Stevie Nicks wild at heart: as the legendary singer-songwriter releases her first studio album in a decade, she opens up about her iconic fashion moments and rock-star life.
STEVIE NICKS is Team Edward all the way. Honestly, is it any surprise that the now-62-year-old gypsy queen of ’70s rock, singer for the epic band Fleetwood Mac, arbiter of romantic, Gothic style, and writer of magical songs about devastating heartbreak is a Twilight fan?
“I saw New Moon when I was on tour with Fleetwood Mac,” Nicks says, curled up under a white fur throw on an armchair in the Santa Monica condo she shares with her 12-year-old Yorkie, Sulamith. Through the floor-to-ceiling windows, the sun is setting over the Pacific, and with the room’s soft lighting–all chandeliers and crystals–and her elbow-length blonde hair cascading over her shoulders, it’s as if she’s been beamed down from classic-rock heaven. Nicks is an ageless creature, wearing a handful of gold chains with charms dangling over a navy silk dolman-sleeved top and black pants. Only when she puts on her glasses, an ombre-tinted pair of aviators, does she look her age. “When Bella just sat there in the window, crying for months because she thought she’d never see him again,” Nicks trails off, looking wistful about their vampire love. She’s had a Bella moment or two herself. “Its happened to me twice, when there was no explanation. It was just over.”
Nicks was so moved that she wrote a song about it, “Moonlight (a Vampire’s Dream).” And when she got home, she recorded her first studio album in 10 years, In Your Dreams, out this month. She worked on it with friend and producer Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics at her other L.A. home, a 1930s mansion, which became a sort of rock sorority house. “We’d have dinners for 12 every night. It was the best time of my life.” New friend Reese Witherspoon came over for a session and ended up naming a song, “Cheaper than Free.”
What is surprising, given Nicks’s deep and complicated history–an infamous struggle with drugs, several torrid affairs, and a unique style that’s inspired designers for almost 40 years now–is that she is so firmly rooted in the present. She’s as likely to mention Rihanna (she’s a fan) as her own song “Rhiannon.”
As the Fleetwood Mac story goes, Stephanie Lynn Nicks met Lindsey Buckingham at a high school party in 1966, joining him in a spontaneous duet of “California Dreamin’.” Two years later, Buckingham called her to see if she’d consider singing in his band, Fritz. They opened for legends like Jimi Hendrix and eventually became a couple. By the time Nicks was 23, they had broken off to become Buckingham Nicks. Then came a call from Mick Fleetwood.
Suddenly, Nicks was part of the main event, the frontwoman of a world-famous band, and she knew she needed to look the part. “I didn’t want to look like anyone else–like Janis Joplin or Grace Slick. That’s why I never went to any of the big designers. I drew a stick figure of what I dreamed up and gave it to my costume designer, Margi Kent, who I still work with. It was a handkerchief dress with a jacket, long, droopy chiffon sleeves, and velvet platform boots. I didn’t want to wear high heels,” she says. “That’s when it started.”
At the time, she also cut her own locks: “I’d take the top, measure it with my fin-gets, and chop it off. I did it pretty well.”
When the band went to London, Nicks scoured the flea markets in Chelsea and on Portobello Road for Victorian lace–“the real deal,” she says. At five foot one, Nicks likes anything with volume that gives her more stage presence, like the endless shawls and scarves she spreads wide into wings. (Among the boxes packed for her spring tour, there’s a giant bin marked STEVIE’s SARIS.) And, along with the platforms, that iconic top hat added height. “I found a top hat at a thrift store in Buffalo, New York, on our first tour, and I loved it,” she says. “Now I have several. It really became part of my look.”
Over the years, Nicks’s singular style has inspired designers from Ralph Lauren to Anna Sui. “No one had done this look before,” explains Kent, her costume designer. “I remember I went on the road with them, and there were hundreds of Stevie look-alikes. Everyone wanted to look like her.”
Fleetwood Mac’s escapades with drugs and sex and the ever-present feuding that went along with them were as outrageous as everyone’s wardrobes. While the band was recording its Grammy-winning 1977 album, Rumours, Nicks broke up with Buckingham. She went on to sleep with two of the Eagles (first Don Henley, then Joe Walsh, in the ’80s) and have an affair with the then-married Fleetwood–who broke her heart when he ran off with her best friend, model Sara Recor. But while one would think that Nicks has her share of party stories, the way she tells it, the lives of female rock stars at the time were “very cloistered” compared with the dudes in the band. “Christine [McVie] and I didn’t go out. We didn’t pick up guys,” remembers Nicks. “We’d hang out, play cards, and watch movies. It wasn’t that much fun.”
Back at home, it was a different story. Even while she was touring, recording, and launching a solo career, Nicks got heavily involved with drugs. “I watch interviews from the early years of Fleetwood Mac and I’m so, like, out there,” she says. “I think, ‘God, could you have just laid off the blow for an hour? Because this is not attractive. You sound like an idiot.”‘
Despite her escalating addiction, Nicks managed to record three solo albums and several Top 10 hits, including a duet with Tom Petty and a collaboration with Prince. “I saved the dress I wore to the Purple Rain premiere. a vintage white beaded dress,” says Nicks, who keeps all her costumes archived in a temperature-controlled room. “Prince and I were just friends. I think he would have been happy to have had a relationship. But I really wanted a musical relationship, and I had smartened up, even then. You’ll break up and never speak again. But he wasn’t interested in just that.”
In 1986, she found herself too strung out to keep up with her busy schedule. She checked herself into the Betty Fold Center to kick her cocaine addiction. But in the process of beating one drug, a doctor prescribed another; Klonopin. “It took my soul,” she says. “It was worse than brandy, coke, pot, and cigarettes combined. I had no energy. I lost my fire. I’d perform now and then, but mostly I sat on the couch, watched TV, and ordered Jerry’s Deli.”
By the time president-elect Bill Clinton called to ask Fleetwood Mac to perform “Don’t Stop” at the 1993 inauguration, she was fully addicted and 175 pounds. But she couldn’t say no. Finally, in 1994, she’d had enough and entered rehab again. “My hair turned gray. My skin molted, just fell off,” she says. “But I did it.”
Lately, Nicks has been spending time with a cleaner-cut group. She sang a duet with Taylor Swift at the 2010 Grammys. “I didn’t want to do it,” she says. “I didn’t want to stand next to her, at 5 foot 11 and 100 pounds, and be broadcast to 50 million people. But she wouldn’t hear it. She had a plan.” And recently, Nicks showed up on the set of Fox’s Glee to see Gwyneth Paltrow perform “Landslide.”
“Lea Michele told me I was the only one, out of all the big, old songs they’d performed, who’d come to the studio or even called to say they liked it,” says Nicks. “Those kids are spectacular.”
The night after this interview, at her last rehearsal before her tour with Rod Stewart, Nicks is in her element, standing in front of a microphone draped with scarves and rhinestones. “The Glee album with Gwyneth’s ‘Landslide’ just hit number one,” she announces to the friends who have gathered. There are a few grumbles. “Ka-ching, ka-ching” she says. “I don’t care who sings it. As long as they keep singing it.”
Nicks is still a commanding presence, belting out “Stand Back” better than women half her age. And despite the hard living, she looks nothing like some other rickety relics of rock’s golden age. She attributes this to one of the better decisions she made in her drama-fueled life: “Smoking is what destroys your skin. I didn’t smoke,” she says, flashing a sly grin. “I did everything else.”
Christine Lennon / Harper’s Bazaar (p. 151) / May 2011