Gary James' Interview With Lizann Warner Of
The Ultimate Heart Tribute Band
Dog 'n' Butterfly
When it comes to Heart tribute bands, people really praise Dog 'n' Butterfly. None other than Ann and Nancy Wilson have said "What a truly dedicated tribute band. We are truly honored, humbled and proud!" Gary Crow, D.J. at KZOK in Seattle, and personal friend of Ann and Nancy Wilson, said "If you cannot have Heart, they are the next best thing!" Former Heart manager Roger Fisher said of Dog 'n' Butterfly: "I feel honored to be part of a band that could inspire such a deep-felt delivery and honest reproduction." Syndicated radio personality Uncle Joe Benson said: "Dog 'n' Butterfly is one of the best tribute bands I've ever seen."
Well, by now you got the message - Dog 'n' Butterfly is really good! Lizann Warner, who performs as Ann Wilson, talked with us about her group.
Q - Ann and Nancy Wilson have seen your show and have only good things to say about it.
A - Yeah, well, they've seen videos of us. They themselves have not actually been to our show. We have mutual friends and have actually played with some of the members of Heart. We got to perform with Roger Fisher, the original guitarist who co-wrote "Barracuda" and also Steve Fossen, the original bassist, at one of our shows in Washington. They came up and joined us for the last five songs in our show and surprised the audience. It was awesome! And for a frozen moment in time, it was like really being in Heart! But Ann and Nancy have seen photos and heard tracks and they were really impressed with just the details we've done.
Q - When you say details, you're referring to not only the singing but I'm guessing your costumes.
A - Yeah, they were really blown away by the photograph re-make we did of what we call the "Faux Little Queen" album cover. It's kind of a pretty famous shot, the "Little Queen" album cover shot. It's them kind of like dressed as gypsies and the other members of the band are kind of behind them. There's like a gypsy wagon and I guess a horse and they're kind of in a forest and they're dressed in these Renaissance gypsy outfits. We went so far as to do kind of like, I can't think of the words, something and then a hunt. We studied the cover and then everybody was assigned to find specific items that were on the cover, whether it be clothes or props. We got all the stuff and did a photo shoot and it looks pretty good. They really liked that. Even Michael Derosier, he came to one of our shows, that's the drummer, and he actually requested a copy of the photograph, autographed 'cause he really liked it.
Q - To have the Wilson sisters give you such high praise, that is the ultimate recommendation for the band, isn't it?
A - Definitely. I think so, yeah. I'm still waiting for more quotes from her because a friend of mine who's a DJ has a show out in the Palm Desert area and also an internet television program, Brad Mercer. Anyway, he has interviewed Ann Wilson within the last year and he has spoken to her about us. He keeps promising to send me the information 'cause he said she had lot of really nice things to say. So, they're very aware of who we are and they seem to be pretty pleased with the job we're doing.
Q - What does Heart get out of a tribute band like Dog 'n' Butterfly? It's promoting Heart?
A - I would think so. For one thing, being that Heart is still out there touring, when we first put our tribute together, they really weren't playing as much. They've had a bit of a resurgence in their career in the last five years and they've been out touring a lot more. But our band has always done just '70s and '80s. We don't do anything current, so I'm feeling and I hope they would concur, that we don't compete too much with what they're doing. We kind of keep the love alive, so to speak, (laughs) for the old material. We emulate the older style of dress and the older songs. We're more like trying to re-create the concert experience that you might have if you were to see Heart back in the day. While we do that, we're usually during the concert talking to audience members about the songs and how they were conceived, who participated in the writing of it, what album it's come from. So, that kind of gives the audience an education on the songs and the material. I'm hoping that in the process, that we are reaching an audience that might not be as familiar with Heart as I was growing up and maybe they're going to run out and get some albums. We highly encourage a lot of the audience members to buy an album from Heart, to check out this song from whatever album it's from. I do get e-mails from people, younger people who saw us, perhaps caught us at a festival or a casino and they'll say stuff like "my mom listened to it once in awhile, but I never really listened to it, but after I saw your show I went out and bought an album." I hear that quite a bit actually, so I think it does help to kind of do a little advertising or promotion for Heart.
Q - You put this band together in 2003?
A - Yeah in the mid to late 2003. I had always been compared to Ann Wilson vocally. I used to have several original bands before that and more often than not I would get kind of a compliment, but kind of a critique, that I sound a little bit too much like Ann Wilson. So it kind of didn't bode too well for my original music career. People would say "she sounds too much like Ann Wilson," which isn't good when you're trying to do original music 'cause you're supposed to sound original. (laughs)
Q - But Dog 'n' Butterfly is the first tribute band you were in, correct?
A - Yeah. What happened was, after years of being compared so much to her, I got this wild idea about why maybe not fighting it. Actually, it was my current drummer Dave who said, 'cause I had been playing in a cover band with him, "why don't you do a tribute to Ann Wilson, a tribute to Heart?" I thought, wow! That's kind of a brilliant idea. (laughs) So, several of the guys I had been playing with, including Dave, we put it together and I came up with a concept and everybody was onboard with it. So, I put it together in 2003. It took a little while to audition girls for the Nancy position. That was a little harder to fill. But we managed to do that. By the end of 2003 we were up and running.
Q - How much work is there for Dog 'n' Butterfly? How many gigs a year do you play?
A - It varies. Probably about once a month. Sometimes once every other month. It just depends. Sometimes more than that. Sometimes less. Certain times of the year, usually winter is kind of slow. Spring and summer is when it starts to pick up.
Q - So, I take it you don't play bars. You play more special event type gigs?
A - Yeah. Our band is a little more discriminating than some bands as far as the venues we play. We don't usually do any type of show where there's pre-show tickets or a percentage of the door. We generally perform for concert venues, festivals, casinos. Things like that.
