Stevie Nicks on how she wrote ‘Dreams,’ her signature style, book plans and not being able to tour: ‘This virus has stolen time from me’
To describe Stevie Nicks as a woman of many words — fascinating words — is a massive understatement. Whether it’s in the cosmic lyrics to classic songs like Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” (which is a bigger hit than ever, thanks to Nathan Apodaca’s TikTok skateboarding video); her eloquent, journal-like social media posts; her new fever-dreaming comeback single, “Show Them the Way”; or her utterly unfiltered interviews like the one below, Nicks is a brilliant thinker, a consummate storyteller and an absolute icon.
Leading up to the release of her film Stevie Nicks 24 Karat Gold The Concert — which will run for two nights only, on Oct. 21 and 25, at select cinemas, drive-ins and exhibition spaces around the world — Yahoo Entertainment spoke at length with the two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee about the secret “magic room” where she conjured “Dreams” in 1975, how she came up with her signature look, her friendship with Harry Styles, her admiration for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, why she’s happy being single, her COVID-era fears about never being able to perform onstage again and her hopes of compiling all her wonderful words into a book one day.
Yahoo Entertainment: Lately, you’ve been writing some very beautiful, heartfelt things on social media, almost like essays. And one that really struck me was you were expressing your fears about being able to return to doing what you love, which is performing live. It must be bittersweet to be releasing a concert film in the middle of a time when there are pretty much no concerts happening at all.
Stevie Nicks: Well, first of all, last February I had a talk on the phone with my friend Harry Styles — I call him “H” — about when we could perform together again, because I had just sung with him at the Forum, and it was so much fun. And he said to me, in all of his 26-years-old-ness, “Stevie, I think it’s going to be a long time before we can walk onstage again. I don’t think that we will walk onstage again until the end of 2021, and maybe not until 2022.” And now I’m like, “Oh my God, this man is more psychic than I am!” Damn, if he wasn’t right. So the thing is, is that, are we sad? Yes, we’re devastated. I turn the television on for 15 minutes and it’s showing every single state and the upticks in every single state, still going up. Like, what the hell? This is terrible. We were hoping that by this time we would be at least getting closer to being able to go back out and at least do outdoor festivals. But you know what? We’re not Donald Trump. We can’t put people in danger, and we never will put people in danger because of that. We’re not going to take people into a big venue like the Forum and take the chance that they’re all going to come down with this virus in six weeks. So, honestly, I don’t know what the future holds.
As soon as I found out about [the coronavirus], I said to the world and to God and to everybody else: “Listen, I’m not getting this. I am not going to get those little blood clots that form in everybody’s organs. I am not going to have a stroke. I am not going to have a heart attack. I’m not going to have brain fog for the next five years of my life. I am not going to be made into an invalid at 72 years old.” So I have, like, put a thin plastic shield of magic safety around me, and I’m really super-careful. I immediately started out that way, stomping my foot and saying, “Not me!” … For me, as a 72-year-old woman, I feel like this is the last six or seven of what I call the useful years of my life, and I think this virus has stolen time from me. And that really makes me angry, because I thought I took pretty good care of myself, my whole life — I mean, I got to 72 and I’m still wearing six-inch heels, and I can still get away with wearing a short chiffon skirt onstage if I want. And now, guess what? You’re slammed into a house for two years and you can’t go out and you can’t do anything. How could this have happened? How in the world did we get here?
Speaking of social media, on the happier side of things, do you think that is why Nathan Apodaca and the “Dreams” challenge connected so widely right now? Obviously you won that challenge with your roller-skate video, but TikTok is flooded with people lip-syncing to songs. And yet, Nathan’s clip just exploded.
