A desire to work with a specific producer, Ben Mink, drove Heart to record its forthcoming new album, "Red Velvet Car."
"We've always wanted to work with Ben Mink, and we've actually been sort of romancing him for a couple of years, just trying to get him in our corner to agree to do something," guitarist Nancy Wilson -- whose sister, singer Ann Wilson, teamed with Mink on her 2007 solo album, "Hope & Glory" -- tells Billboard.com. "After they worked together, it was like, 'Come on! Please! We've gotta do a Heart album with him.' It wasn't going to be right until we did."
Mink (k.d. lang, Barenaked Ladies) not only produced the 10-track album but also co-wrote with the Wilson sisters and played a variety of instruments during the sessions. "I played a lot of guitar with him on this one," Nancy Wilson reports. "Playing guitar with him was one of those 'Wow!'sort of moments. We have similar instincts, like separated at birth guitar-playing instincts. It was just a natural fit -- and for us to be writing songs, too."
Wilson says nine of the 10 songs on "Red Velvet Car" -- which comes out Aug. 31 and is Heart's first new studio album since "Jupiter's Darling" in 2004 -- are new to the project, while the track "Sand" hails from "Whirlygig," the 1997 album by the Wilsons' side project the Lovemongers. "Back then we didn't have a good budget to produce anything that sounded very good," Wilson says, "but ('Sand') is one of those songs that just kept coming back and coming back. Ben saw us do it live and pointed out that we might want to bring that song on."
"Red Velvet Car" will be accompanied by DVD that Heart filmed on March 5 in at the Experience Music Project in Seattle, where they previewed five of the new songs and also coverd the Who's "Love Reign O'er Me." The group kicks off its tour to promote the album today (July 15) with the first of four Lilith Fair dates, before headlining its own shows through late September. "We have a bigger production...just because the album's coming out," Wilson reports. "We're bringing some staging, some big shapes and some projectables and some things that are going to move around and have a nice look about them and give the set a definite stylistic flair." But she's also looking forward to checking out Lilith and a scene that's a result of Heart's own groundbreaking success for women in rock during the '70s.
"I know in so many cases a lot of the women who came up through the singer-songwriter, Lilith Fair era, the earlier Lilith Fair era, did say that we were influences on them," Wilson notes. "It's always flattering. It's the ultimate compliment to be imitated or at least be somebody's influence, for sure."
But she and her sister are less pleased with some previous Heart members -- including co-founders and former boyfriends Roger Fisher and Steve Fossen -- who performed on May 15 at the Synergia Northwest concert in Tacoma, Wash. "It's a little challenging to put up with some of the original lineup guys," she says. "Some of the original guys are trying to look back and trying to recreate something. They had a Heart reunion without Ann and Nancy, and...they were dissing us on the local radio and stuff, saying negative things about me and Ann. What can you do?"