ann are. They've seen us on stage, and they see what comes with it. I want them to do what they love and what they're good at. But I also want to give them a big taste of music so if they naturally want to go that way, they can.
AW: Music doesn't have to be professional. If they just have that in their life the way we did before we got into a band, that's good enough.
PD: When you wrote the song "Dog & Butterfly" did you think of it as a song for children?
AW: Not particularly. I thought of it mostly as a metaphor. You get a nice lesson from an old, wise man about life, and how maybe something seems impossible but you just keep going after it ... Maybe you never get it, but you just keep going after it and that gives you your life force. It was put in the frame of the dog and the butterfly because I looked out my window one day and saw my dog going after a butterfly, which seemed [like] a really impossible thing for a dog to ever catch one. It kind of morphed naturally into being a children's thing after some time. Because it's a little lesson, you know? It's a gentle little lesson.
PD: The book says "written and illustrated by Ann and Nancy Wilson." Who did what?
NW: Ann wrote the story originally. I kind of came in as an editor-collaborator. And Ann did the renderings, the original drawings, which I then painted with watercolors. [Laughs.] We were in the studio, working on new music, painting, and drawing, and collaborating and editing ... "Wait, wait! I'll put the paint brush down! Go play the guitar in the big room! OK, I'll be right back before the paint dries!" [Laughs.]
PD: If someone had said to you back in the 70's that 30 years from now you'll be releasing a children's book and an album of acoustic lullabies for kids, how would you have responded to that?
NW: To me that would have been a total natural from the way we started. We've always had a child's perspective and a fan's perspective in our work from the beginning. And I think that keeps us authentic to who we are. We come from Seattle. We're not the Tinseltown twins. We never did glam rock in New York. We came from the woods basically, where we found those wooden boxes with strings on them on the forest floor. [Laughs.] That's our joke right now in the studio. When you rediscover something on an instrument you've played your whole life, it's like that. It's like discovering fire in a real elemental sense. It's just a beautiful discovery, a child's perspective.
Remembering Heart's These Dreams, 1985
"Baby Guitars" (CD) and "Dog & Butterfly" (book) are available at Amazon.com. Receive a code for a free download of the new version of the song "Dog & Butterfly" when purchasing the book.
Related: Interview: "The Kids Are All Right" Authors
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.