Heart’s Ann Wilson had an epiphany last year. After Heart’s tour wrapped with Joan Jett and Cheap Trick, she decided to leave the legendary rock band behind.
“I just came to a natural point at the end of last year that I was really craving something more intimate,” Wilson says.
“I was really craving more of a connection with the people, and different music and even a different band—nothing against Heart. I needed freshness.”
She is doing so with a solo tour dubbed “An Evening with Ann Wilson of Heart,” which comes to the Celebrity Theatre on Tuesday, May 23.
“The reviews have been awesome,” Wilson says. “I think that I paid a lot of attention to making sure the shows were really quality. I’ve been working really hard with everybody to make sure it’s something different and fresh and vital. It’s really refreshing.”
Wilson is dedicating her shows to her solo material. She plays three to four “reimagined” Heart songs, along with new material and older solo tracks.
“The whole point isn’t to try to be Heart,” she says. ‘It’s to do something outside of Heart, but to give people and myself that touchstone of Heart.”
After singing tunes like “Magic Man” and “Crazy on You” for more than 40 years, Wilson didn’t find it difficult to give the songs facelifts.
“It was pretty easy because the gripes I had with some of those old songs were that they never really changed so much over the years,” she says. “I really had some ideas, really easy ideas, on how to make them fresh.”
At her show, she’ll feature four new songs, all of which were co-written with her guitarist, Craig Bartock. One song is a slow, bluesy number, while the other is a “big, big, heavy swampy thing.”
“I’m really proud of the lyrics, in particular,” Wilson says. “That’s my department, really. I don’t really write songs for what’s being played on the radio, or what’s out there in the marketplace.
“I do it for myself. When they do get played, strangely—or maybe not so strangely enough—people really are attracted to the lyrics. I think they’re hungry for it.”
The songs can be found on her two EPs; a third is expected in the fall. Wilson will then have enough material for an album, but she’s unsure if that’s what she wants to deliver.
“People aren’t really buying albums any longer,” she says. “They’re buying singles now. They don’t have the attention span for the whole album. I kind of like the idea of doing EPs.”
Another reason behind the Heart split is, presumably, the sentencing of her husband for choking her nephews, the children of Nancy Wilson, during a concert in Washington.
Dean Wetter pleaded guilty in March and will pay restitution, be on probation, undergo counseling and have no contact with the teens. Wilson preferred not to talk about the legal action.
But she is looking forward to returning to Phoenix. She agrees that the revolving stage at the Celebrity Theatre is daunting, but she’s more worried about her roadies.
“The guitar roadie has to figure out, in advance, where he has to be to make a guitar change,” she explains. “It’s kind of like mathematics for those guys. It’s actually a fun place to play for the band. For the crew down in the pit, though, it’s difficult.”
An Evening with Ann Wilson of Heart, Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd Street, Phoenix, 602.267.1600, celebritytheatre.com, 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 23, $40-$65.