Gary James' Interview With Julie Torchin Of
Heart Alive and Fleetwood Nicks
Julie Torchin portrays Nancy Wilson in the Heart tribute group, Heart Alive. She's shared the stage with the likes of Paul Rodgers, Grand Funk, Three Dog Night, Joan Jett, and the list goes on and on. She's performed at Comisky Park, Vic Theatre, Navy Pier The House Of Blues, Fremont Street, and the OC Pavilion to name a few.
Julie Torchin spoke with us about Heart Alive.
Q - Julie, you're not only in a Heart tribute band, but a Fleetwood Mac tribute band as well?
A - Yes. I've been performing our Fleetwood Mac tribute probably 15 years. We were back in Chicago a long time ago and we started out as Mirage and we did a Fleetwood Mac and Heart together as one show. Every other song was Fleetwood Mac, every other song was Heart. Then we moved it out here (Nevada) and we were Wild Heart for a long time and we decided as of 2011 to focus more on Fleetwood Mac as a show in their prime and we changed our name to Fleetwood Nicks.
Q - Where is there more of a demand for, a Heart tribute band or a Fleetwood Mac tribute band?
A - I find it to be really just equal. We've had success as much with one as the other. It's just been really great. We have been doing the Fleetwood Mac one for a longer time, but Heart Alive took off right away. Once it was born, it was almost like it was meant to be, getting some great venues. We played Fremont Street with both bands actually for a whole week this last Summer. We came back with Heart Alive and were the only tribute band that was local, everybody else was from all over the country that played on New Years Eve. We had two sold-out shows at the Cannery Casino. Heart Alive has just taken off so much faster, but I think both shows are equally as strong and popular because everyone loves Fleetwood Mac too. It's like everywhere I go, they go "Hello Fleetwood Mac." (laughs) We all love performing both shows.
Q - Is this a group you put together or did you join an existing group?
A - Well, I put together the Fleetwood Mac tribute band back in Chicago and I put it all together when we moved back here. Heart Alive was actually founded by Mike Alcini, our former drummer. He put an ad in Craig's List and I just happened to be looking for something else, nothing to do with music and I somehow ran across his ad and I said "Oh, wow! I gotta jump on this!" I met him and we just hit it off. We had such passion for Heart because Heart is my favorite band and it's his too. We both have the same birthday as Nancy Wilson, so it's kind of funny. (laughs) We kind of co-formed the band and everybody just wanted to be onboard. My husband plays lead guitar in both bands. He plays Lindsay Buckingham in Fleetwood Nicks. I told him this guy I met, Mike Alcini, wants to get a Heart tribute together and he's like, "Oh, yeah. Let's do that." Then I asked Dave Davis, our drummer in Fleetwood Nicks. I said "would you like to do this Heart tribute?" He said "Yeah. I'd really like to play lead guitar and the Roger Fisher part." I said "That's awesome." And pretty soon we just had this whole band together. Then I called Mike back and said "I'm gonna make your day. (laughs) You don't have to search anymore. I have a whole band ready to go." This is how it started and the coolest thing is we found such an amazing singer for Heart Alive, Valerie James. She's such a wonderful person too. She has such a great stage presence. We just gel all really well. The vibe is really good in the band. So, I think the audience picks up on that. So, she's the lead singer in Heart Alive and she's dong the Christine McVie parts in the Fleetwood Nicks tribute. Mike is no longer with us, but we had an amazing couple years with him and we still keep in touch.
Q - You got some package deal you're offering there!
