"I think we both felt like we were getting away with being guitarists in these rock bands, after all those years of learning how to be on big stages, and how to feel like big rock stars. That's an incredibly fun feeling! No wonder Eddie had that big grin on his face all the time when he was on stage."
Wilson's new album has another Van Halen connection. Her version of the 1969 Simon & Garfunkel classic "The Boxer" teams her with veteran solo star and former Van Halen front man Sammy Hagar. But that was not her original plan.
Eager to capitalize on Hagar's high-throttle, take-no-prisoners singing, she wrote a revved-up song with him specifically in mind. She named it "Get Ready," as in — a giggling Wilson sang loudly over the phone — "Get ready to rock!"
She was confident it would be ideal for her and Hagar to cut loose on. He politely disagreed.
"Sammy is funny as hell. He's a really old friend of my husband, Geoff, and he's been a good friend of mine for years," Wilson said. "But when he heard 'Get Ready,' Sammy said: 'Well, maybe that's the kind of song that is a little too expected of me. What else you got?'
"I said: 'Well, how about something really unexpected, like "The Boxer," which I've sang all my life and did on the last Heart tour (in late 2019)?' Sammy replied: 'I love that song!' Then, he said: 'I don't think I can do the verses, but I can do the chorus with you.' Sammy was a boxer when he was young and he brings this different element to what had been a pristine folk song."
Likewise, Wilson brings a decidedly different element to her version of Springsteen's "The Rising." She turns what had been a rousing, gospel-inflected, post 9/11 song of revival into a softer, more nurturing musical vehicle of contemplation.
"I had the opportunity to see Bruce do his 'Springsteen on Broadway' show in New York," she recalled. "And when I was starting this album, I wanted to record 'The Rising' because here we are in another tragedy with this pandemic and all this loss and suffering.
"I figured I would try to do 'The Rising' coming from a female perspective, which could be a healing thing for people during such a horrific time in our world. So, it took on more of a maternal quality. I love the lyrics; there's so much great imagery in that song that is almost subliminal."
Wilson was born in San Francisco into a music-loving family. She and her sister Ann became hooked on rock as preteens growing up at Camp Pendleton, where their Marine officer father was stationed several times.