The 26-year-old rocker (who this week received three Grammy nominations) is the Gucci-clad poster boy carrying the torch for a bygone era of music history that the Fleetwood Mac frontwoman helped crystallize. Styles recently cited the group’s 1977 (and still charting) classic “Dreams” as one of the first songs he learned the words to growing up. Their friendship began in 2015 after the former One Direction member presented his idol with a hand-piped birthday cake after a Fleetwood Mac gig in London. (“Glad she liked carrot cake,” he later said.) The years since have seen the duo’s mutual affection blossom into one of pop culture’s most cherished bondings.
Last year, when Styles inducted Nicks into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he proclaimed the 72-year-old “everything you’ve ever wanted in a lady, a lover, in a friend.” Nicks has gushed about him in interviews as everything from “the son she never had” to her “love child” with bandmate Mick Fleetwood. Styles earned her official seal of approval after covering “The Chain” every night of his first solo tour in support of a record that sounds closer to Crosby, Stills & Nash than anything he released under his prior band.
“Harry could’ve lost a lot of fans, but he didn’t,” Nicks recently told Vogue over the phone. “I’m so proud of him because he took a risk and didn’t go the One Direction route. He loves One Direction, I love One Direction, and a gazillion other people do too, but Harry didn’t wanna go the pop route. He wanted straight-up rock and roll circa 1975.”
Nicks has been embracing some of the busiest years of her dual careers as both Fleetwood Mac frontwoman and solo sorceress—and doing so amid a global pandemic. Since she last performed with Styles at the Forum for his Fine Line release show in December, she’s released a 24 Karat Gold concert film and “Show Them the Way,” her politically minded single and first piece of original music in six years. After Miley Cyrus asked for Nicks’s blessing before releasing her “Edge of Seventeen”–tinged “Midnight Sky,” the two joined forces for an exhilarating new mash-up titled “Edge of Midnight.”
In honor of Styles making history as the magazine’s first solo cover boy, Nicks caught up with Vogue to answer all our questions about their cosmic connection. Currently beachside with her quarantine bubble in Hawaii, she’s been doing what one would expect Stevie Nicks to be up to during a pandemic: writing new music, dancing around her house to “Watermelon Sugar,” and “casting little spells.” As befitting rock’s foremost storyteller, our intended 30-minute chat turned into a two-hour confessional about her love of Styles, working with Cyrus for the first time, joining Fleetwood Mac, the president-elect Joe Biden, the Met Gala, betta fish funerals, and much more.
Your assistant just texted me a photo of the most gorgeous sunset I’ve ever seen. Where are you calling from?
We just got to Maui. It’s turning winter in Los Angeles, and I live close to the beach, where it’s colder than anywhere else in Southern California. Me and my quarantine buddies had a little break where we thought we could come over safely, so we did.
Did you bring your dogs along?
Yes. We have three—two Chinese cresteds and one Yorkshire—and they’re thrilled. I think this pandemic affected them too because they’re travelers. It’s just a two-week trip, but we brought enough stuff to last us a year. I don’t really come out of my room much since I don’t go to bed until seven in the morning and typically sleep until three—and that’s whether I’m in L.A. or London. Wherever I go, I still end up having breakfast at five in the afternoon.
Last time we spoke you talked about the inspiration behind writing “Show Them the Way” around the time of the 2008 election and waiting all these years release it until you felt the moment was right. How does it feel now to finally have it out in the world?
What I hoped was that it might be some help for this election. I made a change to one of the original lyrics, which are “Please God show them the way, please God on this day.” I changed it to “show him the way”—Joe [Biden]—and “please God show her the way”—Kamala [Harris]. My thought was, I’m gonna predict this. I’m gonna write it on paper, put it in a song, sing it, and make it happen—which is ridiculous [laughs]. But I’m so happy for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
What were you doing when you heard the news?
I was sitting in my condo, just waiting.
I don’t know how our national psyche would’ve survived another four years under Trump.
I’m 72, and if he had another four years in office, I would’ve died from the emotional trauma alone. For the last four or five years, me and a friend and my assistant fell into a frenzy watching the news. Every day we’d wake up going, “What’s he gonna say?” I stopped watching all my favorite shows like Law & Order and Criminal Minds because I’ve gotta watch my Chris Cuomo and Rachel Maddow now. Between the pandemic and the news, I’m surprised anyone’s sane.
Before we get into everything Harry, I’d love to talk a little about your new song with Miley Cyrus. How did “Edge of Midnight” come to be?