A - I know. It kind of is. There's another musician in town, his name is Doug. He's a really good guitar player. He just goes "I just want to be part of this machine. This is just a machine!" I said "Oh my God, that's so cute. It's so funny." But I just want to mention something about Valerie that is so amazing. She was under so much pressure to get all this material. There's a lot of material 'cause our catalog, it's both 3 hours of Fleetwood Mac and then 3 hours of Heart that we know. She had a very short amount of time that she had to get prepared for this and she just had 2 newborn babies at home and you know how babies keep you up all night long and she has a very high paced career job. She's like Wonder Woman. She's just amazing to me. She basically saved our band because we had issues with our first singer out here and we parted ways. She just came in and learned all the stuff right away and was under all this pressure. She's just wonderful and I just wanted to mention we love Valerie. (laughs)
Q - How about the other guys in the band. What should we know about them?
A - Danny Buss (our bass player) toured opening for Deep Purple all over the world back in the '90s. Danny and I have been in a band together since back in Chicago and he's an amazing bassist. Todd Rogers (our keyboardist) has an amazing career playing with many national acts--as well as being the former keyboardist for Vegas's most popular classic rock cover band "Yellow Brick Road" which he did for years. We're thrilled to have Todd on board. Aaron Olson (our drummer) is without a doubt one of the best drummers in Vegas, so we're very fortunate to have him on board too. Heart is very demanding on drums--and he nails it.
Q - So what's the scene like in Las Vegas for groups like yours?
A - There's not that many venues here for tributes. We find ourselves playing out of town a lot more actually.
Q - What does "out of town" mean? How do you travel?
A - We've toured as far East as Chicago. We haven't gone really far out yet. I'd like to go to Connecticut and all that area. But we've gone to Oregon. We've gone to Texas, California and Arizona. Staying more in the Western states. We'd really like to get back to Chicago because we have so many fans back there. We want to get back there as much as possible. This summer we had a mini Midwest tour--performing in IL, MI and IN
Q - Have you ever met Nancy Wilson or Stevie Nicks?
A - I did shake hands with Stevie once. I didn't officially meet her, but I went up in the front row and we shook hands. I met Mick Fleetwood. I have a signed picture disc of Ann and Nancy Wilson and Howard Leese. I met Howard Leese because our band in Chicago opened for Paul Rodgers. Howard Leese was playing guitar for him. So, Howard just hung out with us all night. He was so sweet. We were just talking everything Heart. It was just really cool. If I could meet anybody it would be Nancy Wilson. She's been my idol forever. They all seem like really cool people. Real genuine people. I'm just honored to be able to do the music that I love so much. It's just like I love these two bands so much, it's so cool to be able to do these particular bands and have the opportunities we do.
Q - You've opened for quite a few national acts. How did that happen?
A - Our first break, shall I say, was opening for Cheap Trick. It's funny how we got it. We were playing this place in Chicago and there was a downstairs basement bar and stage and there was the upstairs that was a big, huge room. They have national acts play there too. Anyway, the deal was the owners were kind of creeps and said "you have to pay your dues and play down in the basement three times and then we'll bring you upstairs." So we did and come the fourth time when we were gonna get our gig there they said "Oh, no. You have to play the basement again." We were all mad and we almost didn't play. We finally said "OK, we'll do it one more time" and thank God we did, because when we were down there, a woman walked in and she just loved us. (Or she loved Danny's 3ft of hair haha) She was the one who booked us opening for Cheap Trick. The next year we opened for Grand Funk and Paul Rodgers and Howard Leese. We did some other festivals where we were opening for Joan Jett and other people. Jim Peterik is a really cool guy. We've done a lot of benefits with him. Jim Peterik from The Ides Of March and he wrote all the Survivor songs.
Q - Have the Wilson sisters or Stevie Nicks seen videos of your bands online?
A - I don't know. Well, Howard Leese knows about us, but that was way back in Chicago. I actually have been in touch with Roger Fisher and have invited him out and he said he would love to come out and join us onstage and he has done that with a couple of other tributes that are up in the area 'cause I guess he's up in Seattle. I know he told me if he's down in Vegas and we're playing, he's gonna hop onstage with us, so we're really excited for that moment if it happens. I would really love to sing with Lindsay Buckingham. I would like to do a Stevie song with him. That would be too much fun!