Fleetwood Mac’s twirling singer is suddenly hot again, thanks to TV appearances and her best solo album in 30 years.
This summer, Stevie Nicks was invited to sing on TV’s America’s Got Talent and The Voice. This month, she joined Jeff Bridges and John Fogerty at a benefit for wounded soldiers in Sturgis, S.D. In May, her Fleetwood Mac songs were featured on a Glee episode.
Why is the witchy woman so suddenly in demand?
It probably has a lot to do with In Your Dreams, her first solo album in 10 years and her best since 1981’s Bella Donna.
“I have to tip my top hat to Dave Stewart” of Eurythmics, she said, who produced the album. “I think the seven songs that he and I wrote together mixed in with the five songs that I wrote by myself made for a much more interesting and diversified record,” said Nicks, who performs Wednesday at Mystic Lake Casino amphitheater.
As a musician, Nicks, 63, knows she’s limited. She didn’t expect to be writing with Stewart but she sent him 40 pages of poetry. He came to her house and said, “Let’s do this one.”
Recalled Nicks: “In my head, I’m like, ‘You don’t think we’re really going to sit in this room and write a song together, ’cause I don’t do that.’ But he was so kind and so sweet and no ego, and we just started playing, and in 15 minutes we finished ‘You May Be the One.’
“Suddenly, I had an epiphany. Wow! That worked. And this is a really great song with no grief. I don’t feel punished or like something was taken away from me. I don’t miss spending two months sitting at my piano in tears.”
One of her own songs on In Your Dreams actually dates back to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours days in the mid-1970s. She knew she had “Secret Love” on a cassette somewhere but couldn’t find it. Then her assistant discovered it on YouTube. It turns out that Nicks had actually recorded it for Bella Donna but never released it. Keyboardist Benmont Tench, the musical director for that album, was the only person to remember it.
“Ben told me that the other day,” Nicks said. “Now my whole story about having no idea [what happened to the song] has gone to hell in a handbag. I remember we recorded a lot of songs for Bella Donna; I just did not remember that.”
Another new song has an old connection. “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)” was inspired by Nicks seeing the movie Twilight saga: New Moon in 2009. When she went to make a video of it this year, she grabbed a dress out of her closet that she’d worn to the 1984 premiere of Prince’s Purple Rain in Hollywood.
“My friend’s daughter is playing violin on that and I pulled that dress out for her to wear. It’s been hanging in my closet. It’s like a year younger than the girl who wears it in the video.”
Back in the early 1980s, Nicks and Prince were friends and musical collaborators. One day when she was driving in Los Angeles, she started humming along to his “Little Red Corvette” on the radio and pulled over to write down words she was composing. When she went to record the song a few hours later, she called Prince.
“Don’t even ask me how I found his number but I did. I told him: ‘I’m recording this song and I wrote it to “Little Red Corvette” and I’m giving you 50 percent of it and I want to know if you’d like to come play on it on one of the next three nights.’ He was there in an hour, and he was there for about an hour and a half. And we became friends.”
That song, “Stand Back,” became a big hit in 1983. She asked Prince if they could someday write a song together. So he sent her a cassette of a long instrumental track and invited her to pen lyrics.
“It was so overwhelming, that 10-minute track, that I listened to it and I just got scared,” Nicks remembered. “I called him back and said, ‘I can’t do it. I wish I could. It’s too much for me.’ I’m so glad that I didn’t, because he wrote it, and it became ‘Purple Rain.'”
Buckingham Nicks redux
Nicks is better known for her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham, her musical and romantic partner in the duo Buckingham Nicks since their college days at San Jose State. They joined Fleetwood Mac in late 1974 but split up romantically a couple years later. Of course, they’ve continued to work together on-and-off in that Rock Hall of Fame band. He joined her for one tune on the new album, “Soldier’s Angel.”
“It was as close to the Buckingham Nicks years as we have been since Buckingham Nicks,” Nicks said. “For Lindsey and I, that opened up the possibility of a new chapter. We certainly can still do it. And we did it well and it wasn’t a lot of work. Lindsey and I are very happy with each other right now.”
Would they do a duo tour?
“It’s an absolute possibility. A lot of wounds were healed with ‘Soldier’s Angel.’ It’s about the war and these injured kids. It was a very kind of spiritual and holy thing.”
What’s the status of Fleetwood Mac?
“Lindsey has made a really beautiful record (Seeds We Sow, due Sept. 6) and he’s going to go work that record. By the time we’re both done working these records and you put a little time between it, Fleetwood Mac will probably start dancing around the fire at the end of next year.”
Nicks is working In Your Dreams with the help of her longtime keyboardist, Ricky Peterson of the Twin Cities. (“Ricky’s really special,” she says. “He’s a lot of fun and he’s very, very sweet and caring and he’s an amazing player like Christine McVie or Benmont Tench.”) She’s playing six or seven numbers from the new album as well as Fleetwood Mac and solo favorites.
Each night, she transforms herself into the whirling Welsh witch with the top hat, high-heeled boots and billowy layers. “It’s all about the clothes,” Nicks said. “You create your character. You come in and you’re in your Merrell tennis shoes and your dance pants and your funky hippie top and your hair is in rollers. Then you come out of your cocoon.
“It’s like being on Broadway. It’s not that I couldn’t go out there in my jeans and do my whole set, but it’s really fun to have all the accoutrements that go along with it.”
Jon Bream / Star Tribune / Tuesday, August 23, 2011