The Fleetwood Mac frontwoman opens up about losing friends, and finding clarity and sobriety.
As part of The 1975’s takeover of The Face, we’re releasing a series of podcasts featuring frontman Matty Healy in conversation with his musical heroes.
Presenting the one and only Stevie Nicks. Yes, this is literally a podcast with Stevie Nicks. Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac.
It goes without saying that Healy was honoured to speak to the singer, songwriter, poet, and all-round Fleetwood Mac frontwoman. The feeling, luckily, was mutual – it turns out that Nicks is a massive fan of The 1975.
Nicks talks about the intense emotional (and chemical) cocktails that have fuelled much of Fleetwood Mac’s material, her feeling of sisterhood with bandmate Christine McVie, and her spiritual connection with late friends and heroes Prince and Tom Petty. Healy and Nicks also discuss going sober, poetry and creative chemistry. It is, frankly, a love-in.
Want to hear more of these? We also have podcasts featuring Matty talking to Bobby Gillespie, Conor Oberst, Steve Reich, Mike Kinsella, Kim Gordon and Brian Eno.
Today, I am joined by my – and I suppose most probably your hero, Stevie Nicks. How are you?
I’m good, how are you?
I’m fine. I’m in Oxford, in the countryside. Whereabouts are you in this situation?
I’m in Santa Monica, close to the ocean. It’s one o’clock, in the middle of the night. I should say first, I’m really glad to be talking to you and I’m sorry it’s not in person. I would really love to have this… maybe not this same conversation with you about… I know you probably want to talk about my music, and I want to talk about your music, so one of these days we have to do that. And I’ll tell you why I want to talk about your music, because you haven’t been around making music since 1975 – I have. Lindsey and I joined Fleetwood Mac on the first day of 1975. The first day. So when I first heard about your band, it was because I heard a song called Chocolate, and I said “Who’s that?” Somebody said, well I’m not sure, and I said, “Well, find out.” And so I then became aware of who you were and who The 1975 was, and I just thought it was so interesting that The 1975 would be such an important year in my life, because I seriously went from being a cleaning lady slash waitress with three waitress jobs, and really having next to nothing. Because once I pulled out of school and moved to Los Angeles with Lindsey, my parents said, well, we very much support you but we are withdrawing all financial support. And I was like, well okay, I get it, and you told me that years ago, that you loved my music etc etc, but you wouldn’t stay in the money game if I quit school before I was done – and I had six months to go before I graduated from college. And I said, “I know mom. I accept that and don’t worry, I’m gonna make you proud of me.” I was so sure that it was okay to pack up and move to Los Angeles from San Francisco in 1971, and then it took until the first day of 1975 to go through Buckingham Nicks and then find our way into Fleetwood Mac. So just the name of your band is so important to me, that when I heard this song Chocolate – and, of course, do I love chocolate? I love chocolate. And I thought, well this band’s gotta be important to me, somehow it’s winding its way into my heart and I haven’t even heard anything but one song. So chocolate mixed with 1975, I thought I have a real connection with these people and they don’t even know it.
Well, you honestly cannot imagine how strange and wonderful it is for me to hear you say that, because as an adult, as a successful musician, as a teenager, as whatever – I’ve watched countless interviews, I’ve studied your records like dogma, I’ve kind of spent so much of my life completely enamoured… Listen, Stevie, I could talk to you about how did this happen, how did that happen, there are certain things that I do wanna talk to you about, that are about the kind of higher purpose of it. Because sometimes in these conversations it’s been amazing – I got to speak to Brian Eno and we were talking about why do people need art in their life? We understand that we need food and we understand that we need all these kinds of things because we get a reward for them. But the reward for music is so esoteric, and I remember there was this quote… A lot of people know the story of Rumours, that it was graced with your breakup with Lindsey and the lyrics were this kind of jueling narrative between your perspective and his perspective, and there’s so much we could get into in regards to how you actually did that. But there’s this incredible quote of yours, that you said, “We cannot break up, or there will be no Fleetwood Mac,” and I think that’s a really strange idea to try and explain to somebody, that one’s interpersonal relationships, one’s romantic relationships, marriages… It feels to me that all of those things that are the most important part of most people’s lives, there is something in you and in the whole of Fleetwood Mac, where there was this higher goal. And I wondered if you’ve ever thought about that or pondered that, because to make a record like Rumours, to make a record like Tango in the Night, to go into those rooms, to find a corner of the studio where you can go and write Dreams, do you know what I mean? Why? Why did you do that? Try and explain why that’s more important than anything else to you.
Well, let’s see. There never really… like when I said we moved to Los Angeles and I was going to San Jose State, which is a really big college up in San Francisco, and I’d gone there for three years. I was a little behind because of being in this band with Lindsey that was really good, we played all over San Francisco, we made good money, and I was also the only one that was going to school. When one day I just said, Lindsey… Because I was kind of the planner, I was the planner person in that relationship, and I said Lindsey, we need to move to LA, because the music is here. We’re in San Francisco, it’s 1971 and it’s like, it couldn’t be bigger. We were opening for really big bands, so we were kind of living the life, in a way. We were opening for Jimi Hendrix, for 75,000 people.
You opened for Hendrix with Buckingham Nicks? I never knew that. That’s incredible.
