Listen: Heart's Nancy Wilson Covers Bruce Springsteen's 'The Rising'

After nearly a half-century of dividing her time between bands like Heart, the Lovemongers, and Roadcase Royale, guitarist Nancy Wilson is finally releasing her debut solo LP. She’s still putting the finishing touches on the album, but she’s tentatively calling it The Lab, and her lead-off single, a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising,” is available right now.

“Under the conditions we’re all living in now, this song is something that might help people,” Wilson tells Rolling Stone. “It’s a spiritual song and a call to a greater good, a human condition that is bigger than we are. As humans are picked off by this crazy invisible enemy [of Covid-19], we are trying to rise up above it and take some kind of comfort in our own spirituality.”

Wilson had no intention of recording an album this year, but when the pandemic made it impossible to play live or do much of anything outside the house, she began amassing songs just to keep herself busy. “I’m not going to sit here and do a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle,” she says. “I needed to have a purpose and I needed to be creative.”

Wilson recently moved from Los Angeles to Northern California (“There’s a lot more nature around us now”), meaning she’s far from her creative team and the members of Heart’s touring lineup that she used to cut the album. “For me, one of the biggest frustrations of making this album is trying to get the tech of it all under my belt,” she says. “I’m such a brat. I’ve always had technicians, guys in white lab coats to help me out. In this case, I’ve had to retrain my own brain to figure it out. It’s been a real learning curve.”

She eventually assembled a tiny home recording rig that used the Spire music recording app. Working with bassist Andy Stoller, drummer Ben Smith, guitarist Ryan Waters, and keyboardist Daniel Walker, she slowly pieced together songs. “We formed a little community,” Wilson says. “It takes much longer working this way since we’re all at our homes and not in a studio together.”

The tunes are a mixture of originals and cover songs, including Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” and Springsteen’s “The Rising.” The latter song entered Wilson’s life when she saw Springsteen on Broadway a couple of years back. “That show was so intimate and so completely moving,” she says. “It was kind of like going to church. It was very uplifting and aspirational. I went on a whole Springsteen kick afterward.”

She also covered Pearl Jam’s “Daughter” after submitting a version of the song for the upcoming movie I Am All the Girls, which deals with the trafficking of young women. “There’s a young girl in that song that is dealing with holding the hand that holds her down,” Wilson says. “That kind of imagery was perfect for the film. Then coming to it from a female perceptive gives a different power to the song as well.”

The original tune “Party at the Angel Ballroom” features contributions from Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan and Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins. “Taylor sent me 11 tracks of vocals just yesterday,” Wilson says. “I told him that he turned the song into a party. He’s got Brian Wilson harmony vocals going on over here and a little Bowie going on over there. It’s now one of the big rockers on the album.”

Other original tunes include the Paul Simon-inspired “We Meet Again,” “The Inbetween,” “I’ll Find You,” and “The Dragon,” which she wrote in the Nineties for Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley. “Heart tried to record it a couple of times,” she says. “But it wasn’t destined for Heart. It just didn’t flow right.”

Wilson is calling the album The Lab because of the unique way it all came together. “It’s like we’re all a bunch of mad scientists,” she says. “There’s a lot of people working in the laboratory trying to craft something cool for rock & roll.”

There are still a few weeks left of mixing and overdubbing to go, but Wilson says she’s on pace to have it all ready for a March release. At that point, she’d love to be able to hit the road and promote it with some solo shows. “There’s also talk of a Heart tour,” she says. “But everything is so unknowable at this time. We’re just trying to pound out these details and figure it all out as it comes along.”

Heart reunited for a hugely successful summer tour in 2019 following a bitter break-up. They shared the stage with Sheryl Crow, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and Brandi Carlile. Ticket sales were extremely strong. “That was very gratifying,” Wilson says. “There was a million thrills on that tour. There’s nothing quite like it. We did a bang-up job.”

Heart will likely tour again once mass gatherings are viable. In the meantime, Wilson is just happy she can finally call herself a solo artist after all these years. “It’s been really fun and really rewarding,” she says. “And it’s finally my turn.”

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