Fleetwood Mac’s gold dust woman has grown up. A Q&A with Stevie Nicks
By Jac Chebatoris
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
During the height of Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks would stay up all night via the band’s infamous “velvet bags” of cocaine. She was also addicted for years to Klonopin, an anti-anxiety drug.
NOW 55 YEARS OLD and at the start of a new tour with the Mac, Nicks keeps earlier hours. If she can’t sleep, she gets on the treadmill instead of taking a pill. A big night for her might include friends—Sheryl Crow’s now a close pal—coming over for dinner and poring over fashion magazines. Nicks is hoping Crow and the other “rock-star women” that came after her can learn from some of her lessons. “They know that I went through all the bad parts and I really tell them the truth and I love all those girls, I really do,” Nicks says. “And I love the fact that they care about me and they’re like all my daughters that I didn’t get to have.”
That’s right, the once hot-rockin’ mama is now more like a den mother. She still has the flowing lace scarves and skirts and the distinct rasp (though she now takes voice lessons, which she started in 1997), but Nicks has something new, too: a softness that comes with the wisdom of age. “The fact that we even managed to get to this point is amazing,” says Nicks.
Back in the Mac’s heyday, the band’s chemistry made for good music and great drama. After joining the already-formed group as a couple, Nicks and guitar player Lindsey Buckingham famously busted up during the recording of “Rumours” in 1977 (think about that and then go listen to “Go Your Own Way”). Then there was Nicks’s brief affair with married drummer Mick Fleetwood. And don’t forget the just-part-of-the-lifestyle constant flow of drugs and alcohol that kept the party going. It seemed sure that even though they had been the ones to sing “Don’t Stop,” they would eventually have to.
Fleetwood Mac last recorded a CD of original music back in 1987 and remained largely estranged for many years. They reunited for President Clinton’s inaugural celebration in 1993 and in 1997 put out a live album, “The Dance,” which was followed by a reunion tour. The band’s new CD, “Say Will Will” (Reprise), includes songs from both Nicks and Buckingham. The group—sans keyboardist Christine McVie, who opted out of the band’s latest effort—is presently on a 40-city tour. Nicks found some time to phone in for a few questions from NEWSWEEK’s Jac Chebatoris:
NEWSWEEK: Your voice sounds incredible on this album. How have you maintained it?
Stevie Nicks: Well, I’ve been taking voice lessons since 1997, and if I had been taking voice lessons my entire life, I never would have had all those bad nights where people wrote that I was singing horribly. That’s the reason why—nobody really told us—the reason you’re losing your voice is because you’re not singing right and people aren’t meant to sing four nights in a row, a three-hour set without any vocal work before! I didn’t have any idea. So now, please, if you offer me—”Here’s your blush-on, your lipstick, your mascara or here’s your [vocal exercises] tape—I would have to take the tape.
How has the band not crumbled underneath the weight of all the stuff that went on over all these years?
Well, there isn’t all that many examples of a band that really goes on and keeps working into their mid-50s, I mean constantly—even if we weren’t working together, we were all always working. We do have a lot of drama. And drama keeps people together. And drama makes people have fun—even if it’s bad drama. It still has its very exciting moments and we have arguments and disagreements and we make up and that’s great. We got to know each other a little bit better. Over the last year and a half we’ve been together almost every day and that’s hard for anybody, you know? So the fact is that it’s worked out into these 18 songs.
It’s almost like a marriage.
You pick your things to get mad about and you pick your things that aren’t that important and you let go of stuff and of course, in all of our wisdom we hope that we all learn how to let go of the unimportant things. And if you’re going to argue about something, make sure it’s really important because nothing is worth breaking the whole thing up over a stupid argument.
How are things different from 25 years ago when you started out?
Before we would stay up later. Now we stop at about 7 or 8 p.m. We get to the studio at around 2 p.m., and Lindsey gets there at 9 in the morning. But we don’t stay up all night long and record anymore because you know what? You don’t get anything done, so you just have to get to a place finally where your wisdom again says, ‘It’d be really fun to stay here until 4 in the morning, but isn’t it interesting that nothing gets done after 9 p.m.?’ So, you know, we’re smart enough to realize that now.
“Silver Girl” is so classic you. It’s like a warm blanket.
Thank you. Thank you little Sheryl Crow for inspiring me to write that.
The first couple of lines are definitely about Sheryl. And when I thought about writing a whole song to this poem I had called “Silver Girl,” I thought, ‘Well, this whole song could be about Sheryl and also about all the rock and roll women, be they Norah Jones, Avril Lavigne, Michelle Branch, Stevie Nicks, Gwen Stefani, whoever. That song is about the great parts, and also the difficulties, of being rock-star women.
What a nice burden.
Oh, yeah listen, I wouldn’t trade it for a second. I’m never going to be one of those people that’s going to say, ‘You know what, this is just such a hassle,’ because it is not a hassle. It’s incredible. My life is incredible. I am a wild adventurerer. My life is totally exciting and it changes everyday. If I had dreamed this, I could not have written this down any better.