The legend of Stevie Nicks—mystical Fleetwood Mac chanteuse, famously excessive solo star, leather-and-lace pop icon—has preceded her for more than 30 years. Yesterday, the original Gold Dust Woman sat down with EW to discuss her new live album, The Soundstage Sessions, and companion DVD Live in Chicago, both out today.
Though she is now 60, and many years sober, she still looks very much the same: pink cupid’s bow mouth, long sweep of blond hair, diminutive (minus her habitual platform boots) five-foot-one frame draped in red chiffon. Ensconced on an overstuffed sofa in her suite at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria and surrounded by her two pocket-sized dogs and a towering spray of white orchids, Nicks tells the stories behind some of her most memorable compositions—songs that have been covered by everyone from the Dixie Chicks to Dave Grohl but are still, and always, signature Stevie.
“Oh boy, I’ve never really spoken about this, so I get verklempt, and then I’ve got the story and I start to screw it up. Okay: In the old days, before Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey [Buckingham] and I had no money, so we had a king-size mattress, but we just had it on the floor. I had old vintage coverlets on it, and even though we had no money it was still really pretty… Just that and a lamp on the floor, and that was it—there was a certain calmness about it. To this day, when I’m feeling cluttered, I will take my mattress off of my beautiful bed, wherever that may be, and put it outside my bedroom, with a table and a little lamp.
That’s the words: “So I’m back to the velvet underground”—which is a clothing store in downtown San Francisco, where Janis Joplin got her clothes, and Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane, it was this little hole in the wall, amazing, beautiful stuff—”back to the floor that I love, to a room with some lace and paper flowers, back to the gypsy that I was.”
So that’s what “Gypsy” means: it’s just a search for before this all happened. And later, I tacked on a line for my friend Robin, my best friend, who died of leukemia: “I still see your bright eyes.” But then, Robin wasn’t sick yet. She got cancer, and died within a year.”
“Edge of Seventeen”
“This was written right after John Lennon was assassinated. That was a very scary and sad moment for all of us in the rock and roll business, it scared us all to death that some idiot could be so deranged that he would wait outside your apartment building, never having known you, and shoot you dead. If you were the president of the United States, maybe, but to just be a music person, albeit a Beatle? And to be shot and killed in front of your apartment, when you had a wife and two kids? That was so unacceptable to all of us in our community. So the white dove was John Lennon, and peace.
Now, for me, it has taken on something else. I feel like I hear war, because I go to visit soldiers in Bethesda and at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center], and when I hear their stories… We can’t even imagine what they’re going through, the violence. So when I sing “Flood of tears that no one ever really heard fall at all/Oh I went searching for an answer, up the stairs and down the hall,”—”the call of the nightbird” is death, and I think of them in the desert, coming around corners, the fear, waiting to be ambushed. It’s very foreboding, ominous.
It’s not about Mick’s Fleetwood’s ex-wife, who was also one of my best friends, even though everybody thinks it is. I used her name because I love the name so much, but it was really about what was going on with all of us at that time. It was about Mick’s and my relationship, and it was about one I went into after Mick. Some songs are about a lot of things, some songs only have one or two lines that are that main thing, and then the rest of it, you’re just making a movie, writing a story around this one paragraph, that little kernel of life. “When you build your house” was about when you get your act together, then let me know, because until you get your act together, I really can’t be around you.”
Entertainment Weekly: Some people have said it’s about Don Henley, whom you dated around that time too…
“He wishes! If Don wants to think the ‘house’ was one of the 90 houses he built—and he did build house after beautiful house, and once they were done, he would move because he wasn’t interested in them anymore [laughs]… No. He is one of my best friends in the world. If anything happened to me, he would be there, always. But if someone said that, they’re so full of s—!”
“Crash Into Me” (written by Dave Matthews)
“Oh, as soon as that song came out I said, ‘I want it. I want to do that song!’ And the answer from every single person was, ‘This is really a man’s song, you can’t do it.’ So I was like, ‘Alright, whatever,’ but in my head I said, ‘But I will do this song. It’s a twisted song, so I’ll just twist it even more, and make it fit me.’ Now live, where he would sing ‘In a boy’s dream’ I have the [backup] girls go, ‘And the boys sing…’ Then I can do those lines: [singing] ‘Hike up your skirt a little more, and show your world to me.’ Dave’s actually very sexual, his writing. But I don’t know if he likes it or not. I invited him to come to the taping for PBS, and he never got back to us. I thought he would! But you know, his wife was having a baby, I think.”
“How Still My Love”
“I really don’t write extremely sexual songs, never have. I’m always going to write about the bouquets and the flowers [laughs]. But ‘How Still My Love’ really is a sexy song, and being that it’s one of my few sexy songs, when we do it onstage it’s fun. It’s kind of woozy and it’s slow, but it’s got a really great beat—kind of a strip-tease, a little burlesque, a little Dita Von Teese-y. The title actually came from two different books I saw in some hotel, one was called How Still My Love and one was called In the Still of the Night, and I used both, but I never even opened up the books [laughs], so I have no idea what they were about. Whenever I come into a room with a library, in a hotel or whatever, I pull them all down and just sit—I get a lot of ideas that way.”
“The Circle Dance” (written by Bonnie Raitt)
I love to do this song. Bonnie’s dad, John Raitt, was a big music guy, Broadway, and he would be gone a lot when Bonnie was growing up. And when you’re young, you don’t think ‘Oh, they have to work,’ you just think, ‘They’re gone and it’s my fault.’ You know, the words, ‘I’ll be home soon, that’s what you’d say, and a little kid believes/After a while I learned that love must be a thing that leaves.’ But when her father was older, there was a peace she found with him. And in many ways the song can be about a romantic relationship too, about letting go: ‘Time has made things clearer now.’”
“Beauty and the Beast”
“It was definitely about Mick, but it’s also based on the 1946 Jean Cocteau movie. I first saw it on TV one night when Mick and I were first together, and I always thought of Mick as being sort of Beauty and the Beast-esque, because he’s so tall and he had beautiful coats down to here, and clothes made by little fairies up in the attic, I always thought [laughs], so he was that character in a lot of ways. And also, it matched our story because Mick and I could never be. A, because Mick was married, and then divorced and that was not good, and B, because of Fleetwood Mac.
Lindsey had barely survived the breakup of Lindsey and Stevie, much less would he not survive the relationship of Stevie and Mick. So Mick told Lindsey, even though I thought it was totally the wrong thing to do, and two days later we broke up. But of course Lindsey never forgave me for years, if ever. All the great love stories are the love that cannot be. And in the midst of that whole thing, Mick fell in love with my best friend Sara. So the moral is, Don’t go out with a gorgeous rock star who goes on the road, just don’t! Because it will never, ever work out.”
“I was in Colorado around 1973, after me and Lindsey’s first record, and we’d just been dropped. Lindsey had been offered a tour with the Everly Brothers, it was a good salary and we really needed the money, so we went to where either Don or Phil Everly lived, in Aspen, to rehearse. I had my best friend with me, and we went out to dinner one night and met these great guys, they just gave us their living room in their three-bedroom apartment—we stayed there for three months.
So one day while I was sitting there on their floor, looking out the window at all the snow, I made a decision whether I wanted to continue a relationship with Lindsey, musically and romantically, and I decided that I was gonna give it another try, because we weren’t getting along very well, but the music was important. But I never told him what it was about ’til years and years later, maybe only in the last five. I knew it was a good song. Whether I had [the] sense if it would do anything or go anywhere? I don’t know [laughs]. But I knew it was really good.”
Leah Greenblatt / Entertainment Weekly / March 31, 2009