This week Heart released a new CD/DVD called Heart & Friends: Home for the Holidays. Christmas discs are a tricky enterprise, due to the inherent schmaltz, right?
Home for the Holidays isn’t specifically aimed at a Christmas audience. So many Christmas albums seem throwaway, because the efforts are so calculated. You know, the bands gather in the studio every July, with the intention of releasing a product in November. We tried to do something that had a little more to it than that by actually recording during the holidays this time last year, and by encompassing all the major religions of the world. We perform some holiday songs and some classic songs with different types of artists participating. It was really a nice mix of talents and a great project.
What spurred you to tackle “Please Come Home for Christmas” with Aaron Neville?
Have you heard his voice? The main reason was an opportunity to sing with him. He has always been one of my biggest singing idols. When I was in junior high school, he had his hit “Tell It Like It Is,” which practically changed my life. Since that time, it has always been my dream to sing a duet with him. I had heard him perform “Please Come Home for Christmas,” and knew it had to be that song.
Can we expect any jingle-bell jams in your set at House of Blues?
I can see us playing “Ring the Bells.” But I don’t think we will play too much from the holiday disc. I anticipate that our fans will be happy to hear our own original material, and of course a few covers.
As a Seattle band, you had a front-row seat to the ebb and flow of guitar-based music. How did Heart avoid being tagged as a “power-ballad act” after your slew of ’80s radio hits?
That’s an easy question to answer: We have never followed trends, because that’s artistic suicide. Hold on, wait, I stand corrected: For two short years out of 40, we were trend-followers and enjoyed relative success with a handful of ballads. But we escaped that cycle by being true to ourselves and to the music we loved.
Loud rock ’n’ roll is coming back again, it seems, don’t you think?
I’m glad bands are playing heavy again, because it just goes to show that rock isn’t dead. Pop music is not killing rock. Electronic dance music is not killing rock. Rock is a pretty powerful force. It’s so primal; it’s deep inside people’s bodies, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
Heart has always had a brilliant acoustic side. In your arrangements, how do you decide whether to plug in or not? I’m thinking of, specifically, the Led Zeppelin-shanty of “Safronia’s Mark” off 2010’s Red Velvet Car.
The songs live and have a life of their own. They tell you what they want, and you obey. “Safronia’s Mark” is a deep cut. It’s almost like a folk song. That one all came straight from the imagery of the lyrics and the chord progressions. But each one is its own baby, demanding things—electric guitar here, acoustic there.
So it’s two weeks before your Vegas micro-residency at House of Blues Las Vegas, and you haven’t decided on a set list?
We’ve never planned things out ahead very well, and because we’ve played together for so many years, we don’t have to calculate as much. You used the term “micro-residency” or whatever, but people are people wherever you go. For us, it’s three gigs in Las Vegas. Don’t think I’m blasé about it! But the Strip headliners needn’t worry too much.
House of Blues Las Vegas Dec. 5-7, 8 p.m. $55-$125. HouseOfBlues.com/LasVegas, 800-745-3000.