Nancy Wil­son Gets to the Pow­er­ful Heart of Road­case Royale’s First Things First

Sound & Vision - - REFERENCE TRACKS - MikeMet­tler

Nancy Wil­son doesn’t like be­ing idle. The noted North­west-bred gui­tarist/vo­cal­ist was up for tack­ling new chal­lenges while Heart, the band she and her sis­ter Ann Wil­son made fa­mous, de­cided to take an ex­tended break—and she found ex­actly what she was look­ing for with her new six-piece col­lec­tive, Road­case Royale.

“As a band, we’re very demo­cratic—every­body writes, every­body con­trib­utes, every­body votes,” says Wil­son about the col­lec­tive en­ergy be­hind RR’s propul­sive de­but al­bum, First Things First. The proof is deep in the groove, from the pure head rush of lead sin­gle “Get Loud” to the crack­ling push-pull ad­dic­tion lament of “The Dragon”—not to mention of-the-mo­ment up­dates of a pair of Heart clas­sics: the slide-gui­tar turn­around of “These Dreams” and a funki­fied read­ing of “Even It Up.”

Wil­son’s chief RR foil is pow­er­house vo­cal­ist Liv Warfield, the one-time singer with Prince’s

New Power Gen­er­a­tion who also ap­peared on the late Pur­ple One’s 2009 re­lease, Lo­tus­flow3r. “I like bring­ing el­e­ments of soul into the rock part of what I’m singing, plus mak­ing sure there’s a cer­tain level of angst in there too,” ex­plains Warfield. “I also love rock gui­tar and those big power chords, so I’m re­ally glad how Nancy and I get along so well in this band. It’s a re­ally in­cred­i­ble link-up and match, so I have to be­lieve it was by divine in­ter­ven­tion.”

I got on the line with Wil­son, 63, to dis­cuss how the band’s two gui­tarists mas­tered the al­bum’s stereo sound­field and how she fig­ured out the right har­mony blends with her new vo­cal part­ner. While you’re still alive, you’ve gotta kick it out…

MM: Look­ing at the way the two Road­case Royale gui­tarists come across vis­ually, you’re at stage right—or left, for au­di­ence mem­bers—and Ryan [Wa­ters] is on the op­po­site side. Did you guys map out the stereo field on the record to match that? Did you say, “I need to be over here, and you need to be over there”?

NW: We nat­u­rally fell to­gether that way, so we sim­i­larly mixed the al­bum that way, just so the sound­stage would match the live set­ting. And be­cause Dan [Rothchild], the bass player, needs to stand closer to Ben [Smith], the drum­mer, Ryan and I are the stereo gui­tar play­ers. We also played al­most ev­ery­thing live at the same time in the stu­dio.

When I was play­ing acous­tic gui­tar, ob­vi­ously, I would be in a dif­fer­ent room. Ben, Dan, and Chris [Joyner, RR key­boardist] were all in the same room. If I was play­ing elec­tric, then I was in the same room with them—and that’s when we’d re­ally play off each other.

MM: I can re­ally hear that vibe dur­ing the sec­ond half of “In­sa­niac,” where you’ve got that ma­jor power riffage go­ing on and the whole band just to­tally goes for it there to­gether.

NW: (chuck­les) Yeah! A cou­ple of times when Ryan has played that one live, I thought his gui­tar was go­ing to ex­plode. He’s a mon­ster of a player. He doesn’t over­play. He knows when to be sub­tle, but then he re­ally pulls out the stops for when it means some­thing. I have end­less ad­mi­ra­tion in work­ing with Ryan right now.

MM: Since you’ve sung with your sis­ter Ann in Heart for so many years, you prob­a­bly have some in­tu­itive sense about how to do har­monies. Did you have to change any­thing men­tally when you and Liv started singing to­gether? How did you two work that out?

NW: Well, har­mony singing is one of my all-time fa­vorite things to do. And singing with Ann Wil­son— first, it’s a sis­terly blend. It’s also sec­ond na­ture as to how the phras­ing is go­ing to go, what in­ter­vals are go­ing to sound bet­ter, and what the rhythm move­ment should be.

It’s a re­ally in­ter­est­ing thing for me to sing har­mony with Liv, be­cause she has a whole other way of phras­ing. A lot of times, she’ll just throw the last syl­la­ble out, to where she al­most doesn’t even sing the last syl­la­ble. I re­ally like fol­low­ing her stylings, and the way she forms her sen­tences. Fol­low­ing her form is a re­ally fun thing to do.

MM: Does that just kick in nat­u­rally live, even if you’re sub­con­sciously con­di­tioned to sing it an­other way? NW: That’s ex­actly right! Liv does a lot of re­ally in­ter­est­ing things with her phras­ing that I can an­tic­i­pate, now that I’m singing with her more of­ten. Our har­monic singing has been a re­ally cool way of learn­ing her map, vo­cally.

An ex­tended ver­sion of the Met­tler-Wil­son Q&A, in­clud­ing a dis­cus­sion of why she feels the Road­case Royale take on “These Dreams” is the best ver­sion of that chart-top­ping song, ap­pears in the S&V In­ter­view blog on soun­dand­vi­sion.com.

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