I turned my downstairs bathroom into an echo chamber where I sang new parts on her song “Midnight Sky.” It was so much fun. We went back and forth a couple times on the phone, building new harmonies, and really got to become friends. She’s the only person I know who has a lower voice than me.
** “Midnight Sky” got a lot of** comparisons to your solo work when Miley released it over the summer. Whose idea was it for the two of you to sing verses from each other’s songs?
Miley desperately wanted to sing on “Edge of Seventeen.” I said, “Go and knock yourself out. I’ve sung it practically every time I’ve gone onstage since 1981, so you go ahead.” I picked out the parts I wanted to sing on her song, and I even got to ad-lib, [sings] “In the midnight, in the midnight sky…” a few times at the end. I thought she’d probably take it off, but she didn’t. [Imitates Cyrus’s Southern accent] “I love it, it’s my favorite part!”
Are you open to doing an original song together?
After I told her a couple things that I thought we should do on this song, I said, “You know Miley, I just wanted to say that I’m actually also a producer”—I never really think of myself as a producer, but I am—” and I would really love to work with you on something brand new. Just you and me.” She was just knocked out. She said she’d love to do that so much. I’m not sure how old she is—26?
Google says 27.[Gasps] The famous 27. That’s an important year. It’s when I joined Fleetwood Mac—well, somewhere between 27 and 72. There’s a meeting of the minds where she becomes 20 years older and I become 20 years younger. That’s what I find with all these younger singers that I have relationships with. We meet in the middle, and that’s how we relate to each other: Miley gets older for me, and I get younger for her. It’s the same with Harry.
Did you get a chance to look through Harry’s cover story yet?
Right before I called you, I sat here and looked at all the pictures on my new iPad. What can I say? That’s my Harry. I think the thing that’s most wonderful about him—and I’ve told him this, and sometimes I think he takes it the wrong way—is that he’s such a kooky guy. He’s the type of person you’d wanna live next door to. He’d look out the window, see you having a hard time planting flowers, and rush out asking, “Can I help you with those roses?” “Sure, but you are Harry Styles, right?” That’s who he is.
I really only know him to a certain extent, but I have gotten to experience some big moments in his life, like when he released his first solo record at the Troubadour. I always think of Tom Petty saying, “So, you wanna be a rock star or you wanna be a pop star?” It’s two completely different things, and he really could have gone pop like his friend Zayn [Malik]. I was sorry that Zayn didn’t keep going more because I thought he was really good. But he took the pop route, which I think was right for him. Harry could’ve lost a lot of fans doing rock and roll, but he didn’t. Harry did a long tour with that first record and said, “I’m a different person now. I have a full-on rock band, and this is what I’m gonna do.” With many of my records, I’ll stuff down peoples’ throats until they like it, and that’s exactly what he did. Then he went away and wrote Fine Line, one of my favorite records.
What were your immediate thoughts listening to Fine Line for the first time?
Me and four of my friends sat with Harry in his living room in London and listened to it a few times before it came out. But it wasn’t really Fine Line yet. The first time we listened to it, nobody really said anything. The second time everyone started to go, “I think this song is great, but it should be second in the sequence.” By the third listen, it was five girls screaming, “Well, Harry really now, I think you need to take these four that are called Harry Songs and do this and that—” while he’s sinking in his reclining chair thinking, Are these women ever gonna leave? Thanks for your opinions, but oh, my God, stop already.
What changed when you heard the record in it’s finished form?
This record means a lot to me. When it was all put together, I listened and said, “Oh, my god, the Beatles live.” A whole lot of people live in these songs. Fleetwood Mac lives there. I live there. When I listen to “Fine Line,” I hear melodies that would’ve worked on “A Day in the Life. “It has that same kind of complexity. I think the Beatles would’ve thought, Here we’ve influenced a young man who took some incredible things from us and made them his own years and years later.
Earlier this year you posted a message saying that Fine Line is Harry’s Rumours. Can you elaborate on what you meant by that?
When Harry asked me to do “Landslide” with him at the Forum, I asked why, and he said, “Because I want you to be there. You were there for my first night at the Troubadour for the first record.” That night I wrote him a letter that said, “This is your Rumours so you have to really respect it and adore it because these kinds of records sometimes don’t ever come again.” Fleetwood Mac went on to make many great records, but people would bet their life on the fact that Rumours was the one. And this might just be the one for Harry. We were all kind of the same age when we made Rumours. I was 28, and Lindsey [Buckingham] was 27. I actually don’t even know how old Harry is—he’s that timeless to me.
Do you have a personal favorite of his songs?
