Stevie Nicks bought her first copy of Vogue when she was 25 years old. It was 1973, around the time of Buckingham Nicks, the first and only album she and ex-boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham ever released as a duo. Still a few years removed from the fame and fortune that would follow their recruitment into Fleetwood Mac, Nicks was earning just a buck fifty an hour waiting tables in a flapper girl uniform.
“I only had enough money for one magazine at that point, and Vogue was the first one I ever bought,” Nicks recalls. “I would scrape my money together and buy it every month.”
Five decades later, Nicks—who prefers using a landline and doesn’t own a computer—still finds comfort in her lo-fi rituals. “To this day my favorite thing is getting into bed at five o’clock in the morning with a cup of decaf coffee, playing some soft, groovy music, and reading my Vogue,” she tells me. “Me and my little dog Lily pore over every single page for hours, and it’s been that way since 1973.”
Nicks has spent most of the pandemic in her Pacific Palisades home with two close friends and the aforementioned Lily—a Chinese crested who sits dutifully on her owner’s lap during our call. “She has her back turned to me because she doesn’t really wanna be here. I just know she’s plotting her escape,” Nicks says with a raspy giggle. “It’s fine. My feelings aren’t too hurt…well, they are, but I’ll be okay.”
As Fleetwood Mac’s lovelorn frontwoman, Nicks crafted masterworks out of the sex-and-drug-fueled dalliances that almost destroyed the group (documented in real time on their 1977 breakup opus Rumours). Still one of the 10 best-selling albums of all time, Rumours made stars out of its new lineup, but it was always clear from the outset who the breakout was. With three songwriters fighting for space on each record, it wasn’t long before Nicks needed her own outlet.
“They said, ‘You can make your solo album and have a solo trip, but if we go into work, we’re gonna call you,’” she remembers. “‘Terrific, I’ll be there.’ That was always my promise to them.” 1981’s shimmery Bella Donna set the stage for a second career that made Nicks the first woman to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice (once with the group in 1998 and by herself just last year).
2020 was originally meant to be a year off from the grueling lifestyle that comes with back-to-back arena tours as both Fleetwood Mac frontwoman and solo enchantress. With just one festival show a month, Nicks would slow down. Then the shows—her headlining slots at Jazz Fest and Governors Ball were early casualties—began to be canceled.
Music venues aren’t predicted to return to full capacity until summer 2021 at the earliest, but this month, Nicks is releasing two projects: 24 Karat Gold: The Concert, a filmed version of her 2017 solo tour, and “Show Them the Way,” her anthemic new single and first piece of original music in six years.
24 Karat Gold: The Concert begins with Nicks sauntering onstage in what’s become her signature all-black uniform: a chiffon wrap blouse, peasant-style skirt, layers of billowy caped jackets, and velvet platform boots. The look may be familiar, but she assures the crowd that nothing else will be: “It’s not the same Stevie Nicks show you’ve seen a million times, because I’m not the same Stevie Nicks you’ve seen a million times.”
Playing at theaters and drive-ins October 21 and 25 (streaming plans TBD; a live CD version is out October 30), the concert film was shot during Nicks’s 2017 24 Karat Gold tour and edited this past May. “At first I didn’t understand why I had to edit any of it. But then I’d listen and there’s always a thing here, a thing there, and a lot of likes,” she laughs. “That’s the Valley Girl in me!”
24 Karat Gold was a new album composed of old material pulled from Nicks’s “gothic trunk of lost songs,” with some dating all the way back to 1969. The tour marked the live debut of those songs and many others from her solo catalogue, including the Wild Heart title track, performed in the same key as a rare live demo that’s become a fan favorite. “I couldn’t have been more thrilled to walk onstage every night and be able to do all these other songs I love, but of course I’ll never get tired of doing ‘Edge of Seventeen’ or ‘Stand Back,’” she says. “Those songs were a part of my life for so long that I would never take that away from people.”
Nicks’s favorite performance in the film is “If You Were My Love,” a ballad written for her solo debut that she cut at the 11th hour. “It’s such a beautiful song and sometimes I just wonder, ‘Where did this come from?’ It breaks my heart when I sing it. You have to sing it in a way where you know people are feeling it,” Nicks says. “I know someone has a tear in their eye because it reminds them of someone they always loved or wanted to be in a relationship with who never knew. I feel that onstage and I see it.”
When I saw the tour the night before Halloween nearly four years ago, the fervor of the attending crowd rivaled that of a Pentecostal gathering. Many were dressed in their own form of Nicks-ian drag: layers of vintage leather, frilly lace, and drapey shawls. A few fortune tellers here, a handful of white winged doves there. A woman I spotted near the stage had even teased her hair to the gods, re-creating the cover look from 1989’s Other Side of the Mirror.
But Nicks had underestimated her own appeal. “We didn’t really have any plans to film anything, because in the beginning we didn’t think it would go beyond 25 shows,” she says. After the first leg sold out, the tour went on to book a total of 67 shows. Filming became a logical business decision. “It kicked me up into the next echelon for my solo career, which is amazing that it would be a tour with all those unfamiliar songs.”
Had Nicks gotten the chance to take the stage at Governors Ball this year, she would’ve shared headlining duties with a slate of artists who weren’t even born when Rumours debuted: Solange, Miley Cyrus, Vampire Weekend, and Tame Impala, who once participated in a Fleetwood Mac tribute album. Chances are one of your favorite artists has covered Nicks or cited her as an influence.