Q - You can sing like Cher, Stevie Nicks, Pat Benatar and Cyndi Lauper to name just a few.
A - Yeah.
Q - But you settled on Ann Wilson of Heart.
A - I wouldn't say I settled, but would say for now the tribute band I have is a Heart tribute band. I do perform in Vegas shows. I do other voices in other productions.
Q - Do you try to look like these people as well?
A - Sometimes. it depends on the show. I've done a couple of shows where I've portrayed Marilyn Monroe. I've done a couple of shows and dressed up and performed as Pat Benatar like in a Vegas show I did not that long ago in 2009, or early 2010. I wore the wig and the whole outfit. I do if I can, but some of the shows I do I just look like myself and usually just a simple prop is sufficient. People usually recognize right off whose voice I'm doing, so I don't necessarily have to look like them.
Q - Is there anything the world should know about Lizann Warner?
A - I don't know if you know my voice is on Guitar Hero Three, the game. I also have a couple of television commercials currently and in the daytime I sing for the elderly at hospitals.
Q - Would I have seen and heard those television commercials?
A - Oh, yeah. There's one currently on CNN, Fox News. It's for Sandal's Resorts. They have commercials running all the time on those stations. The one I'm singing on is the one that's got the song "My Blue Heaven". They requested someone who could sound like Norah Jones and I actually recorded the song for them like three or four times because the first recording they actually, and I'm not saying this to float my boat or anything, said I sounded too much like her and were concerned that she might be upset. So, they actually asked me to sound a little like her, but a little less like her. (laughs)
Q - So, you're always singing somewhere, aren't' you?
A - I actually just sing. That's all I do. That's only because I totally changed my perspective. It's the one thing my parents told me that I would like to tell all kids. This is the one thing if your parents tell you this, not to listen: When your parents tell you get a day job or don't quit the day job, that really ended up being the one thing my parents steered me wrong on, not because they didn't love me, they were concerned. They didn't think music could be something that somebody could do for a living. They said it's a nice hobby. And that's how I pursued it for twenty plus years. I worked day jobs, struggling at this and struggling at that and just singing on the weekend. It wasn't until about ten years ago (2001) after so many years of struggling at go-nowhere day jobs, that I decided I'm not going to treat my music like a hobby anymore. And the minute I switched gears and put my focus on music as my career and changed my focus, changed my perception and no longer saw music as a hobby, the minute I started doing that, it completely changed everything in my life. My music started being my income and it was just change of the mindset.
Q - Maybe things changed for you because there's more work in music where you live?
A - Nope. What I did was I just looked for work that was music or singing related. I started searching the internet. One of the things I thought about was Karaoke companies and noticed they had demos, like a demo voice singing on a Karaoke CD. There's usually somebody demoing the song. It's not the singer, but it's usually somebody who can sound a little like the singer. So, I started Googling through the internet just randomly, trying to find Karaoke manufacturers. Then I contacted them and asked them "who does your recording? Who does the singing for your recordings?" Through just trial and error and searching, I was able to find companies and because I have a home studio, they sent me music and asked me to sing on it and I recorded on it and sent it back. That's a job I totally found for myself. I never met anybody else that does it. Another job is called Vocal Downloads that I do, where companies that need a voice, producers will buy vocal tracks that they could use in Rap or other types of music where they do quick vocal dubbing, like just a particular sound of a voice and they want to use it in loops. I do tracks they can buy off the internet. They're all music jobs. But I do sing at restaurants too on weekends and whatever else I can find.
Q - Do you use tracks when you perform as a solo artist?
A - Yeah. When I perform at restaurants I usually perform to tracks or I perform with a pianist.
Q - How about the commercials? How did you get them?
A - I actually got the commercials in a round-about way through my job singing for Karaoke companies as a demo singer. One of the producers for one of the companies that I do vocals for, he does music for several different Karaoke production companies and I had done many tracks for him for Karaoke. He had a commercial opportunity come up where he needed a voice and they needed a girl who could sound like Norah Jones and then I got the job. (laughs) Then from that job I got another job from Flip-out sandals, which are cute little shoes that were recently featured on The Today Show. I do a jingle thing for them. It's word of mouth mostly. I don't have an agent. Even with Dog 'n' Butterfly, I've never found an agent that will work for us like I will. There's so many band and I think agents are just so inundated with so many different bands to book and so many things, it's really hard to stay in their sights to get booked all the time by them. So, you just can't sit around, you gotta find the gigs yourself.
Q - Lizann, how do you keep this band together if you're not playing out all that often? Shouldn't you be playing regularly?
A - Yes and no. With a tribute band, because you're playing a lot of the same material, you would exhaust your audience, same place every month or week. It's not the same as a cover band. When you do a cover band, yeah, you'd be out there playing a lot. But everybody in this band, they're all pro musicians. My female guitar player, Courtney, she has a business teaching music. She teaches piano and guitar and she also performs as a solo artist on Thursdays and Fridays. My guitar player, Sean, he also performs for the elderly during the day, but he also has his own recording studio and his own record label and he produces other bands. So, everybody in the band is working. Dog 'n' Butterfly is something we do for love. I wouldn't say we do it necessarily for profit, although we get paid handsomely when we do perform, and we perform about once a week, I should say about once a month. But we also make a lot more than most cover bands. There's like a couple other Heart tributes out here that probably work a lot more often than we do, but unfortunately they're kind of selling themselves. They don't really make a lot of money. They have to try and sell tickets. I don't want to be critical, but some of them aren't as good as others. Some of them don't really take the time to dress the part of even cast members in the line-up that even resemble the people in the band.