Ann Wilson talks Heart, Chris Cornell and solo tour coming to Atlanta

For more than four decades, Ann Wilson’s voice has commanded and captivated.

She’s shrieked through “Barracuda,” crooned “Dog & Butterfly” and belted “Alone” with such power that the song nearly shattered the TV screen every time the video played on MTV in the ‘80s.

With her guitar-slinging sister Nancy, Wilson molded the female rocker archetype — and at nearly 67, she’s no less formidable.

On Tuesday, Wilson will bring a solo show to the Buckhead Theatre, where she’ll share the stage with guitarist Craig Bartock, bassist Andy Stoller and drummer Denny Fongheiser — all of whom played with Heart and/or Wilson’s other side project, the Ann Wilson Thing — as well as keyboardist Dan Walker.

On a call last week with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The River (97.1 FM), the thoughtful Wilson talked about what fans can expect at the concert, her friendship with fellow Seattle rocker Chris Cornell and the future of Heart.

Q: How have these solo shows been going?

A: The tour has been way beyond my expectations. I thought I’d go out and people would accept my solo tour, but there’s an evolution going on and we’re getting these wild crowd reactions on the positive side. People are really loving seeing something fresh, and I’m loving that they can feel how into it I am.

Q: What can fans expect from the set list?

A: I chose three or four Heart songs and then completely redesigned them, (along with) a few songs I’ve written over the last year and a half or so and a few covers that have really inspired me over the years.

Q: You’ve been doing a few Who songs every show. How come The Who right now?

A: At this point in my life, something about The Who’s punk sensibility really speaks to me, especially “Love Reign O’er Me.” It’s one of the most holy songs they’ve done, in a sacred sense. Also, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” could have been written yesterday it’s so relevant to what’s going on now, and “The Real Me,” that’s one of the most dramatic human songs I’ve ever heard.

Q: Since you’re only doing a few Heart songs, why these in particular?

A: The songs I chose from the Heart days are good songs. I’m attached to singing them — “What About Love,” “Alone,” “Crazy on You” — it brings a little bit of me as a songwriter to the set. I like hearing them stripped down.

Wilson is a mighty yowler onstage. Photo: Getty Images

Q: You performed a beautiful version of “Black Hole Sun” on Jimmy Kimmel’s show after Chris Cornell died. His death must have been especially hard for you guys who knew him from the Seattle scene.

A: (I knew him) over the years back in the ‘90s — at the end of the ‘80s, too — up to the present day. We were friends. I will not say I was his best friend, but I definitely got to hang out with him a lot and jam and sing. He was always, from the time I first met him, extremely complicated and really sensitive. Somebody who really had his nerves on the outside. The whole fame game and the lack of authenticity and fakery and poser thing about being famous in Hollywood was really abhorrent to him. In that way, he was a very pure soul.

Q: You had to endure quite a bit of that yourself, especially when Heart exploded in the MTV era.

A: It’s one thing to go to a video shoot and spend a day and a half getting all costumed up for a video, but when you have to take that (to a live show) and just live in that costume, it got very uncomfortable. It was nothing like who we really were. There were expectations, and they were even worse on women than they are now.

Q: You’ve dealt with some family strife recently (in April, Wilson’s husband, Dean Wetter, received a suspended sentence in an assault case involving Nancy Wilson’s teen children on a tour bus in 2016), so what does this mean for your future and the future of Heart?

A: The family strife thing is long past. It resonated longer in the press than it needed to. Nancy and I are on an artistic walkabout now. We don’t have any plans beyond this year — we just want to see what happens. If and when we get back together, it won’t be the same old Heart thing, going around the country on a classic rock package (tour), it will be something fresh. We just want to live in the moment.


Ann Wilson of Heart

7:30 p.m. Tuesday. $55-$75. Buckhead Theatre, 3110 Roswell Road, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000,

About the Author

Melissa Ruggieri
Melissa Ruggieri
Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for Atlanta Music Scene blog on, and she remembers...