Nancy Wilson

Our Q&A with Nancy Wilson, Founding Member of Heart

Nancy Wilson is best known as a founding member of rock and roll legend Heart. But lately, she’s been taking an exciting detour with her eclectic new project Roadcase Royale. The band makes its Milwaukee debut this Sunday.

Throughout their careers, singers Nancy Wilson and Liv Warfield have paved their own unique paths. Starting in the early ‘70s, Wilson, along with her sister Ann, created hit after hit as Heart. Warfield was a member of Prince’s New Power Generation band and lately has enjoyed a budding solo career.

Spurred by mutual admiration, the two singers joined forces and recruited Warfield’s guitarist Ryan Waters and Heart veterans Dan Rothchild, Ben Smith and Chris Joyner to form the new band. They recorded their debut, “First Things First,” which is out September 22.

Prior to the band’s September 24 show at the Pabst Theater, Wilson took a few moments to talk about how the project came about and how the band has been a pleasant detour for her.

Roadcase Royale
Roadcase Royale, photo by Jeremy Danger

Why was Roadcase Royale picked for the band name?

The guys from Heart and myself represented the Roadcase image for all the touring we had done over the years.  Then Liv and Ryan, being protégés of Prince, brought in the Royale aspect.

What do you recall of the first time you heard Liv and her bandmates?

I heard Liv for the first time while watching her perform on [The Tonight Show Starring] Jimmy Fallon. She was singing the song, “Why Do You Lie.” I particularly noted her incredible energy and delivery and presence. We knew right then and there that she would be a great opener for our [August 2015] Hollywood Bowl shows.  Over the two nights she opened for Heart we became instant friends and the rest is Roadcase Royale history!

What impressed you most about Liv?

She is really in tune with her spirituality and has the biggest heart and a great sense of humor. We just hit it off very quickly. I feel like I relate to her in that sense.

How did the band come together and what inspired the band to record?

When Liv and I talked further about creating a new band together, we decided to talk about writing music at first so we made a point of getting us all together in LA for a few days after the Heart tour concluded in September of 2016. Everyone in the room on the first day of rehearsals brought so much enthusiasm and experience to the room that we found we were writing prolifically right off the bat – that almost never happens, from what I’ve experienced in the past.

One of the biggest and best surprises for me was the effortlessness of us all finding our groove with each other as writers and as players and as singers – almost instantly right on the spot.  It was second nature!

How is the chemistry in this band unique to Heart? Does it provide you opportunities to explore styles you normally wouldn’t?

Yes!  From a stylistic viewpoint, Roadcase Royale is what I call an “inspired democracy,” which means the approach to working with everyone in the band as equals. No one is a side man or a session player. Everyone is able to express their voices and everyone votes on each thing that tends to come up.

How does this band’s debut in Milwaukee compare with other band debuts you’ve had like Heart’s?

Milwaukee has always been a solid fanbase for Heart over the years, so our debut and premiere as Roadcase Royale in Milwaukee should be equally amazingly great and exciting.  We’re so elated to be there and to feel the audience’s energy when they hear our songs.

What do you like most about playing in Milwaukee? What’s your favorite Milwaukee story?

There was this one time in Milwaukee – it was Summerfest in 2002 during our Summer of Love Tour. The performance had a really spectacular crowd and their reception was so great – I remember coming out on stage and being surprised by the roar of the crowd.  It is such a great rock town.  I will always remember that moment!



Joshua Miller covers music and culture for Milwaukee Magazine. He also writes for various other outlets in Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago. You can follow him at @JoshuaMMillerWI.