Every one represents a different thing to me. “Sunflower” is such a great little song. He loves to do crazy videos, and one time I called him and said, “I have an idea. You’re gonna be a bee, and the sunflower would be your girlfriend, and you guys would get married and live in a beehive with your little bee children. You’d sing the lyrics ‘kiss in the kitchen like it’s a dance floor duh duh duh’ and show this entire bee relationship.”
What did he think of that pitch?
When I finished, the other end of the phone was silent. I said, “No, really, think about it. It’ll be fantastical like a Francis Ford Coppola movie.” He’s like, “Yeah, okay…” [laughs]. I also love the “Adore You” video with the little fish because I have my own special relationships with fish.
In what sense?
I always have two betta fish, but they have to be separated otherwise they’ll kill each other. I stick my finger into their aquarium, and the blue one will swim around my hand like a little dolphin. When my fish get old and suddenly die, I have funerals for them in my backyard where I play Celine Dion. I have them filmed, and everything [laughs]. It’s too much, but I thankfully haven’t had any recent fish deaths. I haven’t even been able to sit down and show Harry the videos of my little fish, so when I saw the “Adore You” video, I couldn’t believe it.
Why is it important for you to foster these relationships with younger artists like Harry who’ve been so openly influenced by you?
I’m inspired by them. I’m inspired that Miley wants to make music with me. I’m inspired that the Haim girls are my biggest fans—and I theirs. A lot of these kids are making the amazing records I’ve been waiting for them to make. I’m not like other 72-year-olds. I listen to current music because I want to be current. When people find out how old I am versus the music I’m listening to, they think it doesn’t gel at all. I’ve been collecting musical knowledge since I was in the fourth grade listening to the singles my grandfather used to bring home. I listened to Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers until the sixth grade when R&B radio became Top 40. I said goodbye country and hello R&B, so it’s not like I’m ever stuck on one thing. What I love about Harry is that he’s very old school but still modern. And that’s kinda like me.
You both also transitioned from massive groups to equally massive solo careers rather seamlessly.
When I decided I wanted to be a solo artist, I’d only been in Fleetwood Mac for a few years. I tried to figure out a way to do it gracefully because I didn’t wanna break up the band. I just wanted to sit at my piano and write poetry. After we did a record and a really long tour, the band scurried off to different parts of the world while I’d just be home writing songs for a year and a half. What did they care what I did while they were all on vacation? I’ve always said all the way through these two careers I’ve had: If you’re in a band first, never break it up.
I know Beyoncé because I spent a day with Destiny’s Child making the “Bootylicious” video. I owe them a debt of gratitude because that’s the one time I ever got to pretend I played rock-and-roll guitar! But when Beyoncé made the decision to be a solo artist, she did not see herself going back to Destiny’s Child every couple of years. And that’s a perfectly acceptable decision because sometimes that’s what people wanna do. I, on the other hand, said, “Why not have the ability to go back to Fleetwood Mac whenever I want?” Being a Gemini, I get bored really easily, so being able to have those two careers was great.
Do you think One Direction would ever reunite?
I think it’s a good idea. For all we know, One Direction is completely broken up forever. But I think those guys are friends, and five or ten years down the road, they could all go, “You know what, wouldn’t it be really fun to do a One Direction tour?” Because that’s what people do. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did reunite at some point just because they can. And because it would just be fun. Harry is the kind of person who would never stomp on that idea. He would never say, [imitates posh English accent] “Never! I would never do that again!” Because why not just keep the door open?
You certainly made it work.
For me, it was a very successful union. I started writing songs for my solo career during the Rumours tour in 1978. Chris would tinker around on the piano with me and sing parts while I wrote “Edge of Seventeen.” I knew what was coming and I was excited about it, but that didn’t make me any less excited about Fleetwood Mac.
Was there any particular detail or passage in Harry’s cover story that stuck out to you?
According to this article, he can get in a car with his friend to drive all over Europe then drive back by himself. I stopped driving in 1978 because my driver’s license expired and I’d already made a lot of money. I very smartly thought, “You know what, if someone even hits you and it’s not even your fault but you’re a little drunk, you are done. You’re finished, and the fortune that you’ve made is gone, so why should you drive anyway?” By then me and Christine were very cloistered, but Harry’s able to live a freer life because he’s a guy. He’s like Mick. He has a free life.
Would you say that you don’t?
