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Steve Fossen
Of Heart Interview;
Heart By Heart
Playing Elyria

Steve Fossen, original bassist and Hall of Fame member of Heart has been out touring the past several years with his band Heart By Heart.  This group features original Heart drummer and co-Hall of Famer Michael DeRosier along with Fossen's wife Somar Macek, guitarist Lizzy Daymont, and guitarist Chad Quist.


The group will be playing in Elyria at the Stocker Arts Center on April 13.  We had the chance to do a Zoom call with Steve to talk about his past, the upcoming show and of course about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

Greg Drugan:  Hey Steve, how are you?  Where are you Zooming me from, are you in the Seattle area?


Steve Fossen:  Yes, I am in the Seattle area and that’s where we call home.


GD:  I was excited to see that you are going to be coming back to the Cleveland area soon.  I got the chance to see you guys perform last year at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, that was a lot of fun.  How many shows do you play in a year?


SF:  We try to do 40-50 in that range.


GD:  Wow, now when you do that are you the weekend warriors type of band that just plays on the weekends?  Or do you hit the road and go out for an extended period of time?


SF:  Typically, it is a Friday, Saturday but we will play during the week.  We don’t have a bus and a van and stuff.  Generally, like we did at the Hall of Fame, they provide all the stuff.  I bring my bass and a microphone and a few other necessary things and off we go.


GD:  So you played the Hall of Fame, I wanted to know what  you thought of the Hall of Fame with all of the updates that they have made and The Garage where people can actually play real instruments?


SF:  Somar and I go there quite often.  We were there for the Inductions in 2021 with the Foo Fighters and a couple other groups, the Go-Go’s.  And Paul McCartney was there which was a big thrill for me.  The last time we were there was the first time they had a Heart exhibit, featuring things from every member so Mike (DeRosier) and I had things in the exhibit. It’s surreal when you walk in and see a big picture of the band behind the exhibit and it featured clothes and instruments.  I had a shirt and a nice Fender bass and DeRosier had a nice outfit and the actual bass drum pedal that he used on “Barracuda.” 

GD:  Yeah, I remember that.  The Hall of Fame is expanding so some of those exhibits can be permanent instead of rotating them out.  That display was pretty cool.  Since we’re on the Hall of Fame, you have actually been a voting member for over a decade.  What do you think of this year's ballot and have you turned it in and who do you look forward to getting in this year?


SF:  I haven’t turned it in yet.  I always try to choose bands that have had an influence on me.  This year, for sure since we toured with Foreigner, Foreigner is a shoe-in for me.  The other ones, I’m looking at it.  I like to go to the last paragraph on the writing of the band that lists the songs that were popular.  If a band doesn’t ring a bell but I look at the songs, then that influences my voting. 


GD:  Is there a band that isn’t on the ballot, I know Foreigner would be a big one for me as well, but is there someone where you say, “man I can’t believe they’re not in the Hall of Fame.”  I think there’s a bunch of band from the ‘70s like Jethro Tull that haven’t gotten in.


SF:  A band that was a big influence on everyone and has one of the best singers on the planet is Bad Company.  It’s a no-brainer for me.  There’s a lot of people that have a big gripe.  I know a lot of people that work at the Hall of Fame and they do the best job that they can.  Once the higher-ups decide who gets nominated, that’s when the Hall of Fame takes over.  They do a very good job.  Even they have personal favorites who they would like to see get inducted.


GD:  Like you say, it is the Hall of Fame and not everyone can get in but I do think there are some glaring omissions. Heck, it even took Heart a long time to get in and you guys were no-brainers. 


SF:  The Hall of Fame didn’t even exist when I started playing.  When Roger (Fisher) and I started the band when we were in high school, we shook hands and said we’re not stopping until we hit the big time.  It came true and then years later when the Hall of Fame came calling.  Let me tell you this, being in the Hall of Fame is a lot better than not being in the Hall of Fame.


GD:  I can imagine!  To finish up with the Hall of Fame, the Inductions are going to be back here in Cleveland this year, do you and Somor have plans to attend this year's induction ceremony?


SF:  It all depends on when it is.  The date has not been announced yet, but if we don’t have plans we will be there.  We really enjoy it.  We’ve been to New York, we’ve been to LA a few times and Cleveland was the most fun out of all three cities.  


GD:  We have the museum!  I think it should be in Cleveland every year!


