After years of playing “Barracuda” and “Magic Man” on stage with her sister Ann, Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer and Heart co-founder Nancy Wilson – at 63 – is entering a new chapter in her career with the refreshingly groove- and funk-driven rock powerhouse Roadcase Royale.
The idea for the new band was formed when former New Power Generation vocalist Liv Warfield and her musical partner and fellow Prince protégé Ryan Waters opened for Heart.
“She comes up to me and she’s like, ‘I love your rock band. I kind of feel stuck doing this R&B gig all the time. I want to rock hard,’ ” Wilson recalls, during a recent phone interview.
The two women hit it off and started trading song ideas online. With the encouragement of Robyn Zander and Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick, who were co-headlining with Heart at the time, they decided to give it a serious go.
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“Ann was already diverging off on her stuff separate from Heart. I thought, ‘Why the heck not? Let’s make something new,’ ” Wilson says. Warfield brought Waters along and Wilson recruited the rhythm section and keyboardist from Heart. They christened the new group Roadcase Royale, which plays Neighboorhood Theatre Sunday.
Wilson calls the project invigorating.
“Not that I was sick of doing Heart, necessarily,” she says. “I’ve always loved being in Heart, and Heart’s a good rock band, and I’ve done other projects and scoring for movies, but this feels completely fresh because everybody in it is so capable.”
It doesn’t hurt that Warfield and Waters went to Paisley Park University.
“They’re just pros,” she says. “Prince, I think, trained amazing musicians to bring more to any musical table they come to.”
The group released its first song, “Get Loud,” in January, in time for the Women’s March.
“We dedicated it to those marches and sent the song out to the women who were organizing the marches,” she says. The track – which addresses bullying, strength, racism and misogyny – is a rallying call for equality, self-confidence and strength.
Wilson, who revisits hits like “These Dreams” with the new band, is a pioneer in rock who came up when the industry was male-dominated. Given her experience, she figured there would be much more gender equality in the business by now.
“How long does progress actually take? I thought there would be a lot more women doing what Ann and I started doing in the late ’70s much sooner than we’ve seen happen,” she says. She partly blames MTV. “It shifted the focus off of a more mind-expanding, culturally-aware musical story that was happening from the late ’60s through the ’70s and shifted it over to a totally image-related cultural imprint. It set us back a decade.”
Heart adapted, but straight-up rock gave way to other genres. Yet, as Roadcase Royale proves, Wilson never let her love of hard rock go.
“I think what constitutes rock nowadays is people that actually play and sing,” she says. “They can do the job live with no ProTools or embellishments or other recorded material. I think that’s where rock is now, and it’s a little more rare to see that out there on stages or screens. It’s usually all very constructed. We’re the real deal.”
When: 8 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St.
Details: 704-942-7997; www.neighborhoodtheatre.com.