Heart may be on hiatus, but like her older sister Ann, Nancy Wilson is headed straight on into some fresh endeavors -- including a brand new band, Roadcase Royale.
"I was [aiming for] this summer to be the summer of Heart, where we do the festivals and the European run, but Ann wanted to put her feet into some other areas that were not Heart areas," says Wilson, who's also signed on to be a counselor at Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp during the summer. "I figured if she's going to go off over there, I might as well try to build something over there that's completely fresh."
Ann Wilson, who's touring on her own this year, with dates booked into early July, told Billboard earlier this year that she felt it was simply the right time for Heart to take a break. "The last 10 years have been mostly constant touring, year-round with different packages," she said. "It's big machinery that rolls along, and by the end of last year I felt like I was being imported to do a job, but there wasn't anything new about it. I just went, 'Well, I want to do something else for a while,' and see if I could get a breath and some distance and recapture my fire."
An internal issue may also have played a role in Heart's hiatus. Last Aug. 27 Ann Wilson's husband Dean Wetter was arrested in suburban Seattle on charges of allegedly assaulting Nancy Wilson's 16-year-old twin sons backstage at a Heart show. Nancy Wilson says the matter is "still sorting itself out legally" but has understandably created tension within the ranks.
"When something like that happens inside a really tight family, it's really scarring for everyone involved. There's a lot of victims besides my own kids in the scenario," she says. "I think that's part of the reason Ann wanted to take another direction, until that stuff's more resolved. I hope it can [be resolved] and I think it will. Time is the healer. I'm just wishing and hoping for the best. The thing to do is go forward, and be positive and stay as affirmative about everything as possible."
Roadcase Royale has certainly provided a lift in the meantime. Wilson formed the group with Prince protégé Liv Warfield on vocals and Ryan Waters on guitar, enlisting Heart members Chris Joyner (keyboards), Dan Rothchild (bass) and Ben Smith (drums). The group released the rocking anthem "Get Loud" in time for the Women's March in January. Roadcase Royale has recorded and mastered seven songs so far, according to Wilson, and the band is partnering with the boutique outlet Make Out Music to release material in limited-edition box sets accompanied by assorted memorabilia.
Roadcase Royale is also eyeballing summer touring opportunities, including possible opening slots on major tours, with a repertoire that will also include Heart favorites and at least one Prince song. And filmmaker Danny Gold, who shot the "Hold On To My Hand" video for the group, is working on a documentary about the group's inception.
"It's really a cool new band for me," Wilson says. "With Liv Warfield at the front and center, there's a whole different rock power that is refreshingly different than Heart; It's still got the rock ethic but there's a flavor of the R&B that comes through Liv, the way she sings, and her power's just flattening. She wanted to rock and I love the R&B world -- we said, 'We should get together,' and with most people, that never happens. But we followed up on it and it's really exciting."
Wilson is also looking forward to the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp gig during the June 29-July 2 session in Hollywood (more info at www.rockcamp.com). She's never been a camp counselor before, but Wilson taught private lessons as a teenager and is looking forward to imparting some insight on the attendees.
"People always ask if I have any advice, and I normally joke around and say, 'I would turn back if I were you,'" Wilson says. "'Cause really, unless you're just burning up with passion and feel like you're put on Earth to do it, just make it a fun hobby. The good time is the point. So I'll be there to advise people to be careful with their aspirations and just help them have some fun with it."
Heart will, of course, hang over anything the Wilson sisters do this year. Ann Wilson says that "we're not going to give ourselves a deadline when we have to get back into Heart. We both need to go out there and venture." Nancy Wilson, meanwhile, is looking forward to giving Roadcase Royale a good start. "I'm hoping for Heart to come back, and I've got my fingers crossed for that," she says. "I'm always proud and interested to play with Heart, of course, but this is a Roadcase Royale summer for me, and I'm thrilled to be doing this. It's so fulfilling."