People needed a little bit of magic. I think it’s a little bit of magic. You know, “Dreams” really came right out of my R&B heart in 1975. And this is a story that nobody actually really knows. … When we recorded “Dreams,” we were up at the Record Plant in San Francisco and were almost done with the 12 demos. Everybody was working on something else in the main studio, and I had this idea. I was kind of wandering around the studio, looking for somewhere where I could curl up with my Fender Rhodes and my lyrics and a little cassette tape recorder. And this guy who I didn’t even know said, “Are you looking for a place to go and play?” I said, “I am. I have a song in my head and I want to record it.” And he said, “OK, now, you can never tell anybody, but I have a place where you can go.” And I’m like, “Oh my God, a magic room! Oh my God, I’ll never tell anybody.”
And so we went down the hallway and he takes a key and opens this door, and there is this full-on studio that none of us ever knew existed in this building — and we’d been there for like three months! I walk in and it’s a big studio with a sunken circular shape, actually like a lighthouse, like a circle, and there’s keyboards all around, a bunch of keyboards that went down this tunnel kind of thing. And then over to the side was this big half-moon circular bed with all black and red velvet. It sounds a little garish, but it was actually beautiful. And I said, “What is this?” And he said, “This is Sly Stone’s studio.” And I’m like, “Are you kidding me? The Sly Stone? He wouldn’t care that I was in here?” And he goes, “I don’t think he’d care. He gave me the key. So you can stay in here as long as you want.” So I got up on that bed and sat there and just kind of vibed out for 15 or 20 minutes, and then I just started playing — and I started playing “Dreams.” And within about 20 minutes, it was written and recorded — I mean, super-simply, but nevertheless, I thought, “Thank you, Sly Stone and the spirits of Sly Stone and all of your band.” And so I walked out back down the hallway and I walked into Fleetwood Mac’s studio, and I said, “Listen up, everybody. I think I have something that you want to hear.” I played them a little recording of “Dreams,” and we recorded that song that night.
Wow. That’s so cool. Obviously that song is making the rounds right now because of the cranberry juice video, but I’ve always associated it with another viral video: When Lucy Lawless played you on Saturday Night Live, running a Mexican restaurant.[laughs] The crazy thing is my mom probably made the best Mexican food in the whole world because we lived in El Paso, Texas, for five years — between the third grade and the eighth grade, that was a long time — and she learned to make the most amazing Mexican food. And she also told me that when she was pregnant with me, the only thing that she could keep down was enchiladas. So I’m like, “OK, Lucy Lawless, you’ve done it. You have psychically seen into something in my family.” I thought that was great. I mean, I’m always flattered when people take my songs and use them for something, you know, because that’s what they’re written for. They’re not just written to be sung onstage. They’re written to be carried with you and pulled out whenever you want them, to use for whatever you want. … A song could go far and wide and just belong to everybody. Once you let it go, once you put it out there, it’s like a baby. Once you let that child go, you no longer have a lot to say about it. It goes where it wants.
You say you’re always flattered when people in pop culture reference your songs or imitate you, so I assume you are aware of the Night of 1,000 Stevies annual drag/club events?
Oh, I am, I am!
Have you ever considered sneaking in — like, infiltrating it?
I’ve totally thought about it. I’d really been thinking about it like lately before this whole [pandemic] happened. I always thought how fun it would be to actually really disguise myself — like be me, but look like a bad rendition of Stevie Nicks, so that I could really actually be anonymous and just be walking around and just be talking to everybody. … And then at the very end, I’d just walk out onstage to a track of “Edge of Seventeen” and just launch into that song and everybody would all of a sudden stop and look up and freak out. You never know. I can show up at any time.
That would be amazing. Lady Gaga actually pulled a stunt like that on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Would you ever do that show?
I wouldn’t not consider it. Doing TV is not my very favorite thing, because you don’t have much control over it, and at 72 years old I’m always worried about the way people film you. You get a little bit more weirded out about that as you get older. But it’s not that I wouldn’t love to do that show, and it’s not that I might not do it. I mean, the older I get, I’m also more up for a new adventure than I was, say, 10 years ago. Maybe that’s what happens when you get older too, that you just go, like, “Yeah, sure. I’ll do it.”
People would go nuts! So, how did you develop your style? Because a lot of rock and pop stars, they’re more chameleon-like, but you have a very signature style. Everyone knows what the “Stevie Nicks look” is.