Yeah we did, 75,000 people. When I think about that, that’s why when we did walk into Fleetwood Mac four years later, it wasn’t such a shock because of those three years that we played in that band in San Francisco. But what I said to Lindsey was, the music is here. San Francisco couldn’t be better, I mean you know, the only thing that could be better is if we moved to downtown San Francisco and moved next door to Grace Slick or something. But otherwise, we need to go to LA, and I think we need to go now because that’s where the record deals are. And we have been honing our craft since 1968, since I started working with Lindsey and this band that we were in – that was 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971. We’d been honing our duetedness – great word, huh? – for four years, you know, and we were really good, even at that point. We were like the Everly Brothers. And so I said, we need to go to LA. He said, okay, and I called my parents and told them, and he told his parents, we got in the car and we drove to LA and we moved in with a guy named Keith Olsen who really liked our music, and we had met like a year before. He said, you can live at my house – I have a two bedroom house and you can have one of the bedrooms if you want. And we were like, cool, because we certainly don’t have any money. So that’s what we did. We loved San Francisco, we had friends there, I had gone through my last year of high school there. We didn’t really want to move to LA, but we did because we had a dream, and it was like, so we’re going. And so we went, and when we got to Los Angeles, we started working on Buckingham Nicks. We got it done, and we thought that it was like the best record ever. Was our relationship going well? Not that well. Was this gonna be a relationship made in heaven? No. But, was the musical thing that we had a relationship made in heaven? Absolutely. And all the times, like when I wrote Landslide between 1972 and the day we joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975, I wrote this song called Landslide. And that song was really like me taking my ego down off of the fireplace mantle, and saying, do I wanna leave this man and do I wanna be a solo artist? No. I have absolutely no desire to, I always wanna be part of a team. I don’t wanna be all by myself. So I said, okay, I’m gonna stay in this, and we released Buckingham Nicks and nobody… I think a lot of people heard it, but as far as we were concerned in Los Angeles nobody heard it, because we certainly didn’t make any money from it and I went back to being a cleaning lady and making our next record and being a waitress. So when we joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975, January 1st, I was right back there in that thing: well, okay, you’ve done it. You’re joining a band from England that is quite well known but has another girl, which is an interesting thing, because I knew – being the planner – that we have just gone from being a duo to being a trio. So that’s very different than being a duo since like 1968. So we’re in a trio now, and we have nothing, you know what I mean? We have no money and we have really nothing. So we’re really pretty happy on having nothing, because that’s how it had been for years. So we get into Fleetwood Mac and all of a sudden, we finished the record in like three months because it was just very easy to make, to make Fleetwood Mac/Fleetwood Mac, and then we went on a summer tour – we were gone for like three or four months. And when we came home from that tour, Lindsey and I together were close to being a millionaire. The shock of that, and I’m sure that you’ve kind of probably had that same experience, where you go from just being a cool band to being a really big cool band. I loved it, too, because it was an English band and an American band, and I always loved English people. I dunno why, maybe in another life I was from England but I’d always really been very drawn to English people, so I loved being in a band with Christine and Mick and John, who were, you know – John’s like Liverpudlian English and Christine’s like, “Ooh well, you know Stevie I’m so happy you’re here!” And Mick’s very queen’s English, right? I was so tickled with the whole thing, and it was such a weird fivesome – being that we had two California dreaming Californians, hippies, kinda, and these three very, very English people, and the blues. They were all about the blues, you know? Lindsey and I weren’t all about the blues, we wanted to be rock’n’roll, even though we had a very folk… we were kind of folk singers in the beginning, in our duo-ness. So it was like, here we are in this band, and Lindsey’s determined to turn it into more… Lindsey didn’t really want to be Peter Green, he was not the least bit interested in being a replacement for Peter Green. He wanted to be him, but he wanted to be rock’n’roll because by then we had turned into kind of a California rockabilly kind of thing – so it was rock’n’roll, but it wasn’t like Led Zeppelin rock’n’roll. And so all of a sudden we’re in this band, and quickly let’s just fly through the years; Lindsey and I broke up at the end of 1976 and so we’d only been in Fleetwood Mac for just two years. Was that hard? Yes, it was. What made up for how difficult it was, was the music and how good the music was, and the ability… I think that we all really appreciated it, because Lindsey and I weren’t the only people that were broken up, Chris and John were married, and they got a divorce, so almost even worse. So we had two totally broken up couples in one band. That was not really a good thing psychologically, or physically, or anything else.
Can I ask the question, just while we’re in that place, and I hope it’s not a personal question, but being in a studio with somebody can almost be like a love affair – the excitement that you both get in a moment can be the thing that really turns the song into it. Now, if you’re doing that with anybody who you’re really close with, it can be an amazing thing. Was there a battle between being broken up, being in a relationship that’s no longer romantic but still having these captured moments of excitement… Was that confusing as an artist and as a human, to kind of extend that love in a creative way to this person, but also be trying to take it away in a different way? I’m sorry if that’s a personal question, it’s just quite a fascinating idea.
Okay, this is kind of how it was. Back to ‘how important is the music’ – it always kind of blew my mind that we could really be not happy with each other, all five of us. Between Chris and John and me and Lindsey, and then Mick, you know, who’s standing at the side going like, everybody to their corners! But there was something about when we walked in the studio, where we were very much able to leave the problems outside the room, and really fall into how wonderful what was going on in the studio was. Did the tension help the music? I’m sure it did. Did the anger that we had for each other help the music? I’m sure it did. It always blew my mind that we didn’t take our problems in there. What we did do when we were angry with each other, we wouldn’t talk to each other very much. But when we went out in the studio to do our parts or to come up with an idea or something, we were incredibly focused. And that was, you know, we did a lot of drugs and we were still incredibly focused. As the years went by, if we’re talking about how long that went on, that went on up until two years ago when we kind of separated paths – and I really do say Lindsey and I have separated paths. That was like, forty years, if you can even imagine. You’re not even forty yet. It’s like, forty years. We went through that, and so it’s like, they say real love never dies and I don’t think that real love does ever die, but I do think that real love can reach a place where it just can’t go on anymore. And I’m really glad that it didn’t reach that place until we had pretty much… Music had changed so much by the time it got to be two years ago, that we weren’t really making records anymore anyway. So it’s like we got everything we needed to do in that space between 1975, ’till when we kind of broke up the original Fleetwood Mac and changed over to Michael Campbell and Neil Finn. And that was a really nice thing. We don’t have to talk about that, but the fact is that what keeps you together – and I’m sure you’ll find this with your band, too – is when your mind is still blown by the other people in your band.
You go to make a new album and you’re like, okay, here we go again. And somebody plays you a song – I think in your case it’s George, right? Am I right?
Because you guys do the writing. So George sits down and you go like, okay, so what you got? And he’s like, well, okay, and he plays this song, and you’re like, oh my God! I love that song so much!
Yeah, that’s exactly…
And you also think like, “You know what? It’s nothing like the last record that we made. It’s different, there’s something really magically different about it, I’m so happy!” And that’s the thing that keeps happening in a really good band.