SF:  The museum with the night before party with everyone, all the trustees and fans walking around with all the food, it’s really fun.  We walked out the door and went to our hotel which is right across the street from the Hall of Fame, grabbed a couple of chicken sandwiches from one of your famous food trucks, went out on the balcony and looked at the Hall of Fame.  That was a pretty good day. 

GD:  That sounds like a perfect day for sure.  Looking back on your career, when you and Roger Fisher first formed Heart back in the ‘60s, did you imagine that you would have a female singer and female guitarist in the band or did you think it was going to be another guy group?


SF:  To tell you the truth, it never crossed my mind.  Roger and I were very dedicated, very driven and very focused.  Sometimes that may be annoying, so we found ourselves without a band.  So we were looking at each other and put in add in the paper saying we were looking for a singer and a drummer and another guitar player.  We got a call from the guitar player and call back from the singer who happened to be Ann Wilson and she had a male singer who was her partner and a drummer.  We never thought that we wanted a guy, we just wanted a good musician.  We went to the drummers house and had a good audition.  The male singer was good and the guitar player was good and of course Ann was good so we put together a band that was called Heart, but then for some reason we changed the name to Hocus Pocus for summer, fall and winter.  


During that time is when Ann met Mike Fisher and they had a relationship, and they were living in Vancouver, British Columbia at the time.  After Christmas, we decided to emigrate to Vancouver.  At the time, the economy wasn’t that good here because of the Vietnam war but in Vancouver the economy was booming.  It was one of the few times the Canadian dollar was with more than the American dollar.  So the three of us went there but the rest of Hocus Pocus didn’t want to go.  


GD:  Do you remember the first time you heard your song on the radio and where you were?


SF:  I know exactly where I was.  I had an apartment in British Columbia and we had played the night before at Starvin’ Marvin’s.  Back then we played four or five sets.  Half way through the show, the record company people came in and told us that this radio station was going to play our song “Magic Man” on the radio.  I listened to the radio all day long and pretty soon, I had to get something to eat and get a shower because we had to play Starvin’ Marvin’s later that night. So I get in the shower, I’m soaking wet, head to toe and bam, “Magic Man” comes on. So I ran down the hall, I don’t even think I grabbed a towel!  I heard myself on the radio, completely naked in my living room. It was one of the most thrilling moments in my life. 


GD:  It’s unbelievable that Dreamboat Annie is going to 50 next year.


SF:  Yeah, in 1975 it was released in Canada and ‘76 in America.


GD:  Does it seem like fifty years? I can’t imagine that it does.


SF:  Oh, yeah!  It feels like a lot longer! (laughs)  Actually, when I think about it, I can remember sitting in the studio and recording “Crazy On You” it was on a sunny day, warm outside, early summer.  I’m sure I was wearing a tank top.  One thing thing (producer) Mike Flicker said, “Ok, I want you to pay attention here because you’re going to be listening to this for the rest of your life.”   I said, “I hope so.”  Of course, “Crazy On You” is a staple on classic rock radio.


GD:  Yeah, the whole Dreamboat Annie album is great.


SF:  It’s a sonic wonderment. 


GD:  Who were some of the bands that you opened for and who were some that ended up opening for you?  And do you have a favorite tour that you did with Heart?


SF:  The first year we were touring, we were opening up a lot because we were promoting Dreamboat Annie.  That was a lot of fun, we did 150 dates that year. We started out in March and ended up in the middle of December in Europe.  We opened up for Nazareth all throughout Europe.  It was so much fun and education as to how to be a rock band on big stages. After that we did Little Queen tours and that was fun because of “Barracuda.”  All of those tours were fun and so magical.  


GD:   You mentioned touring with Foreigner, was that the Dog and Butterfly Tour?


SF:   There were several different years that we were together, but maybe the Dog and Butterfly Tour we were together a bit more.  


GD:  How could you compare touring in the ‘70s to touring today?


SF:  The very first tour we had a van, so we just had our luggage and us in the van.  Then we graduated to a bus, a big tour bus with bunks and they had TV’s! Can you believe it?  Then we graduated to a King Air plane, it was a very nice plane but it wasn’t quite big enough.  Then we got a very nice plane with our name on the side.  That was really something. 


GD:  So you had a lot of ups and then some downs.  You and Michael left the band at the same time, what did you do in the later part of the ‘80s, did you stay in the music business?