In the beginning, I went on the first Fleetwood Mac tour, which lasted about three months. … I had never done a tour, so I ended up leaving with just the few things that I had bought here and there, my normal s***ty clothes that I’d had for the last five years. I did have a friend that actually made me a couple pairs of really slinky bellbottom pants, like Janis Joplin pants, and some little tops that went with them. But the fact that [Lindsey Buckingham and I] had been pretty much starving for so long, we were really skinny. I was like, 105 pounds skinny. And so we get on the road and there’s room service. And so, guess what? We ordered room service and we ate and ate. I gained about 15 pounds in two weeks and all those clothes that I took didn’t fit, and there was nothing I could do. So when I got home from that tour, I met somebody who knew a designer, and her name was Margi Kent. She had little rhinestones under each of her eyebrows and hair her down to her knees almost. So I met Margi and I said, “Listen, this is what I want to look like.” And I drew a stick-girl with a little velvet riding jacket and a little skirt with little points. I said, “I want to look a waif in a Charles Dickens story.” I also wanted really heavy-duty, beautiful platforms, so they would be comfortable. I wanted two skirts and two jackets, one with long chiffon Rhiannon sleeves and one with normal velvet sleeves. I said, “That’s all I want. And I want two sets.”
What I wanted was a uniform. I didn’t want to have to think about what I’m going to wear. I just wanted to go, “It’s time to get dressed” and have that stuff hanging in the bathroom. And that’s how it started. And I looked at myself in the mirror when I put it on and I thought, “This is the best you’re going to ever look. So there is no reason to ever change this. You’re 28 years old. When you’re 60, this is still going to look good on you, unless you’ve gotten really fat. You can stay in black, because black is slimmer, so just never change into color because that won’t work.” And that’s what I did. I stayed in basically the same outfit and Margi just updated it every two or three years. I am still wearing jackets that were made 20 years ago, because they were made so well that they never wear out. They never look old. So that’s really it. I realized when I looked at that outfit, that it would last forever. … I can take one of my outfits from any size, all the way back to the beginning where I weighed like 110 pounds, and I can put that outfit on any of my goddaughters that are tiny or the ones that are 30 or the ones that are 40. Every once in a while, I’ll let them play dress-up in my outfits. And it’s like, it’s not just me. Everyone looks good in my outfit.
I’m curious though, that when you went with that original sketch to Margi and you had this very clear vision, where did that come from?
It was very specific, huh? I think that it did come from somewhere between Oliver Twist and Great Expectations and those kinds of stories that I read and love, even like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, those kinds of fairytale books. Those heroines were definitely specific in what they wore. But OK, I did see somebody kind of in that outfit. At one point when Lindsey and I did these four shows, we went to the Santa Monica Civic, and there was a girl that walked by and she was kind of in that outfit that I do, except it was a kind of mauve-y pink. She had cream-colored boots on and the pink skirt and a little jacket and her hair was all done up like a Gibson Girl with a button thing on her head, and I just thought, “Oh my God, if I ever, ever have any money, that’s what I want to look like.” That was 1969. So I remembered that girl years later. I remembered her kind of floating by me.
I wonder if she will ever know that she inspired you. It wasn’t a famous woman, right?
No, it was just some girl who looked really special. Like she was like really somebody.
Back on the subject of your social media posts, when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, you wrote the most amazing tribute on your Instagram. It had me in tears. What inspired you to write something so lengthy and passionate?
You know, I definitely lived through the time when we were fighting for all that stuff. I was also in a family where I had a very, very strong mom who wanted me to be very independent and was wanting me to have my own choice on everything. … I remember women trying to find a way to get an abortion. I remember women going to Mexico and going to the back alleys. I mean, obviously that never happened to me, but I heard about it and I was horrified. And so when Roe v. Wade was passed, I was like, “Thank God that this has now been put back in the women’s hands, because each one of us should have the right to do what we want with their own body.” If you have a sick baby growing in your stomach and you can’t afford that sick baby, and you already have three others, I think that only you as the woman who is the mom can make that decision on what to do. It’s so not fair to put that decision in the hands of the government. And I so wish that Ruth — I do call her Ruth — had somehow made it up to this election, up to like a couple of weeks after the election. Because I think that this new judge [Amy Coney Barrett] is being set up to change everything. And if she does, we are all going be in a big heap of trouble.