So to talk about the band then, there’s a lot to unpack in that – I find the whole dynamic of it fascinating because I’m in it. You mentioned Peter Green and people know Peter Green as being the kind of virtuoso blues guitarist and singer that was the original singer for Fleetwood Mac and due to his desire not to be Jeff Beck or Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton, or any of these kind of God-type characters, he even named the band after his rhythm section which was Fleetwood Mac. Obviously you know this, I’m just giving people a little bit of history who maybe don’t. So then the story goes that after Peter left for his personal reasons, the original Fleetwood Mac found themselves in Los Angeles, and the story goes that Mick Fleetwood was in a recording studio – he was wanting to listen to the system, and the engineer happened to put on the Buckingham Nicks record. This is apparently what happened: Stevie walked in at a time where there’s a blistering guitar solo and sees this enormous Mick Fleetwood stand there, kind of with a screw face, looking incredibly impressed. He was obviously thinking, “Fuck me, this is what Fleetwood Mac should be,” do you know what I mean? Then the funny story is that he asked Lindsey to join the band and he said, “Yeah, I’d love to but you have to take my girlfriend.” So then there was this joke that Mick didn’t originally want you, which I know very, very quickly became not the case. But it makes me think about Mick Fleetwood in that position, because you’re in a band, you’re in a band that’s been named after you because you’re not the frontman. You then stumble across this sound, this original sound that was Buckingham and Nicks, that if you listen to the early Buckingham and Nicks, sounds way more like what the more famous Fleetwood Mac sounded like than the original Fleetwood Mac. So I always found it incredibly interesting the role that Mich played in your life, because it seems like to have a band named after you, and then puting fucking Stevie Nicks in it, and Lindsey Buckingham, it takes a lot of… Of course it’s his band, he wants to make it as good as possible. But there must have been an element where he kind of had to let you guys run free and kind of become the new lifeblood of Fleetwood Mac. I was just wondering if there was ever any friction in that or whether your relationship with him was always quite… he was always a collaborator.
Well, okay. To just go a little bit back to the very beginning with the English Fleetwood Mac – Mick was, I told him, “You’re the finder.” Mick was very happy to be behind the camera, more or less. Mick found all the guitar players. He somehow just ran into all of them and hired them one after another, you know? It’s like when Peter left he found whoever it was, there was Jeremy and there was Bob Weston and there was… I can’t even remember, I don’t know, there were so many of them. There’s Bob Welch – Bob Welch was there right before us, right, and Bobby decided he wanted to go and do a more jazz thing. So this is how the studio thing – the engineer was actually the producer of Buckingham Nicks, became the producer of Fleetwood Mac/Fleetwood Mac, this is Keith Olsen. It was Keith Olsen’s studio and it’s called Sound City, it’s a very famous studio out in The Valley. Mick was there looking for a studio to do a record that, by the way, Bob Welch was leaving, so he didn’t even have a guitar player yet. He was just looking for a place to record when he found somebody.
So he walks in, and Keith is really wanting the future of Fleetwood Mac, whoever that may be, to use Sound City as their studio. So he puts on a song called Frozen Love, which was on the Buckingham Nicks album, and he plays it for him. I’m not there and Lindsey’s not there, it’s just Keith and Mick. And Mick listens to this, and he’s like, “Oh.” And then the solo thing with the little string and everything comes in, Mick’s like, “So who, uh, who are these people?” And Keith says, “Well, they’re a duo from San Francisco and this is an album they made here, and doesn’t it sound great?” And Mick’s going like, “Yeah, it does sound great and how can I get in touch with these people, tell me something about them.” He goes, “Well, it’s a girl and a guy, they’re like a duo.” And Mick says, “We could hire… who is he? His name is Lindsey? We could maybe, can you get me in touch with Lindsey? Maybe Lindsey might like to come and be in Fleetwood Mac.” And Keith Olsen said to Mick, “Well, here’s your problem. I know you already have a girl in your band, and Lindsey’s not going anywhere without Stevie. So if you hire Lindsey, you’re gonna have a band with two women in it.” And so Mick kind of went… I think Mick got it immediately. And I’m pretty sure that as they sat there, Keith probably played Mick a couple of other songs, and by the time Mick Fleetwood walked out of Sound City he was like, okay, now I gotta go back and tell John McVie, who will be like, “Well, you found somebody?” And then he’ll say, “Yeah, but it’s a girlfriend and a boyfriend package.” And then you have to tell Christine, and then it’s gonna be, Mick said, “it’s gonna be down to Christine. Christine’s gonna have to make the call on this, so what they have to do is, we have to meet them.” And then we went to go and have Mexican food somewhere in downtown LA, and we had a really fun time and we laughed and laughed and laughed. And Chris and I got on like a house on fire, and the next day Mick called and said, we would really like for you and Lindsey to join our band. I said, well, okay. Let me talk to Linsey about it – once again, I’m like the planner. And so I put the phone down and I said to Lindsey, they want us to join their band. And this is the God’s truth, Lindsey’s like, well, I dunno if I really want to be in a blues band because I’m not really a blues player. And had I been able to throw him against the wall, I would have, because it’s like, Lindsey… we have nothing! We aren’t gonna be able to pay next month’s rent! And if we join Fleetwood Mac we can work with them for six months and then we can quit. But we can make some money and put it in the bank! So I’m gonna go right down to Tower Records and I’m gonna take my last $100 and buy every single record they’ve ever made and we’re gonna listen to these records back to front, and then we’re going to make a full on decision. But I’m already telling you, we’re doing this.
That’s so funny. You had this tenacity to kind of just create but also put it to work, do you know what I mean?
When you’re short on money, and if you’re the person who’s providing the money, you’re saying like, hey, I’m not gonna be a cleaning lady forever. And we need money, so really, we don’t really have to stay – I was really being cold, I was like, we don’t have to stay in this band. We can totally use this band and it’ll just take us to another place, we’ll meet a lot of people, right, we’ll make a lot of money, make a lot of friends in high places, and then we’ll just quit. So Lindsey’s like, okay, alright, I’ll do it. And that was that.
