After a tumultuous 2016 that saw legendary rock band Heart’s future called into question, guitarist/singer Nancy Wilson dusted herself off and got back to work. In 2017 a nifty new side project entitled Roadcase Royale was formed, a fusing of Wilson and three Heart bandmates (bassist Dan Rothchild, drummer Ben Smith, keyboardist Chris Joyner) along with singer Liv Warfield and guitarist Ryan Waters, both members of Prince’s New Power Generation.
It was just sort of a match made in heaven for all of us,” Wilson says. “Everyone was good at the live experience, the studio experience, the songwriting experience and production. There’s a lot of good talent in this lineup so we just wanted to get together and make and album which we did fairly quickly.”
Roadcase Royale, which plays Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition on Aug. 18, passed their first test with flying colors. Yet it took the band and Wilson convincing Bob Seger they had the proverbial chops to support him on tour.
“Once they saw our videos and heard some of our music they were like, ‘Okay, you’re on, let’s do it!’” Wilson says. “We were ecstatic.”
The group, who released their debut album First Things First last year, are led by Wilson and the ridiculously dynamic vocalist Liv Warfield. Wilson met Warfield when Warfield’s band Blackbird supported Heart at the Hollywood Bowl.
“She was just insanely powerful,” she says. “Just her presence and her energy, her voice, all of it. We hit it off. She was like, ‘I just didn’t want to let these two days go by without meeting you and getting a selfie with you.’ We started talking about music. It was just a really natural flow of things that came together after that.”
Wilson also says Warfield and Nancy’s sister Ann Wilson (who toured with Jeff Beck and Paul Rodgers earlier this summer) have powerful pipes but each in their own unique way. The result is fewer comparisons between the two and simply more appreciation for what each has to offer. Warfield also holds her own on a few re-imagined Heart songs on First Things First.
“Live we have a couple of other Heart songs that aren’t even on First Things First that people’s hair is blowing back when they hear Liv do these songs,” Wilson says. “She’s a force of nature.”
As for album highlights, Wilson cites “Not Giving Up” as a strong track thanks to “monster riffer” Waters. Meanwhile “Cover Each Other,” a song inspired by Wilson’s husband Geoff Bywater changing careers, is another keeper.
Roadcase Royale has also made a handful of music videos, including one for “Cover Each Other” which doesn’t see Wilson phoning home despite where the video was shot.
“I pictured that song taking place in a beautiful, spacious outdoor (area), an aerial kind of vibe,” she says. “When we went to this park in Los Angeles where we shot it was also where they shot a scene of E.T. where he goes through the forest with the little turntable trying to broadcast the signal to get help from his alien family to pick him up.
“People were walking their dogs in the park and we were like, ‘Could you just hold on for just one second, we’re going to do one more pass through of the song.’ They were like, ‘Great song!’ between takes.”
Roadcase Royale played several shows this year including benefit gigs and corporate events. Wilson says a second album is on the back burner with different band members living in Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle. Meanwhile, Wilson will be the music producer for a special ABC documentary on legendary recording studio Muscle Shoals. As if that wasn’t enough she’s also wrapping up a Broadway musical she’s been working on with Rita Wilson.
With all of that going on Wilson hopes 2019 sees Heart back on the road.
“We’re trying to assemble all the pieces and the communication it would take to make a Heart tour for next summer because the offers are out there,” she says. “It just depends on getting with Ann, sitting with Ann in a room – just the two of us – and talking about what would that exactly mean. What kind of a show would that be? I’m really excited to figure that out.
“I don’t know how we would ever not want to do that. It would be so good for the legacy and good for the band. If the ducks all lined up in a row that would just be fantastic.”
Finally, Wilson says the name Roadcase Royale encapsulated the two styles Heart and New Power Generation brought to the table.
“I sort of came up with the Roadcase and the Royale idea,” she says. “Prince’s people come from royalty so the ‘Royale’ and the Heart people come from being old road dogs. So an old road case is something you wheel around with gear in it, it runs down ramps and gets scuffed up like the old road people that we are. I thought it had a nice double meaning going on.”