I do love your posts, even the very sad ones. I would seriously love to read an essay every day.
I’m trying to actually write more than I used to, like with a pen and paper, and explain things. … Like, when I wrote about [COVID-19] being like American Horror Story and the black Victorian carriage with the beautiful, noble, but dying horses that would come for you if you get this virus — what I wanted to do there was put a face on the violence, so people would maybe start to think about this deadly virus as that carriage. When I write something, I really try to make it more understandable, in a more poetic way. But I have been keeping a big, leather-bound journal that’s as big as a coffee-table book since I can remember. And in this specific leather journal that I use right now, I’ve been keeping those journals since probably 1995. I have a truckload of them. … I try to write beautifully so that when I die, all of these journals will be left to all my goddaughters, my nieces, these young women that will take care of these journals, and we’ll publish all the things that they feel should go out. I might even be able to do some of that myself. … I am learning that people do like reading these things, after the few things that I posted. Like, I had to write something about Tom Petty last night. I was just supposed to talk on a tape recorder, but I said, “I can’t do that. I’ll just go off on some kind of tirade. Let me just sit and write it.” And it came out really beautiful, because I had written it. Tom’s family is really super-happy with it, because it was a moment in time that I wrote about with me and Tom. So I am getting to the point now where I’m picking up my pen and really writing stuff that I’m allowing to go out, because I’m starting to realize that a lot of people actually would like to see more writing. And I didn’t really know that before, because I never really put anything out.
Would you ever consider turning these writings into a book?
I am thinking about making a book, like a coffee-table book with my drawings, with a drawing on one side and then poetry and journal entries. I think it would be a really beautiful book, if I can get some help from all of my girlfriends who have been watching me write in these journals every night for a hundred years to sit and help me go through them all and pull out the pieces. I don’t really want to write a “book about Stevie Nicks,” an autobiography. But to put out the vignettes of my life, the great things, the great romantic moments … the really hard moments, the really sad moments, those things I’m not so up on putting out, the terribly awful things. Like, do I want to write a bunch of stuff about doing drugs? Not really. Go back and read all my interviews, if you want to hear about that, because it’s all out there. The things that I would want in that book would be the things that people don’t know about, but would love to hear. I know you would love to hear them.
I sure would! You say you wouldn’t want to do a straight autobiography, but I am sure you have been approached about a biopic, or a Fleetwood Mac movie.[A Fleetwood Mac biopic] would be very, very hard to do now. I’ve always said I never wanted to make a movie about Fleetwood Mac. … You have to get everybody in Fleetwood Mac involved, and that would really not be easy, because everybody in Fleetwood Mac would have a different idea. “No, no, you can’t do it that way!” And then another person would be saying, “I think that your ideas totally suck, and this is what it should be!” It would be very hard. You’d have to have a mediator in there, keeping everybody from each other’s throats to actually work it out. So it’s a mystery to me, to quote a Fleetwood Mac record. But who knows what the future has to hold? Sometimes you make these like blanket statements of “I’ll never do that,” and then two years later, the right person comes to you and talks to you about it and you’re like, “OK, that actually sounds kind of good.”
You said if you did any sort of book, you’d focus on the positive, and you mentioned “great romantic moments.” You’ve had some high-profile relationships, but many men are threatened by women who are as strong as you, the way your mother raised you. That’s something I’ve definitely experienced in my life, in my own way. Why do you think this is?
Because I think that if you are really strong and you have a great job, then… like, what is your last name?
