Steve Fossen has always loved music, ever since he was allowed to choose what records to play at home as a young boy. He still plays bass guitar, listens to all types of music, from classical to classic rock, and describes himself as “an avid downloader of good music.”
Fossen is the founding bassist of the bands Heart and Heart By Heart, which also features original Heart drummer Michael DeRosier. Both were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013 as members of Heart.
The band had a string of timeless hits including “Magic Man,” “Dreamboat Annie,” “Crazy on You,” “Barracuda,” “These Dreams” and more.
Heart By Heart will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27, at the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St. in DeKalb. For tickets and more information, visit www.egyptiantheatredekalb.org.
Fossen spoke to MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton about Heart, forming Heart By Heart and his continuous love of rock ’n’ roll music.
Milton: How did the band Heart form?
Fossen: Back in junior high, I met Roger Fisher, the original guitar player for Heart. In high school, we both got instruments. Junior year of high school, we formed a band that we originally called The Army. Then the name changed to White Heart, then Heart. The summer of 1971, we placed an ad in the paper for a singer. Ann Wilson was the singer that answered the ad.
Milton: What happened next?
Fossen: In the fall and winter of ’71, we traveled and played in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. During that time, Ann met and fell in love with Mike, Roger’s older brother. He lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, so we emigrated up there. Ann’s sister, Nancy, joined the band and we hired a couple of musicians and played in the Vancouver area. We were one of the top bands in the area at that time.
Milton: What was your first big break?
Fossen: We recorded our first album, “Dreamboat Annie,” with the song “Magic Man” on it, through Mushroom Records. The song became very popular on Canadian radio stations, and since there is no border with radio waves, people in America started listening to the song and started loving it, too. One thing led to another, and we had a tour of Canada and America in 1976. November and December of 1976, we went to Europe, we opened up for Nazareth. We took a few months off and recorded the album “Little Queen,” with the song “Barracuda.” It was very popular, and before you know it, we were doing our own shows as a headliner.
Milton: Did you think you’d make it big at that time?
Fossen: Making it big was always our hope and dream and the goal in our minds. We were very driven, focused and hardworking people. We had our eye on the ball. We obviously had fun, too, but we wanted to achieve our dreams. We kept our eye on the prize and kept working and working. Our lucky break was making the first album. Very few bands at that time had that opportunity and they had a very limited budget. Mushroom Records agreed to finance the record for us, so we recorded it and made it.
Milton: What do you think led to the band’s success?
Fossen: I think it was because we were so experienced. We were playing at lots of clubs, so by the time “Dreamboat Annie” came out, we were a well-oiled machine. We were looking and sounding professional. We had a lot of charisma and stage presence, people really loved our performances and our music. Soon, we were playing big shows, selling out arenas. We performed during Cal Jam II in Ontario for 300,000 people and in Boston for 300,000 people.
Milton: Tell me more about Heart By Heart.
Fossen: Heart By Heart is a spin-off band, technically considered a tribute band. Mike [Derosier], the band’s original drummer, and I were original members of Heart. We’re no longer in the original band. Ann and Nancy perform as Heart and now hire the band’s members. Heart By Heart consists of Mike on the drums, me on bass, our singer Somar [Macek], Lizzy [Daymont], our acoustic guitarist, keyboardist and singer and talented guitarist Chad [Quist]. We consider ourselves a nostalgia act. We go places and play the music the way it was recorded and played in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
Milton: Why form Heart By Heart?
Fossen: The music is still very popular and on classic rock stations. Mike and I had a great time recording the songs in the first place, and we still enjoy playing the songs. We loved our experience in Heart, and we love playing the music with Heart By Heart. It’s a no brainer, really.
Milton: What were some experiences you had touring?
Fossen: Back in the day, the band opened up for The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones. We met the Stones and hung out with them. We toured Canada, America and Japan. It was a great experience for a guy that grew up north of Seattle. It was a wonderful time to be making music. We played on the “Old Grey Whistle Test,” played with Captain and Tennille, Brian May. We hung out with Queen before we recorded “Dreamboat Annie.” Led Zeppelin came to a club we were playing at. It was amazing. Looking back, I wonder, “How does this even happen?”
Milton: How do you think it all happened?
Fossen: What I found true was that being a musician takes a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifice. There’s a lot of really, really talented musicians that can’t do the sacrifices it takes to move forward. But if you want to make it big, you have got to keep going. You have to figure out what kind of music you want to play and be with musicians you like that have that music in their psyche. That’s what makes the music special.
Milton: What do you think makes Heart’s music special?
Fossen: At the time, there were so many good bands. It’s important to be good as players and for the players to be a group. You have to make a cohesive product and sound good, play good, together. You have to have that spark, whatever it is. We had it, we took that spark and transferred it to our recording process. It’s that spark that ignites people’s interest. There are quite a few artists nowadays that have that spark, too.
Milton: What can fans expect from your show?
Fossen: During our set, we touch on as many popular songs of Heart as we can, as well as a couple of songs on deeper album cuts. We perform the music as faithfully as we can to the original recordings. Many audience members have seen Heart in the past, and they said they experience what it was like to attend one of our shows back in the day. They get to bring their kids and grandkids and show them what it was like. Our motto is to do our best every night, and so far, we’ve done that. … I’m grateful for fans that enjoyed the music, gave us some kudos and are introducing our music to the younger generations as well. … Fans can also come to our meet-and-greet after the show. We enjoy meeting people, signing albums and shirts.
Milton: Is Heart By Heart working on anything now?
Fossen: We’re working on brand new songs. We’re writing new music and are working on an album. The modern music business is very different. I’m really proud of our new music, I can’t wait to get it done and present it to everybody. There’s a saying in music that “the red light is on.” It means that you’re recording in the recording studio. It feels good for the red light to be on again.
Milton: Has music always been important to you?
Fossen: My parents gave my sister and me free reign over the turntable. Through the years, I’ve assembled a great record collection. From records and turntables to cassettes and CDs, the way we listen to music has changed through the years. I still keep my turntable set up, so I can play an album whenever I want to. … I keep up with modern music and enjoy new songs. I’m an avid downloader of good music. I support all kinds of music, from classical to classic rock, even new music. I love good music, I seek it out, download it, listen to it.