That’s so funny. Let’s stay in that world of the intertwining of having a female creative unit and a male creative unit. I grew up with a lot of women in my family and I run a record label now, and I think we’ve got like 80% women. I only say that because I spend a lot of my time in studios with young creative people who really inspire me. Now, the thing that I have noticed as a man, is that in recording studios, there can be quite a masculine energy. It can be quite bro-ey, and it seems like sometimes, to be totally honest with you, sometimes it feels like men’s creative ideas or men’s knowledge of equipment or something like that seems to kind of supersede a woman’s opinion, and I’ve seen that happen. I was just wondering if, not asking you to dig out any of the members of your band or… I was just wondering if that did happen or that didn’t happen, or it doesn’t happen if you’re Stevie Nicks. I was just wondering if there was ever kind of… People always talk about, if you watch a Fleetwood Mac documentary, it’s like, oh we were worried that we were gonna have a catty relationship between two women in the band, which sounds to me like the opinion of a time, do you know what I mean? I don’t really think… I’d probably be more concerned about a toxically masculine environment being created, but the music doesn’t sound like that ever really happened. I was just wondering what your experience was as the front woman for a male rock band.
Well, this is what happened. When I met Chris – this sounds like a movie, right? When I met Christine McVie… she’s five years older than me, so we were like 28 and 33. And Christine is a full on, you know, trained concert pianist person and an amazing artist painter. So there was so much more to Christine than just music, and when I met her that night at the Mexican food dinner, I was just like, I was awestruck with her. I mean, I thought, I have just met my new best friend, for sure. I had no doubt that she was gonna say, absolutely, when we drove away that night. What happened was, we went right into rehearsal, like a couple of days later for the record. We went into rehearsal for eight weeks, I think we rehearsed to make Fleetwood Mac/Fleetwood Mac. Maybe during the first week, I said to her… because remember, we’d opened for Jimi Hendrix and 75,000 people, we’d opened for Janis Joplin and Chicago and Buffalo Springfield and Santana. So we didn’t feel like we were these lowly people coming into this band. I looked at Christine one day and I said, I don’t ever… we have to make a promise to each other, that we will never be treated like second class citizens, ever. And if we do, if we go into a room with a bunch of famous people like Eric Clapton and on and on and on, and they treat us like we are not as good as them – then we are just gonna say this interview is over.
And we’re gonna walk out. And that’s exactly who we became. So if me or Christine was a strong woman in Fleetwood Mac, if you put the two of us together, we were a force of nature that was not to be fucked with, not even to be fucked with for a minute. So as the music started, I think maybe just because there was two of us – it was me, it was Chris, it was Lindsey, it was John, it was Mick, and we were such a great team, and we were all so respectful of each other’s talents. It was like, there was never, ever, anything like what you were talking about. And maybe this is the only band in the whole world that that ever happened for. That five people could come together, two women and three men, and be that copacetic and that respectful, and that in love with our band as we were. And because of that, the forcefield around us was like a giant wall of impenetrable glass.
Wow. That’s incredibly… To be honest with you, that makes a lot of sense to me, because the power in the music… when I hear some of your more wild vocal performances, it’s a similar thing to when I listen to Janis Joplin, and that woman also surely was not to be fucked with. So one of my favourite female artists is a girl called Phoebe Bridgers, and she’s a good friend of mine. You should listen to her record, you’d really like it, it’s honestly one of my favourite records of the past ten years. She has an amazing perspective, and I was talking to her and I told her I was talking to you, and she was freaking out. I said, well, what would you ask her? And she’s texted me this – I’m just actually gonna read it, because I think it’s quite interesting. She said, she made a joke first and said, I think I’d ask her if she was on her period when she wrote Landslide, because Phoebe’s creative process has a lot to do with her menstruation. But her main question is: I’d honestly be so curious to know if she ever feels like she’ll never be able to write again, or if she ever wanted to quit. If so, what changed? I also wonder if she thinks she’d have joined the Heartbreakers if she was a man, seeing as Tom Petty said no girls allowed.
Okay, let’s start with Tom Petty. Well, I just went after Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with everything I had in like 1979, and their whole mantra was “no girls allowed.” And so, I said well I’m gonna break that down. I did break that down and I became really super good friends with all of them. Tom became not only one of my most famous and loved peers, but also one of my best friends and somebody who always backed me up. In the long run, like I don’t know, thirty years later, he gave me a platinum star sheriff’s badge that said, “To the only girl in the Heartbreakers” that had little 24 carat gold, drops of cold across this sheriff’s badge and little diamonds, and on the back it says, “To the only girl in the Heartbreakers.” You know, and of course when he gave it to me he said, don’t lose this. And I said, I won’t lose it, Tom! And just to end on that part, the death of Tom Petty was so shocking for me, I’m never gonna get over it, but I have my sheriff’s badge.
I’m so sorry to hear that. We were actually in Conway Studios the day that it happened, and I was stood next to one of his platinum records, and it was this awful cyclical moment. I’m so sorry for your loss. Talking about that, one of the things I’ve been talking about on this podcast is sex, drugs, religion, all being kind of forms of losing oneself. You get to lose yourself in the moment, you kind of relinquish responsibility. I think that’s why I’m so addicted to making music, because it’s kind of the only place that takes me somewhere remotely divine as an Atheist, or somewhere that puts me into that primordial state of consciousness where I can just exist. I’ve heard in your music and stuff like that, you talk about, you know, Fleetwood Mac which was art, sex, drugs, losing yourself. But I wanted to talk to you about religion. I was just wondering what role that has played in your life if any, at any significant point. Because for me, I feel that I’m always looking for something, and I’ve looked for it in sex and I’ve looked for it in drugs and I’ve looked for it in religion. And as I get a little bit older, the desire becomes a bit more calm, but I’m still definitely in search of something and religion is kind of something that I’ve tried and failed at. I was wondering if it was similar for you, or what your relationship was with religion.
I honestly am spiritual, and like in my journal… Before we have a really big show, like if we’re playing Madison Square Garden, I will always put at the end of it… now let’s pretend it’s a really big show tomorrow, and I’d go, okay, this is a really big important show. And so I call in my spirits, I call in Tom, I call in Prince, because Prince and I were friends also, and I call in, you know, my mom and dad and all the people that I love to stand with me tomorrow night. And then when I walk on the next night, I really say, you know, I always say Prince, rock with me. Tom, rock with me. And the rest of you spirits just stay close. That’s kind of what my religion is. I know there’s another side, because when my mom died on December 28th 2011, ever since then, she whispers little things to me and I swear to God it’s true, I’m not making it up. And I don’t care if anybody believes it anyway, because it’s just me, but you know, I’ll be like super freaking out, looking for something that’s really important and I’ve looked for it for a couple of days, and I will just say – my mom’s name was Barbara, I’ll just go, oh, Barbara, where is it? It’s like I’ll put my hand down in front of me and it’ll be under my hand. Like some kind of like, a little golden tree ornament or something, it’s crazy. And I’ll just go like, thank you Barbara. I know she’s there, I know there’s another side. I don’t know if it’s exactly heaven, I don’t know what it is, but I know all those people are on the other side and they’re there. So that’s really my religion.