I’m only comparing us in the way that Harry goes off to the Bahamas to work on songs, then flies back to L.A., then London, then Italy—I can’t do that. I can’t do that by myself. He’s able to do whatever he wants by himself, and it’s a whole different way of life. Being that Harry is a guy, he’s able to be a loner more than I am. As a woman, I’m not free to do all that. Even when I was his age, I couldn’t just get off anywhere I wanted. When we were on the road, Christine and I didn’t have a clue in the world what the boys did. We went to our rooms with security guys standing outside. It’s not like we ever escaped to go club-hopping in downtown Manhattan. We never got to live that life, so freedom as Harry knows it is very different than it’s been for me.
Did you ever have any figure in your life who provided some sense of mentorship the way you have to artists like Harry?
I didn’t really have anyone. If I had any guiding force at all, it probably would’ve been Christine McVie because she was five years older than me. And five years is five years, you know? Chris was friends with Eric Clapton and knew all the famous musicians in London. She’d married John [McVie] and done a bunch of records with Fleetwood Mac before I came along, so she’d been in the music business for a long time. I was breaking up with Lindsey when she was breaking up with John. She was my therapist and my go-to person for just about everything. We had each other to get through that really difficult situation where no one was gonna quit the band. Christine and I kept the whole thing together by telling the three men, “You quit because we’re not stopping” Thank God I had her, but on the other side of that, thank God she had me. We really were a force of nature.
** I’m curious to what extent fashion plays a role in your and Harry’s relationship. Have you** gifted him any accessories that were significant to you?
I actually gave him a ring at the Forum thing. It’s very masculine and has a pink stone in it. I told him it was a pink diamond, but it really isn’t. It would’ve cost $5 million. It was mine, and I really loved it, but I thought, This should be for Harry. You can see it on his hands in the “Falling” video where he’s playing the piano. If Harry and I were in a band together, we’d be trading all kinds of crazy stuff.
How did you come to decide on your all-black stage uniform?
I started getting paid when I joined Fleetwood Mac, but up until then I didn’t have any money to buy food. All of a sudden we were going on tour, so I just packed up my normal clothes. We started eating because there was room service, and there I was gaining 10 pounds in the middle of the tour. I didn’t fit in any of the clothes, and I didn’t have time to shop, so when I got home, I said, “I can never do this again.” I knew a friend who knew a designer, and I told her I needed a uniform because I can’t be thinking about what I wanna wear every night. It makes it so much easier since everybody that’s in Pittsburgh isn’t necessarily gonna be in Philadelphia. Harry’s done the same thing with his white pants and pink shirt.
What are your thoughts on him being the first solo male cover in Vogue’s history?
It makes me feel so inspired. I’m extremely jealous he’s on the cover of Vogue because I’m 72 years old and have wanted to be on the cover my whole life. I’m such a magazine hag, so I’m incredibly jealous of Harry, but I’ll get over it. As far as all the crazy things he’s wearing, you do whatever you have to do to be on the cover of Vogue. I’m very proud of him, and I think it’s great that there’s a man on the cover…but I should’ve been in the corner off in the distance [laughs]. Did you know I’ve never been to the Met Gala?
We would be honored to have you at the next gala and every one after that. I’m putting this in the article to make sure it’s in the public record.
As Mick Jagger says, “We still have our freedom, but we don’t have much time.” I would like to be not much older than I am now so I can wear a fantastic outfit and entertain everybody. It’s a dream of mine, and most of my dreams have come true, but I need to not be 90 when it happens.
Harry and you could perform together.
We wouldn’t even have to rehearse. We’ve got a couple of duets that are really great. We do “Landslide” and “Two Ghosts” together really well. We actually have five or six terrific acoustic numbers that we could do at the drop of a hat.
You hinted earlier this year that there might be a role for Harry in the miniseries based on the stories of Rhiannon. Is there any update there?
This is probably the third-biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life after Fleetwood Mac and my solo career. There’s a lot to be done in the movie business before I can start riding my horses across the mountains of Wales. I’ve signed with a movie company—I’m not gonna tell you who—and we just signed a writer. I’m not gonna tell you who that is either, but there’s an amazing part for Harry. My favorite character in the series is the only man who goes through all four books. He’s a magician who doesn’t wanna be king, and I think Harry would just be so perfect.
Have you and Harry discussed collaborating on any future music together?
We’re open to making music together because we’ve been very successful when we go onstage just to do one song. I would love to be in a band with Harry, but even if I never saw him in person again, he’s made a record that breaks my heart in a million places like Fine Line. As far as music goes, there’s plenty of fun things that he and I could do. We can just reach out to each other and do it. I’m always ready to slip back into those high-heel black suede boots and become my alter ego.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Keaton Bell / Vogue / Wednesday, November 25, 2020