SF:  I did stay in the music business. I had a band around here that was very popular in the Seattle and Tacoma area.  We got a couple of invitations to tour Japan.  I did that for four or five years and after that, I took some years off.  Then we got a call from a management company who was managing a band called Sheriff.  They wanted Roger, Mike and I to join a band called Alias. So we were with them for three or four years.  That was a lot of fun, we got to play on The Tonight Show, one time it was with Johnny Carson and the other was with Jay Leno.  To say I played the Tonight Show twice!

GD:  That is really cool, I didn’t know that.  So what made you decide to say, I want to go back and do the old songs that made me famous and forming Heart By Heart?  And where did you end up eventually finding your wife?


SF:  One day I got a call and they wanted Roger, Mike and I to play some Heart songs.  We knew having a singer would be a big challenge.  They said, “we have a singer.”  Her name was Somar. On the promo stuff they sent us, her name was spelled Summer.  We thought, she’s a flower child from some hippies.  When we met, her name is spelled Somar and she’s a totally different kind of person.  We went through rehearsal and I thought she sounded great, we did the show and it was really fun.  After the show I said lets maybe exchange phone numbers.  By December we were a couple.  She’s a very good singer.  She’s been singing since she was a toddler.  She’s always been singing.  She actually got a vocal scholarship to Central Washington University.  She’s very accomplished.  She didn’t sing in a rock band but she did sing karaoke, and one of the songs she sang was “Alone.”   Everybody loved it.  We started doing bass and vocals a dinner parties and then went to bistro’s.  We said we need to think of a name and we wanted Heart in it.  Then one day, Somar called me and said, Heart By Heart and I thought that was perfect.  


GD:  You guys are going to be playing in Elyria on April 13, what can fans expect from the show.


SF:  We try to keep the sound as close to the ‘70s as possible. We don’t do the customs like a tribute type band, we are more like a spin-off.  Our main goal is to present the songs in a way that people remember what it was like the first time they heard them.  We really stick to the originals, but we do rock it up.  


GD:  You also throw in some songs from the ‘80.  It’s funny you mentioned that Somar sang “Alone” as a karaoke because that’s in your set along with some other tunes.


SF:  Yeah, we love playing those songs.  It’s our homage to what they did too.  They kept the heart beating, so to speak.  That’s what we are doing too.  We are keeping Heart in the hearts of the fans we play for. 


GD:  Do you have a favorite song to play live when you play out?


SF:  It was the very first song I recorded for Dreamboat Annie, and it was the very first song that I heard on the radio which was “Magic Man” it really gives me a thrill.  “Magic Man” has a special place in my heart.


GD:  It is going to be fifty years since Dreamboat Annie, is there any talk of perhaps doing an original lineup reunion and going out and playing that album?


SF: Well, there’s certain people that talk about it and there’s certain people who put the kibosh on it.   You can probably guess which ones put the kibosh on it.  I think that the main obstacle for Heart doing a reunion is Nancy Wilson. 


GD:  Wow!  I know there has been some tension between the sisters recently but they are touring this summer.  They are the only two who have ever been in Heart and the rest is a brand new band.


SF:  Yeah it is, It’s Ann’s band that she’s been touring with for the past year and a half. The tension is still there between the two of them but someone talked them into whatever.  (laughs)


GD:  Hey, financially I’m sure it’s a lot easier to go out as Heart than it is to go out as Nancy Wilson.  


SF:  For sure.  I don’t want to sound like sour grapes because I know there’s a ton of people that would love to see the original band again.  Judging from the first rehearsal we did for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The first time we played “Crazy On You” it could have been recorded, it was absolutely perfect.  Even though Mike DeRosie and Roger Fisher are co-writers on “Barracuda” they would not allow us to play it. 


GD:  That’s unbelievable!


SF:  That’s what I say!


GD:  I give you guys a lot of credit because a lot of bands don’t reform for the Rock Hall but you guys put your differences aside and performed at least one song.  I know Cheap Trick did the same thing with Bun E. but some bands like Kiss were like “I’m not playing with those guys.” What I’m saying is fans appreciate you.


SF:  Yeah, you have to be a little bit strategic and have to do what’s best for the fans and what’s best for us.  We were thrown that bone and we made the most of it.

GD:  You know that there is a big Heart following in the Cleveland area so I am going to get the word out and make sure people come to Elyria and hear some Heart music by two of the guys that recorded it.  


SF:  I appreciate it.  


Be sure to check out Heart By Heart in Elyria at the Stocker Arts Center on April 13.  The show starts at 7:30 and tickets start at $33. 

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