I think that’s really beautiful. I believe the same, my religion, for me, is whatever’s true. We can talk about heaven, afterlife, before life. We can talk about God, we can talk about all these conceptual ideas, but the only thing that’s ever going to happen is this, or face to face versions of this. It’s your communications with other people, and from what you say it seems like your sense of divinity is in your real life relationships that you’ve had, and that’s really, really beautiful and that comforts me, because I feel the same. Another thing about drugs is that drugs take and take and take. They take away from you and everyone knows that’s the case. The problem with that is that I’m unwilling to glamorise drugs, although I’ll talk about my experience with it in my work, I’m unwilling, as I know you are, to glamorise drugs. But the problem with it – let’s say you’re an artist and then drugs come into your life. Your life changes, therefore your art does change. There is this small moment where it could’ve been because of drugs or a newfound religion or whatever. This substance or this behaviour has a profound effect on who you are and it changes your art, and sometimes it can change your art for the better. Now, that never lasts, ever, and it very, very rarely happens. Drugs immediately, uppers or downers, just start taking away until you have nothing left. But one of the things that people don’t talk about because it’s risky, is the fact that sometimes, at the beginning, it can engage this new spirit of whatever it may be. I was just wondering if there was a moment in your life where you realised… I’m sure there were lots of moments personally where you realised it was taking things away from you and taking your relationships away, but was there a moment where it affected your work? Because you say stuff like, “We cannot break up or there will be no Fleetwood Mac,” which almost says to me like, Fleetwood Mac, at times in your life and as an idea, is almost more important to you, than you. Was there ever a time where using got to a point where you couldn’t hide behind how it made you feel anymore creatively?
Well let’s just put it this way. I think that, so Tom Petty says in his book – he never said it to me, but he does say it in his book – that he thought that I would die first.
Wow. Why did he say that?
Well, because he knew me and we did a lot of coke together. Same thing with Prince. Prince was pretty sure that I would die before him and it kind of blows my mind right now as I’m sitting here sober as a judge, thinking to myself that both my friends are gone. And so this is how I feel about cocaine; first of all, we didn’t go looking for cocaine when we moved, it was different than your generation. We moved to Los Angeles having never heard of it before. The first time I saw it was, oddly enough, my producer Keith Olsen, I cleaned his house, right. I’m like a fantastic house cleaner, I’m so good that he would leave lines of this stuff under a paperweight or something, that most people would never move, but of course not me. That’s really when I started doing coke, and Lindsey too, because then I’d say, look at this. What is this? So it was very slow, it was a very slow build. Three years later when we joined Fleetwood Mac, it’s not like we ever bought it or really did it, so it wasn’t a very big deal. But when we joined Fleetwood Mac in ‘75, for the whole of ‘75, it was around but we never bought it. And then when we got into 1976, it started to really be around – so let’s just shoot up to when I went to Betty Ford in 1986? Yeah. This is how I felt about it. Cocaine was great until it wasn’t. For me, it was like being in high school and taking a diet pill. It was like okay, now I can go set up the living room, light the candles, you know, get the song, get the music, get the poem, get a little shot of brandy and have a little bit of coke and write a song. What could be better? It’s like, that’s my favourite night in the whole world. And until it became like, when I saw it start to be more important, like if you ran out of it at the studio, you’d suddenly be not as worried about the song that you were working as you were on, than “Can we get any more tonight?” and that started making me really hate it, because I thought nobody, like I said with me and Christine – nobody tells me what to do. Nobody.
Except maybe my mother, right? My mother tells me what to do, and stares at me with those flashing brown eyes and I’m probably going to follow her directions, but nobody else tells me what to do, but cocaine does.
And so I started to hate it. And one day I went to a doctor who told me I had a really big hole in my nose and that if I didn’t stop I could have a brain hemorrhage and if nobody was around, I could collapse and die. And I said, well, of course then my vanity kicked in and I’m like, oh my God, my nose could just fall off my face, oh no, no, no! So I was booked on a tour, on the Rock a Little Tour, it was in 1985 I think, or thereabouts. It was six months, and he said, well you better be careful out there. So I was really, really careful because I wasn’t gonna cancel the tour. I cut the habit way down, I did the tour, got home, put my house in order, got in the car and drove to Palm Springs and went into Betty Ford, and stopped doing coke.
To do that, to have that kind of self retaliation and just move on is an incredible thing.
Okay, okay, can I tell you one other little story? If you liked that story, you’re gonna love this story. Okay, so I’m home and I’m packing up my apartment, packing my huge suitcase to go to Betty Ford, right, like this is what you need – a lot of great clothes at a rehab centre. So I’m packing up and I go there, I get it all ready and I’ve already called Betty Ford. I’ve checked myself in. You have to check yourself in, you know, you have to call and say you wanna come. I’ve already done that, nobody told me to do it and nobody knew I had done it because I was just gonna be totally secretive. But, of course, people find out. So all of a sudden, I go to see my ENT, my ear nose and throat doctor, and I tell him because he’s my friend. And so he tells my manager, and the next thing I know my ENT calls and asks me if I wanna go out, right? And I’m like, what are you talking about? You’re my doctor. And he was like, I was thinking we could go to dinner. I’m like, okay, maybe he’s dying or something you know, and he wants to tell me. So I go, okay. We go out and we drive up to this big house, we pull up in the driveway and I’m going, this house looks familiar, but I’m not sure whose house it is, but it’s familiar. So we walk up, knock on the door, and he says he has to get something, he has to pick up something, right. I’m like, this is crazy. And so the door opens up and it’s my manager.
