April 29, 2001
Stevie Nicks goes it alone, for now
By Steve Morse, Globe Staff, 4/29/2001
Stevie Nicks is 52, living alone, and liking it.
After a celebrated stint with supergroup Fleetwood Mac and a solo career that sees her releasing a new album, ''Trouble in Shangri-La,'' on Tuesday, she simply doesn't have time to let anyone special into her life.
And she's not apologizing.
''I'm not going out with anybody right now - and I'm really happy with that,'' Nicks says from her Los Angeles home. ''My days are completely filled up and they have been for almost two years, because making this record has been that heavy.''
Going it alone characterizes the way she wrote the new album, her first in seven years. She thought of seeking out collaborators, so she set up a dinner with old friend Tom Petty, with whom she had the 1981 hit, ''Stop Draggin' My Heart Around.'' He suggested she was good enough to write on her own.
''That really sent me back home with a new mission, which was to just get on with it,'' says Nicks, who even penned a song about it, ''That Made Me Stronger,'' which became a cornerstone of the new album.
''I guess I needed to hear that from somebody like Tom in order to take it seriously. It's like everybody else could tell me that, but it was like, `What do you know? You don't know my life. You don't know what I'm going through.'
''But when Tom Petty says something to me,'' she adds, ''he does know what I'm going through. He knows my life, because his life is the same.''
''Trouble in Shangri-La'' has a bittersweet flavor - what Nicks solo album doesn't? - but there's also a survivor's spirit that makes this one of her most empowering discs. She's due to play a Tweeter Center show July 14.
Whereas the typical artist releases a new album with all-new songs, Nicks's modus operandi is to blend new songs with tracks she has had hanging around a while. Thus, the new CD has four tunes she wrote during the '70s - and they fit seamlessly with the ones more freshly minted.
Though she wrote most of the songs without any help, Nicks did turn to friends like Sheryl Crow for musical support. Nicks met Crow when they performed a Don Henley benefit a few years ago. ''I'm beginning to think that Sheryl Crow knows everybody,'' says Nicks, giving her special credit for inviting Natalie Maines (of the Dixie Chicks) to sing a country-style vocal harmony on the album.
''I don't make many new friends, so this was wonderful for me,'' she says of Crow. ''I love having a new friend that does what I do. She's like Tom. So now I have Tom and Sheryl to give me a drive. She's such a doll.''
Besides Crow, who also produced several songs, other guests on the album include Sarah MacLachlan, Macy Gray, and Fleetwood Mac stalwart (and former boyfriend) Lindsey Buckingham. The result: a more inspired, cohesive album than her last solo release, ''Street Angel.''
The new songs - a melodic collection of acoustic-layered tracks with Nicks's intimately confessional vocals on top - deal with love on the rise (the artsy ballad ''Love Is''); love gone awry (the rocking ''Fall From Grace''); and love in transition (''Love Changes,'' with the revelation, ''As hard as I tried to make it better, it was not better for me'').
There's also the classic Nicks predicament: how to pick herself up after the fire has gone out. That's evident in ''Planets of the Universe,'' where Nicks sings, ''And the planets of the universe go their way ... I will live alone.''
''I really just write about relationships and I think those are timeless,'' Nicks says. ''I don't think relationships are so much different now than they were 30 years ago - if you're still having relationships.''
Recording ''Trouble in Shangri-La'' was bumpy and time-consuming, which hasn't made it easier for Nicks to develop a lasting relationship, she says.
''There aren't many people in this world who can say, `Oh sure, fine, you're in rehearsal Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, then you have a show Saturday and you're flying to New York on Sunday. Then you'll be back on Tuesday and you have radio interviews all day Wednesday, and then you're going to Phoenix for three days to do something there.'
''People will naturally say, `Well, what about me?' And you have to say, `Well, I'm sorry, what about you? This music has to come first.'
''If I ever do fall so in love with somebody that I'm willing to really change my life, then maybe that could happen,'' she adds. ''But I don't know. I'm not depressed about it. I'm always open. If somebody comes into my life, and can understand it, then that would be great. But it's just asking a lot of somebody to go out with me and try to fit into my schedule. It's hard to be the one left behind.''
Among those with whom Nicks will definitely be spending less time is Christine McVie, who has retired from Fleetwood Mac and will not be replaced. Nicks once said that she couldn't imagine continuing in Fleetwood Mac without McVie, but she has changed her mind - ''but of course we'll keep Christine's spirit alive.''
Nicks expects to make a new album with the band early next year, followed by a late-summer tour. She may live alone, but when Fleetwood Mac calls, she likes being part of the gang. Once again, she won't have much time for herself, but the singer knows no other way.
Stevie Nicks is proud to say that she's an unschooled musician. So don't start preaching music theory to her, because many others have tried and failed. All Nicks does is sell records and continue to be an icon for listeners who love her late-night voice and honest approach to life. "I never took a music class or music reading class,'' Nicks says. "So I never learned a bunch of chords. I know your basic chords on the guitar, but I don't know minor 7ths. I just know A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. But on the piano, I don't even know what they are. I just pick them out with both of my hands. ``It's like all the times I would say to people, 'I'm going to take guitar lessons' or 'I'd love to take piano lessons.' But they would say to me, 'Don't!' "They would add, `If you go and get trained, you won't write the same songs anymore. The beauty of your songs will be lost.' And I really listened to people when they said that, because I didn't want my writing to change.'' STEVE MORSE
This story ran on page M01 of the Boston Globe on 4/29/2001.