Nancy Wilson on how loving the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, and John Mayer shaped her
The Heart guitarist recalls the soundtrack of her life
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Nancy Wilson introduces a brand new project today. The legendary guitarist has partnered up with Liv Warfield, an alum of Prince’s New Power Generation, and formed the R&B and soul-infused rock outfit Roadcase Royale. First Things First is out now.
“It’s really a beautiful thing to do something that’s a little bit outside the box,” Wilson tells EW of stretching her sonic pallet. And, as the group heads out on Bob Seger’s fall tour, she adds, “We’re in the honeymoon of our relationship. I’m sure after two months of living on the same bus together, showering in the arenas, we’ll all be in love and have even more funny stories.”
Below, Wilson reflects on the albums and artists that formed her musical identity.
My First Musical Obsession
My older sister Lynn had inherited this amazing box of singles and in it was the Elvis Presley single “Heartbreak Hotel.” I could not play it enough times! It was very informing about rock ‘n’ roll and it was undeniably sexy. [Laughs]
The First Music I Ever Bought
I used to be hugely into horses. I rode horses, I drew horses — I was obsessed with horses. And there was this novelty song called “Tennessee Stud” and I had to have it! [Laughs] It was like, I could pretend I was the Tennessee Stud and sing along to the soundtrack of “Tennessee Stud” while I galloped around. That was part of my development, when I still believed I was a horse. [Laughs]
The Artist Who Made Me Want to Perform
When the Beatles first arrived on the scene, we were pretty young but the lightning bolt hit us. It was like, okay, put down the ukulele and pick up a guitar! Learn how to be the Beatles! And not the girlfriends of the Beatles but the actual Beatles.
An Artist Who Reminds Me of My First Love
I have to say Joni Mitchell. She’s a one of a kind, a complete original. And the Hejira album…when I was going through my divorce, it was a moratorium on Joni Mitchell. I could not listen to any Joni whatsoever. But now I can again! It took a long time. [Laughs] And Stevie Wonder is one of my main men. When I was falling in love again he was my first doorway with my new partner.
A Concert I’ll Never Forget
I saw Wings at the Superdome in Seattle and it was incredibly amazing. They opened with “Venus and Mars” and it started all pitch black and when the lights came up, you saw bubbles floating. It was like, “Oh my God!” Those are moments you never forget: the staging and the imprint of the song along with the big, live visual. There’s nothing more exciting than the first few seconds of any rock show.
An Artist I Love That Would Surprise People
Don’t hold this against me or anything, but I really am loving John Mayer’s stuff right now. And I love Alabama Shakes in a huge way. [Brittany Howard] is just the real deal. She’s timeless.
The Song I Most Wish I’d Written
[Joni Mitchell’s] “Hejira” from Hejira. It’s like the personal and the universal view of being human presented in such an achingly beautiful way. I can’t even begin to gush about that song. It’s a painting all by itself.
My Go-To Karaoke Jam
I have a karaoke machine that I took on the road for a long time, and I had almost 100 percent every time on “Ben” by Michael Jackson. That’s the song I win with!
The Music I Want For My Funeral
Me, Ann, and our other sister, Lynn, always listen to “Remember (Christmas)” by Harry Nilsson, and that was our joke. We’d say, “Whoever dies first, we’ll play this at the funeral!” And the other two would say, “Oh, well, I’m not going! I won’t be there!” So that’s our funeral pact. And I guess we have to go. [Laughs]