And I walk in, and in this big massive gorgeous living room is sitting my mother, my father, my other manager, some other people in my life that I can’t even remember. I walk in and I know what’s happening here. And I walk in and I go, so, is this an intervention? And they’re like, well, yes, and of course my mother is just sitting there crying. My dad is sitting there looking like a stone sphinx, and my manager is like, we want you to go into rehab, we think it’s a good idea because you’re not doing well – I mean, you’re doing fine, you’re singing great and everything but you need to go in. I was so mad that I said, okay, where do you want me to go and when? They’re like, oh… I said, I’ll go tomorrow, you assholes. And they’re all looking at me, they were all stone faced by now, because I’m furious. And I said, okay. They said well, we haven’t gotten that far yet, we don’t have a… And I said, well, fuck all of you, I have a bed at Betty Ford and I’m leaving the day after tomorrow to go to Palm Springs, to go to rehab on my own dime and it’s my idea, not your idea, and you’re all fired. And mom and dad, I’ll see you in Phoenix later. I walked out, got in the car and made my doctor take me home and I never spoke to that doctor again for five years.
That is hilarious. I love that.
I know. It’s a great story. And it’s a true story, because that’s really who I am. It was like, if I’m going to rehab I’m going because I’m going to set it up, I’m going to make the plans and nobody’s telling me to do that. I knew I needed to go. It’s kind of like when people say to me, you need to do this. Don’t tell me I “need” to do anything, because I know exactly what I need to do.
But Stevie, that is a level of self reflection that most people, regardless of their intelligence, just don’t have. I think that you should, you need to accept a lot of credit to be able to be that… You know, I was somebody who basically, at the height of my using, sat around with my band – yes, I was only 29, but we’d been in a band for 17 years. Remember, we’ve been in the same lineup since 13, so we’re coming up to our 18th year as a band, and we have this kind of autocratic setup where it is a democracy, it’s kind of my vision and George’s sonic vision. Basically I remember having my best friends, my best, best friends sit around and essentially say, we’re worried about you and it’s more important than what we’re doing. And I basically said, well, I’m not gonna stop and let’s not bullshit each other. We’re not pulling a tour, we’re not pulling the record, so everybody just needs to pretty much fucking get on board and stop… Because this is starting to piss me off now, do you know what I mean? I woke up the next morning, and checked myself, with the guys, into rehab. I realised that if somebody had said that to me… My relationship was slightly different that it took me to actually be an arsehole to the ones I love in real time and then reflect on that and go back. But anyway, we could talk about our drug experiences for ages. For me, I wanna talk to you about melody, because you’re not pretentious and you don’t think that you’re like, divinely decreed, but your ability to write melody is honestly… I think melody-wise, you have to go to Mozart then The Beatles, and then you, really, for me. I know that’s a massive accolade, but the reason that I say that is because to write a melody is such a special thing, and some people are naturally good at it. Some people are students of the craft, do you know what I mean? For me, the thing that I’ve learned in my short career, is to trust my instinct. So for me, when I’m looking at making a record or looking at making a song and I’m thinking about it, it can almost be looking at a goal and a football. And I’m thinking, God, I’m going to have to use my mortal skillset to get that ball in that goal. But when I actually start, it’s not like that – things just come. The melodies seem to come, and the way that I write is that basically George will write a piece of music and then I’ll write melodies to it. Do you write melodies to music or do you write melodies and match the music to it?
I was totally gonna ask you the same thing. No, I go to the piano with a full formal poem.
Wow, okay. Talk me through that.
Well, let’s just say, so I have a poem to a song that’s called Moonlight. So it goes, some call her strange lady from the mountains/others say she’s not really real/like a candle burns bright but wants to run faster/but maybe then at least she really feels.
I’ll go with that whole poem, which is a song called Moonlight. It’s one of my very favourites that I’ve written in the last like, five years. I know, don’t laugh, but I wrote it about the Twilight series of movies, the vampires?
Because I loved the story of Edward and Bella, so I wrote this whole song. When I do it on stage I put on this long white fur coat, I just become this white wolf, right? I love to write poetry. If I ever really lost my voice, then I would probably just write poetry. I would just write poetry books. So I very seldom ever just go and sit down at the piano and start playing something and singing words along to it. It gives me comfort, to have a poem that I really believe in, because then I can change around – I can start with the melody if I don’t like it, it doesn’t matter. I can change to something else, and the funny thing about it is that I never took a piano lesson. I started out with guitar and I only took a month of classical guitar lessons when I was 16. I wrote a song, my dad and my mom said, that’s a good song. So that was that, I was in on the songwriter thing. And then years and years and years later, after Lindsey and I were together, somebody gave us a piano. I walked up to this piano and sat down in front of it, and I just started playing, guess what, Rhiannon. And that’s the song, to this day, if I go up to somebody’s strange piano I just start playing Rhiannon.
That’s not fair! That’s what I mean. That’s not fair, because you have to work really, really hard and you have to be really, really talented. You can’t just be one or the other, but honestly, for me, the whole of Tango in the Night and all of your records, but Rumours feels like it was found, not written. Do you know what I mean? It feels like someone found it, it feels like it was unearthed as opposed to, fucking, sat down after one guitar lesson and just jammed out. I mean, I know that wasn’t on that record, but honestly it just fascinates me. That’s so amazing to me that you write like that, because obviously the lyrics… I can’t think of an example of a song, but Everywhere or Dreams or something like that, it’s like the words are perfect but the placement of the melody is perfect. That’s harder to do for me. It’s amazing that you manage to have poetry and then turn it into a celebration of kind of melody and syncopation and all of these kinds of things. It is really fascinating, I do want people to understand that it is so hard to reach that kind of level of purity and make things fit musically. Your ability to do that is amazing. The fact that the words come first – you could go like, if you had a longform bit of writing, it could be really difficult to put it into music, so that’s amazing. I write very differently, I write very conversationally as well. There’s such profound metaphor in your work, and the kind of profundity, if that’s a word, that comes from mine is more like a celebration of the mundane, do you know what I mean?
So one thing that’s interesting about the way I work when I write to piano, because I kind of gave up the guitar. I wanted to have beautiful long nails and that wasn’t gonna be a guitar player, so I really went in towards the piano. And all the way up until now, I’ve had the same lead guitarist since 1981 and his name is Waddy Wachtel. I’ll say to Waddy every once in a while, “You know what? Maybe I should take some piano lessons.” And he goes, “No, don’t take piano lessons because what you do is perfect.” He says if you take piano lessons then you’ll have rules.
