By MIKE CHAIKEN
Guitarist Nancy Wilson made her rock and roll name with the band Heart, which she founded with her sister Ann.
But Wilson is now heading off on her own in a new venture called Roadcase Royale.
The band comes to Connecticut on Sept. 16, opening for Bob Seger on at the Mohegan Sun.
“Right now, it’s amazing, fun, cool, and inspiring,” said Wilson of the new venture.
At the time, when Roadcase Royale was taking shape, Wilson said she didn’t know that Heart was going to be on a “permanent hiatus.”
The primary focus had been working on an album and playing shows, not filling a musical void.
However, said Wilson, “It became obvious this was the next step for me… It felt really fresh.”
And Wilson said she had no intention on giving up on music if Heart was put on ice. “Being a musician is the only job I know.”
With Roadcase Royale, Wilson is working with singer Liv Warfield, who first made her name with Prince’s New Power Generation.”
“There’s so much about Liv as a singer that reflects who she is as a person,” said Wilson of her new lead singer.
“She’s angelic. She’s a cool support system as a friend,” said Wilson
“We are just loving each other as bandmates and friends,” said Wilson. “She’s a great interpreter of lyrics. She never sings as if she’s reciting. She sings as if she means it.”
Roadcase Royale finds Wilson and company working the soul side of pop music.
Wilson and Heart were no strangers to soul music. Tracks such as their cover of the Neville Brothers’ “Tell It Like It Is” or the honking horns on “Even It Up” showed a definite affinity with R&B. However, it was never the band’s bread and butter, which was more album-oriented heavy rock with folk influences.
But Roadcase Royale finds Wilson and the band—which also includes Ryan Waters on lead guitar and Heart members Chris Joyner on keys, Dan Rothchild on bass, and Ben Smith on drums— working some R&B magic on the tracks—even on their cover of the Heart classic, “These Dreams.”
Wilson said soul music always lurked in her musical vocabulary. She explained she and her sister Ann grew up in really musical family. “We always had something playing on the sound system,” said Wilson. The music would range from Aretha Franklin to opera to Ray Charles.
“We loved the Beatles and the British Invasion,” said Wilson. “But we were steeped in American R&B.”
When she and Ann first learned to play music, Wilson said, “We learned everything. We never felt we had to be confined stylistically.”
The first single from the band is a track called, “Get Loud,” which references many of today’s current events, especially the women’s movement.
Wilson said her long-time collaborator Sue Ennis—who worked with her writing for Heart as well—had a set of lyrics already prepared. Wilson and Warfield took those lyrics and adjusted them to reflect what was happening with the recent Women’s March and what was happening with the human rights.
‘The timing (of its release) worked out really beautifully,” said Wilson. “It became a bit of an anthem.”
The new album, “First Things First,” will be released the week after they play Connecticut.
But if fans wanted to get a taste of what to expect from the album, Wilson recommended they visit the band’s website www.RoadcaseRoyale.com and give a listen to “Get Loud” and “Never Give Up.”
“Those are two fine examples (of what’s inside ‘First Things First’),” said Wilson.
Wilson said the album has a “rock and soul vibe.”
Wilson is quick to share credit to her whole band for shaping the sound and for its artistic success.
“Everyone listens to everyone,” said Wilson of the rest of Roadcase Royale.
Given Wilson’s credentials with the band Heart, Roadcase Royale could easily have been just about Wilson. But the band is a democracy musically and as a business, she said.
“It was important to me (that the band be a democracy) because of how natural the relationships fell into place,” said Wilson. “I would never want to lose one of the members to another band.”
When they come to Connecticut to open for Bob Seger, Wilson said Roadcase Royale will be playing a 40 minute set. Fans of Heart are utmost in her mind, said Wilson. Half of the set will be Heart tunes such as “Crazy on You,” “Kick it Out,” “These Dreams,” “Even It Up,” and “Straight On.” The rest of the set will consist of tunes from the new album, such as “Get Loud.”
Roadcase Royale performs at the Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. The headliner is Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. Tickets are $105 and $85.
For more information, go to www. MoheganSun.com or www. RoadcaseRoyale.com