“Our parents would play her records for us in the house constantly, so we’ve been listening to Stevie’s music since we were born,” the Haim sisters shared via email. When Nicks invited the band to her home in 2014 for a T magazine interview, Nicks gifted the trio with gold moon pendants modeled after her own. “We’d heard about them from other friends who’d received them saying that they hold the power of the moon. Stevie said when we meet someone who is in need of healing, it’s our job to give it to them.”
A new single, “Show Them the Way,” is a different kind of gift to her devotees. The single, out now, began life as a dream that occurred while she was in Chicago editing a concert special in 2008. After spending all day in the studio, Nicks would go home and watch the Democratic primaries or marathon documentaries about the civil rights movement. “I was like a student of history,” she recalls.
One night, Nicks had a crystalline vision: She was invited to a political benefit attended by the civil rights luminaries; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led her down a hallway to a ballroom where John Lewis and John F. Kennedy awaited her. “I saw myself walking with Martin Luther King from the back, like I was standing on the other side of myself, and for the rest of my life I will have that burned across my heart,” she says now. “I walked down the hallway with him into that room with the Kennedys, and all the people surrounding the piano said, ‘Play for us.’”
Nicks wrote a poem about her dream and eventually set it to music. Over the years she’d stumble across her handwritten poem and consider tacking it onto a release like 2011’s In Your Dreams. It was just never the right time, she says, until now. Nicks considers “Show Them the Way” a “record unto itself.” One that needed to simmer for 12 years before she felt comfortable sharing it with the world in two versions: the original rock anthem and an acoustic piano ballad.
“When you hear the acoustic version and really know the words it’ll break your heart. At least that’s how it affects me,” she says. “Then I listen to the rock version and think it’s my best song since ‘Edge of Seventeen.’”
The release of the single coincides with Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” charting on the Hot 100 for the first time since 1977 thanks to a recent viral boost from TikToker Nathan Apodaca. A 22-second video of Apodaca gliding down a highway while lip-synching the song in between gulps of cranberry juice provided a feel-good balm for the quarantined masses, with “Dreams” streamed more than 36 million times in the past two weeks alone. Nicks paid homage to the TikTok for her debut post on the platform, spinning the track on vinyl while swapping Apodaca’s skateboard for roller skates.
“I’m not really on the internet. I hate it,” she clarifies. “Taylor Swift talks about all the haters and it’s too much for me. I’m afraid anything I say people will take wrong and I just can’t deal with that.”
Nicks would just rather listen to music anyway. Harry Styles’s Fine Line is a recent favorite, and she loves the new Haim record “to death.” She sings every night, and says dancing around the house to “Show Them the Way” is her “favorite exercise” right now. Nicks takes days to curate cassette mixtapes filled with her favorite songs she hears across the radio, name-checking everyone from Halsey to “the 1978” (sic) as current favorites. “I’ll listen to Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus, then mix generations and put in someone like Mariah Carey,” she elaborates. “Then I’ll throw Harry Styles right into the middle with ‘Watermelon Sugar!’”
Nicks has all but adopted Styles, who knows a thing or two about transitioning from supergroup to solo career. The former One Direction member first met his idol in London at a Fleetwood Mac show that happened to fall on her birthday. Styles piped her name onto a carrot cake and hand-delivered it to Nicks backstage, kicking off an unexpected May December friendship that now seems preordained.
“Stevie means so much more to people than their favorite song, or a concert they went to once,” shares Styles, whom Nicks personally selected to induct her at last year’s Rock Hall ceremony. “Her strength, fearlessness, and openness to feeling is something that leaves you feeling lucky to be on the planet at the same time as her. She inspires you to be bolder, in work, life, and love.”
Nicks can’t wait to perform with Styles again when this is all through. She wants to sing “Show Them the Way” in front of a crowd who’ll hopefully glean some strength from her vulnerability. “There’s a lyric from Mick Jagger that goes, ‘I have my freedom but I don’t have much time,’ and I’ve been saying that to people over the past two or three years,” Nicks says. “I know everybody just thinks I’m the Energizer Bunny, but I’ll be 80 in eight years.”
The state of the world has made music’s most romantic optimist question whether she’ll ever get to twirl across a stage again. “I wanna order this pretty little necklace and I told my assistant, ‘It could go with my stage jewelry…if I ever go onstage again.’ And I’m saying that all the time,” she groans. “Or how something would be perfect for my stage outfit…if we ever travel again.”
Nicks has been taking the pandemic seriously. Her biggest fear is what contracting the virus could do to her overall health but particularly her singing voice. She battled a case of Epstein-Barr virus in pre-lockdown 2020 and was hospitalized with double pneumonia the year before. “I really feel if the country doesn’t come together, we are never going to get rid of this,” she goes on. Nicks has also been posting on Instagram more frequently in recent months, urging her fans to stay inside and wear a mask. “Unlike other people who are continually having rallies and saying it’s fine to go indoors now without masks, we—the music community—give a you-know-what about the future of our industry and would never put anybody in danger.”
In the meantime, she’s hard at work on a multimedia project based on the character of Rhiannon, the “old Welsh witch” who inspired one of Nicks’s most indelible hits. She also wants to turn more of her poetry into music and, eventually, a new solo record. Fleetwood Mac isn’t recording new music anytime soon, but you can count on baby boomers and Gen Z to show up in equal measure for their next tour (whenever that is).
“There’s so many layers to each moment in life,” she says toward the end of our conversation. “I always climb into the next layer of my stories and have to pull it back when I see somebody on the side of the stage waving their hands yelling, ‘No! No! Stop!’” Nicks laughs.
“I’ll just have to tell all my other stories next time.”
Keaton Bell / Vogue / Tuesday, October 20, 2020