And you don’t want rules, it’ll change what you do. It’s like telling a painter, don’t take painting lessons.
And the reason that you and I, I think that all the time. Because you suffer, and I probably suffer, every artist suffers with an element of imposter syndrome, you see this virtuoso player who isn’t as successful as you, or you see all these people and you think, God. I’m not formally very educated in what I do.
I’m not trained!
And the thing is that you realise that very seldom do you find people who are incredibly musically trained but also have a wealth of ideas. This is the thing – if you start bringing too much form to something that’s natural… This is the thing I’ve really struggled with learning, because my records, each record is so different that every time I’m making another record I have no blueprint. Every time I make a record I’m a bit like, well that one was successful. I don’t really have a blueprint of how to do that, so my blueprint I suppose is just enjoyment.
Because we’re the kind of artists, I think, that fly by the seat of our pants. And we don’t really wanna… When I’m not writing, if I’m on the road like I’ve kind of been for the last 15 solid years until this year, I took this year off purposely. There’ll be a grand piano in my suite and I don’t even walk over there, because I don’t wanna write anything, I write in my journal and I might write a little poetry, but I don’t wanna write until I have a reason to write, like there’s a record coming up or something, because I want it to be new. I want it to be exciting, I want it to be really special and I want to walk into the room with the candles and the incense, the whole deal. I don’t wanna feel like I just did that yesterday. So I go away from it completely.
Exactly. And the thing that I’ve had to learn in this search for what is it that I do, is trusting my instinct. It’s that brilliant David Lynch kind of bit of demystification that he says, when people are always saying to David Lynch, “How do you come up with these visuals? How do you direct these things?” And he says, I read the script and I write down the first thing that comes to my head, and then I film it. It’s about the removal of “why” or “what” that I’m doing, and just kind of doing and hoping that celebration of music is what I do. It’s not about how Chocolate sounds or what this song sounds like, it’s about the authenticity of the expression. I think that’s something that neither of us could be accused of being is inauthentic.
I wanna say one thing, because I have it here and I want to get it out of the way, I don’t want to forget to do it before we hang up. I would’ve thought that you would’ve written more like me, and now I don’t know if you or George wrote this part, but I’m just gonna read you something that makes me think that you would take your formal poems. But also there’s a line in this that’s one of the reasons that I totally fell in love with your lyrics, because… Anyway, I’m just gonna read this to you, okay? So it says, “She’s inducing sleep to avoid pain/And I think she’s got a gun /Divinely decreed and custom made /She calls on the phone like the old days, expecting the world /Don’t fall in love with the moment and think you’re in love with the girl”. I think that “Don’t fall in love with the moment and think you’re in love with the girl,” fist of all, that’s just like my life, right?
That made me… The way that these words are, I would think that you actually started with words and that you didn’t start with music. Between you and George, and I don’t know where you begin and he ends because you know, I understand that symbiotic thing that you guys have. Unless you tell them, nobody’s ever gonna know, but the fact is that your lyrics are – and I don’t even wanna say lyrics, your poetry is like, so good and so seductive and so intriguing. I mean there’s all kinds of great sexy words I could use, but it’s like… I just love it. So you have to know this, because this is gonna knock you out and make you feel like you’ve done a great job. I’ve been on the road with Fleetwood Mac for two solid years, with Fleetwood Mac, with Neil Finn and Michael Cambpell from the Heartbreakers. So it was like, I don’t know, 90 shows. We hired Mike and we hired Neil and that took like four months. And then we went into rehearsal for six weeks, and then we went on the road and did 90 shows. And every single day, we get there – probably like yourself – we get there at five, I go into makeup at like fifteen minutes after five. It’s my dressing room and I’m the player of the music. We listen to what I want to listen to because I’m getting ready for the show, so it’s my choice. I heard these first two albums, not the third one, I didn’t even know about the third one until today. I listened to it today. But the first two I listened to, and I have people that will witness this because not only did I listen, but also, you know, my makeup artist, my assistant, all my girls, to your two records every single day between five and 8:15. Every, single, fucking, concert.
I listened to these two records to the point where not only did I just love it, but it was comfort. Your music was comfort. Every once in a while I would try to put on something else, and we’d all look around like, what’s wrong with this picture? Oh, it’s the music. It’s not The 1975. Well screw that, put them on. And so every day, that was about two and a half hours, and never, ever once got tired of it.
Well, that’s honestly made me a little bit emotional. I don’t actually know who your Stevie Nicks is as you are to me, but that’s made me really quite emotional to be honest with you. That’s the most amazing compliment that I think I’ve ever had. To not just sit in the compliment and talk about it – the poetry aspect is the fact that the music does come first, but it’s about, I suppose, that I write what I see and I write what I hear a lot. So I tend to be somewhere and voyeuristically overhear something and I’ll write it down. I write down a lot of concepts, I write down a lot of stuff that doesn’t rhyme. The biggest moment that I’ve had with that is, we have this song called Love It If We Made It, which has kind of become I suppose our biggest song, it’s our big kind of political moment. It talks about everything that was kind of messed up in the world from 2018 onwards. There’s kind of references to this and references to Trump. I remember having this moment in the song where the lyrics, the melody had to go bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah, 1−2−3−4−5−6−7, and I needed seven syllables. So I was thinking, what are these powerful syllables? What are seven syllables that really reach the time? And then I found Donald Trump’s quote of, “I moved on her like a bitch.” And I just screamed, I moved on her like a bitch! And that is the synthesis that I’m always searching, finding… It’s like painting by numbers but not making it rudimentary, do you know what I mean? I need to let the music inspire the poetry and then make musical poetry around it. That’s kind of what I do.
And you know what? This is the third record, right?
We just put up… Well the third record’s been out…
You have a fourth coming out?
Coming out, yep.
But this is the one I listened to today.
