NANCY WILSON Says 'It Was Really Obvious' LAYNE STALEY Wasn't Going To Overcome His Drug Addiction

May 6, 2021

"You And Me", the debut solo album from HEART's Nancy Wilson, includes the song "The Dragon", which was originally written for ALICE IN CHAINS' Layne Staley nearly three decades ago. She told Holland's FaceCulture about the track (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I wrote that song so long ago, in the early '90s, when I was friends — I still am friends — with ALICE IN CHAINS guys and all the Seattle explosion, all of my buddies in Seattle. It was a song that never really worked inside of the HEART format — it just didn't live as a HEART song; it just didn't really work for HEART for some unknown reason. So later when I was on hiatus from HEART for a couple of years and I made my other band called ROADCASE ROYALE, we were recording an album and we put 'The Dragon' on that album. The album was called 'First Things First'. And it was really a great song, and I thought it finally found a good home on that album. And the guy from the record company at the time, when I was doing this new album, he said, 'Would you please put 'The Dragon' on this album?' because he loved the version that we did with ROADCASE ROYALE. I said, 'I'm happy to do that song on my solo album too.' It's just a song that finally found its place to live. It's finally in a good home; that song found its home."

Asked if she saw Layne's death coming before he succumbed to addiction in 2002, Nancy said: "Yeah. It was a very interesting situation in the early '90s in Seattle, because there were a lot of those guys around that time which were all battling with their own addictions. Even Chris Cornell later, as it turned out, he had his own issues later on. But that was the time. And Layne Staley was one sweetheart of a person who you could really see his weakness for his addiction and how much it appeared, from a distance, that he was not gonna survive it. And it took a long, long time, but it was really obvious that he was not going to win that contest. So that's why I wrote the song at the time when he was still around; I wrote it then."

According to Nancy, Layne never got a chance to hear the song before his passing. "It was too personal," she explained. "I shared it with [ALICE IN CHAINS guitarist/vocalist] Jerry Cantrell, who's a great friend of mine, and I said, 'I still wanna finish the song. This song needs another part.' And I played it for him a couple of different times in a few different situations. I think he just didn't wanna be part of it because it was too painful for him — 'cause Layne was his brother mainly. So I just figured out how to finish it on my own, and it finally found its home."

"You And Me" will be released on May 7 via Carry On Music. The LP was recorded primarily in Wilson's California home studio, working with band members and special guests remotely. Most of the tracks are originals, but Wilson decided to include a handful of covers by a few of her favorites, including a female perspective of PEARL JAM's "Daughter", a stirring turn of SIMON & GARFUNKEL's "The Boxer" featuring Sammy Hagar, and an ethereal cover of THE CRANBERRIES' "Dreams", featuring Warfield. The other eight tracks are originals, mostly acoustic ballads, but there are also some rousing rockers like "Party At The Angel Ballroom" which features a superstar backing band, including Duff McKagan of GUNS N' ROSES and Taylor Hawkins of the FOO FIGHTERS. The album ends with a song that captures the full spectrum of loss, love and redemption in one instrumental coda. Titled "4 Edward", it is Nancy's tribute to Eddie Van Halen, whose 2020 loss still looms large over music. The title track "You And Me", as with several of the songs on the album, reunites Wilson with longtime collaborator Sue Ennis, who co-wrote many of HEART's classics with Nancy and sister Ann.

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