Well, no guy wants to be “Mr. Parker.” And nobody wants to be “Mr. Nicks,” either. I have had a few boys that actually were really lovely and actually totally enjoyed my crazy life and and my crazy girlfriends and thought what I did was fantastic and were never jealous of me. And that’s the kind of man that we would want, but they’re far and few between. They do exist. They’re out there. It’s just finding somebody like that. It’s very, very hard. And when I actually did find a couple of guys like that, a long time ago, maybe if I had decided that I just going to stick with this one guy, I might’ve actually had a happy husband, somebody that I really was well-suited for. But I was so busy all those years, moving, moving, moving, always leaving and always on the road. And that was hard for the nicest and most understanding of men. It was like, “So, how long are you going to be gone?” And I’m like, “I don’t know. It could be six months, it could be a year, depending on how this record does. I honestly can’t tell you.” And then you drive away in a limousine and they’re like, “That so sucks.” And you can’t blame them, really.
I’m 72. It’s not that I’m not feeling romantic, because I can still sit down and write a really good love song. I always have hope. I always think, “Maybe around the next corner might be that perfect person who’s going to be your person.” But I’m not looking for it, and I don’t expect it to happen. But not in a bad way. I would be surprised and happy, but I’m not going to spend the rest of my life waiting to walk around that specific corner either. We’re women, and if we want to rule the world — which we do! — we kind of just have to take everything as it comes and be happy with what we have. I’m pretty happy. I have a good job. I have the most amazing dog. I have a lot of great friends. I love my music. I love my job. And I know a lot of people that are married and they’re not happy. They have kids, and they’re not happy. So I wouldn’t trade with them for anything, you know? I think that maybe most of us who really search for what we want, kind of get what we want in the end. There’s a few things we miss out on, but basically in the long run, it’s pretty great.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I think probably being the first woman to go into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for my own work — going in as Stevie Nicks last year, after already being inducted with Fleetwood Mac in 1998. That was probably my proudest moment, because there were 22 men that were in twice for their solo work and for being in bands, and then there were no women. So, now there’s one woman. And it is me. I feel like I broke a glass ceiling there and let it rain on all those guys who thought there’d never be a woman that would go in twice. That was one of the most fun nights of my whole life.
As you’ve mentioned, you have a real kinship with Harry Styles, who inducted you at the ceremony and performed with you that night. What other young artists do you admire?
I love HAIM, and I think their new record [Women in Music Pt. III] is exactly the record that I wanted them to make. I listened to it probably a hundred-thousand times when it came out. When I heard their record, I sent them this little video of me and my dog, Lily, squawking around listening to their record. I think their album is spectacular. I love Miley Cyrus; I love that she saw into “Edge of Seventeen” and it inspired “Midnight Sky.” She called me and asked me if she could use it, and I said, “Take it. I’m so happy that you were inspired by it. It’s fine with me.” I also really like Halsey, because she’s kind of crazy and weird and I just really like her for that. I really listen to all the current stuff. … So I think that music is in good shape. If only everybody can hang on and we can get ahead of [the coronavirus]. If we could get just get back to being able to play for people. We’re never going to get rid of this, this is never going to go away, if everybody doesn’t get in the game.
In the meantime, we have your concert film coming out, but also your first new song in six years, “Show Them the Way.” I know you wrote it many years ago, but that song is so perfect for right now.
I had the best time making “Show Them the Way.” I’m so proud of it. Putting that together made me go, “Wow, if we’ve got another year of this — and please, God, say I’m wrong — then maybe I might just make another record, like soon.” I might just start on something else, because it’s been really fun and I’ve really enjoyed it. Once again, I would like to say how proud I am of “Show Them the Way” because I did hold it back for almost 13 years, and then I thought I wanted it out three weeks before this election, hoping that it might become like a theme song — something that maybe Joe Biden and Kamala Harris could play, something that was written for all the people that are running to take this country back. It’s the first time that I’ve really written a song that was not just a really good song, but it was a really good song with a purpose. And so I’m hoping that they keep playing it, and then it actually does what I sent it out into the world to do.
Lyndsey Parker / Yahoo Music / Saturday, October 17, 2020