I love it that we made it here, to this place right now, because it’s like, you know what? I didn’t know exactly that this was about our poisonous president, but I’m so glad you wrote it and I’m so glad that is what it’s about because you know, we’re just here like dying under our pandemic with this government, and it’s so crazy. I love this song, I love all the songs on this record. I love this record. I’m so bummed that I didn’t know about it – nobody told me that this record existed when I was listening to just the two for two solid years. We were on the road you know, we were running and rushing and it was a slightly new thing and it was like… So nobody came in and said, “Oh by the way, they have a third album.” That’s why I wanted to listen to everything today before I talked to you, because I wanted to be immersed in all of this. So now I’m gonna start listening to this record, and I’m really excited about it. And then I’m really gonna be excited to listen to your next album that will be out like when, May?
I’ll send it to you as soon as I put the phone down. I’ll send it if you wanna listen to it.
Oh please, absolutely.
I’m gonna ask you a question that I would never… that you’re not gonna be able to answer. What’s the best Fleetwood Mac record?
What’s the best one?
If I say to you, you’ve got to go listen to a Fleetwood Mac record now, in its entirety, as Stevie Nicks, the person that wrote it and was there and has heard it a million times. What Fleetwood Mac record would it be?
I would… Like we already said, we sort of are into what we’re into at the time kind of thing. So then we’re going back and going into all the memories of all those records, and I would probably say just because if we’re talking about a whole record – if I went into a studio with a five point surround sound thing, I would probably say Rumours, because Rumours was a hard record to make, believe it or not. I know it sounds like it just flowed out of us. The first record was really easy because even though Lindsey and I weren’t in terrific shape, it was so exciting and it was so new. It was big, you know, I always say it was like those were very romantic days, having nothing to do with romance with any person but having to just do with the halcyon days. The song from Italy sort of thing, it was just a beautiful time. And so when we got to Rumours and we were broken up, we all knew that we were gonna make a great record because I already told you that was like our mantra: don’t take it into the studio. But when I sit and listen to it now, if I have a great stereo and I’m sitting in the right place and I’m in the right mood, I can just really love it for how hard it was to do and how really great all the songs are, and how great we sang, how great our trio had become by then. I could really appreciate that, so even though, as in all records, there was lots of great parts of all the records, that one on the whole is the reason why people love Rumours the most, is because probably in the long run, after we’re all dead, people are gonna look back on it and say, Rumours was the record that will live forever, I guess.
It will live forever and it’s one of the best pieces of music of all time. I just wanted to say that if it wasn’t for Tango in the Night, The 1975 would not sound how we sound. We’ve moved in lots of different directions and we take a lot of different influences and our music goes everywhere, but the quintessential 1975 sound, that I suppose is this kind of idealistic, almost late-80s hyper-pop sound or whatever it is, that comes from Tango in the Night ruling our lives. If you haven’t heard Tango in the Night by the way and you’re listening to this, what are you doing? Just go and listen to it right now.
Let me tell you a little bit about Tango in the Night.
So Tango in the Night – I actually really love Tango in the Night. The only reason that I wouldn’t have mentioned or said that, is because Tango in the Night was like… After I came out of Betty Ford in 1986, I was forced into actually going to a psychiatrist because everybody wouldn’t just leave me alone and believe in me. So I finally said okay – this psychiatrist put me on a pill called klonopin, just because he actually wanted to sit around and talk about rock’n’roll with me.
And so he did, he put me on that drug and I was on it for like eight years. It’s the biggest regret – it’s the only regret of my life, that I didn’t get up and walk out of that office. I kind of knew, I kept saying to him, is it gonna help me sleep? And he’s like, no, not really. A year after that we went to make Tango in the Night. They call klonopin a tranquiliser because it’s a tranquiliser. So I was tranquil, and what happened is that we made that album at Lindsey’s house, which was unheard of but we did it. And so we’d go up there and it was like, you know, we did our lead vocals in his master bedroom. The whole thing was just weird. So I didn’t go a lot, but yet when I did go, the songs Caroline and Family Man – for me, Lindsey’s songs on that album were my favourite. Talk about going to a different place, because that was after Mirage, right? I’m looking at it right now, so it’s Big Love, which was wonderful, and of course we never got a chance to do it on stage the way it is on the record because Lindsey wanted to do it by himself. So Seven Wonders ended up being on American Horror Story and became a big huge hit again two, three years ago. Caroline, Tango in the Night, which is amazing. Little Lies is my favourite Christine song in the whole world. Family Man, I loved Family Man. Isn’t It Midnight was a really great rock’n’roll song from Christine, she didn’t usually write those kinds of songs. Those were the ones I loved, but I loved those songs and strangely enough, those songs never made it to the stage. The ones that had that amazing kind of acoustic rhythm, like bongos, you know? Mick was able to really be his really percussive self, so I loved that record and I can totally understand and see why that would’ve been influential for you. And I’m so happy.
Massively. It was so aspirational and you’ve gotta remember, you know how you say that you’ve always been a bit of an Anglophile, England’s always been this romantic character to you, or English people. I can imagine being American and London and grey Manchester, there’s a miserablism that’s probably quite romantic. But for me, I had the opposite of California and America and that different type of sunlight and that different type of… Because it’s very easy to be from Manchester and be like, we’re gonna try to be like The Smiths or like Oasis, we’re gonna be quite dreary, because that’s where we’re from. That was never our plan, and by the time we were making The 1975 as a real thing, like 2010, heavy music from the ’70s up to the ’00s had kind of been done as an alternative statement. I thought, what’s a really alternative statement? It’s something that sounds like nothing else. Something that’s subversive and there hasn’t been a record, like you said, that sounded like Chocolate or something in a long time. You’re somebody who has been thinking that your whole career, so I’m so glad that it resonated with you. I’ve interviewed you and I’ve interviewed Brian Eno and I’ve interviewed a lot of people, but I have to say to you and Brian a special thank you for kind of being the lifeblood of my career now. I really couldn’t have done it without you.
Well, I thank you so much. I just would really love to meet you and your band in person, we think that we should make some music at some point together, definitely.
Well, listen, as soon as this situation alleviates, I’m gonna be running up and down. I’ll be getting on any plane to anywhere just to do it because I’m so done with the lockdown. So as soon as we have the opportunity to meet, I’ll come to you, we’ll talk about stuff that’s a bit less ego-centric for both of us, and we can hang out and definitely write a couple of songs. Honestly, I could not think of anything that I’d want to do more. Ladies and gentlemen, Stevie Nicks, thank you so much for talking to me.
Matty Healy / The Face / Tuesday, May 5, 2020