Long Distance Winner |
Stevie Nicks, the ephemeral rock goddess who was here long before Courtney, Fiona and Sheryl, talks about her recent career revival and looks back on her rock-and-roll life.
B y c h r i s w i l l m a n
The market value of gold dust certainly did rebound in 1997, as Fleetwood Mac made a big-if brief-comeback and Stevie Nicks suddenly became the goddess du jour again. Entertainment Weekly caught up with Nicks in early April at her Pacific Palisades home (she also lives in Phoenix part-time), where she spoke candidly about the all-too-short-lived Mac reunion, the joys of winning her voice back, the travails of kicking cigarettes and anti-anxiety drugs and-of course-her new 3-CD boxed set, "Enchanted: The Works of Stevie Nicks," which charts her 17-year solo career. EW Online brings you this significantly expanded version of the magazine interview.
EW: For this boxed set, did you go through each solo album to make a list of which songs should go on or shouldn't?
Nicks: That's exactly what I did. I got all six of the records and enlarged the songs on each one for me and everybody that lives here-my friends Sarah, Karen, Liza. We said, "Okay, everybody make your own list: What would you like to see on the boxed set off of each record?" And there were some things that weren't on anybody's list, and there were other things that we kind of fought back and forth about. It took a good 10 days to work it around to exactly what songs would go. We got to the end of the whole thing, and we had eight songs off of "Bella Donna," right? It's like, everybody start over! But these songs played a big experience in our lives. Sarah's been my friend since 1978; she's Mick Fleetwood's ex-wife, so I've known her almost as long as I've known Mick. They're my really close friends who were there at the end of the '70s when all this started, when the idea came to go and do a solo career. That was a big deal when I decided to do that, because it did upset Fleetwood Mac; it upset the record company. "What, are you crazy? You're gonna risk Fleetwood Mac by doing this solo project that could be terrible?" All these ladies watched it all go by and watched the people go through our lives. So when we went through all these songs, it was like we were going through home movies. They bring up all the experiences that were happening.
EW: Any regrets, as you listened back?
Nicks: I mean, 1982 is a long time ago when you think about it. I was a whole lot younger. So some of the things that I did when I was a whole lot younger I love, and other things that I did I feel I could have done better. I should have known then that they should have been done better. So I'm a little disappointed in myself. This has been quite a project. It's made me really take stock of everything that I've done. I wish at certain places that I had put a little more time and effort in, or that I had listened to other people who came to me and said, "This is not that good of a vocal. Either do it over, or let's see what else we have in all these tracks." And I would stand up: "No, it has to be the first vocal! It's the true thing." Which we all say in the beginning; you say stuff like, "It has to be the virgin part!" You find out all these years later it totally sucked and they were totally right. So you just have to laugh and try to keep the quality of your music up to date now.
EW: You have one song on the boxed set from the "Buckingham/Nicks" album you and Lindsey did as a duo before Fleetwood Mac, which is long out of print and, as I'm sure you know, always the most-requested album any time anyone makes a list of the stuff that's never yet come out on CD. Is it you or Lindsey who wants that album not to be reissued?
Nicks: Lindsey. But through the Fleetwood Mac tour, he said that he wants it to go on CD now, so we'll see. See, he owns half, I own half. So he can't do anything on that record without me and vice versa. So as soon as he says it's okay, it will be done, because I've been saying I thought it would be a great idea for a long time. The song "Long-Distance Winner," I picked (for the boxed set) because it's kind of a strange, Greek, rock & roll song from my past that we could do on stage. And we're gonna do it in the set [on the summer solo tour].
EW: To this day, it's hard to think of anyone else besides you who's had their cake and eaten it too, in terms of having solo and group careers simultaneously and successfully.
Nicks: There were some of my solo records that didn't do all that well, so it's not like I just did fabulously the whole time. But I did do consistently okay. And I felt very lucky, because everybody was worried that maybe it wouldn't work out and it would break up Fleetwood Mac. Initially everybody was very angry at me. And I had to just stand on the fact that "I'm not leaving you guys. But three songs isn't enough for me every three years. I write too much. It's making me feel like there's no reason to ever write another song. I've got enough songs written already that if we do 10 more albums, you're still not gonna include all the songs I already have written."
EW: Did they stop being angry about the time they started putting out their own solo albums?
Nicks: You know what? Nobody in Fleetwood Mac has ever really sat down and talked about my solo career much. When I go in with Fleetwood Mac, there is no solo career. It's just not ever talked about with them. And I don't want to get anybody upset, so I don't bring it up.
EW: You said that Christine McVie put a stop to the reunion tour because she feels she's "been there, done that"...
Nicks: And she's sold her house here [in L.A.], and she wants to live exclusively in England. So we just kind of had to let her go.
EW: So was it mainly touring that was the problem for her, or the whole music thing in general?
Nicks: Well, you kind of have to do both. You can't come back and say, "I'll do a record with you, but I'm not gonna tour with you." Then don't do the record if your voice isn't gonna be there on the tour. That won't work. And we're never gonna break this band up again, so without her, it won't ever go back together. And you know, in two years, Chris may be very bored. And of course you know that Mick is hoping that Chris is very bored in two years! (laughs)
EW: It's a little bit like when the Eagles did their thing, and no one knew where it was gonna lead, but it didn't get as far as doing a studio album...
Nicks: But I think we've stopped even sooner than the Eagles did! We went into rehearsal last April 1, and we came off the road Dec. 1. It's basically wound itself right down in under a year, where it was started, orchestrated, done and over with. It's like a shock. It's probably not near as much of a shock to me, because I had to start in December on my boxed set, so I didn't even have a vacation from the Mac tour. But everybody else, you know, it's like, "Well, now what?" I feel bad for Mick, because I would have liked it to have gone its karmic wheel of, you know, when you do a record, there's a certain kind of life that it has, and I feel that we should have gone to Europe. We should have finished the tour. But I don't think that we should've risked Christine's sanity. It certainly wasn't worth that.
EW: Obviously, people are really focused in on you now in a way that maybe they weren't when your last solo album came out. Does that feel like a momentum you want to take special advantage of?
Nicks: If God gives you that kind of a gift, where everybody is noticing and listening to you all of a sudden again, you shouldn't just shut down on it. So, yeah, I'm trying to enjoy it and have fun with it. I mean, we didn't all enjoy it very much the first time because we were too high and too uptight to really enjoy it. So this time it's really been fun. And yeah, it's nice to be loved again. Because it's not nice to not be loved. It's not nice when people don't care about you, when they don't care about your music. It's heartbreaking. So I feel very different than I did three years ago.
EW: When you came off that last solo tour, you were...
Nicks: Horrified. With life in general. And I was really heavy, and I was so unhappy. I said, "I'll never, ever go on stage weighing this much again ever, so I'm finished unless I lose weight." And luckily, in the next three years, I did. But it took a long time. I was at the end of my contract with Atlantic, and I didn't have a new record deal, and I felt like "Wow, I guess talent no longer matters. So, obviously, get another job or something!" I felt really bad. And I said, "I'll never forget this feeling. Because I know that the cycle will come around again and I'll be successful again, and I'll never forget how it feels to be unsuccessful. No matter how successful it happens this time." So all of this stuff is kind of easier for me to take because I know how easily [clicks fingers] it can go down and be gone. And as quickly as you were the darling, you are not the darling. And I think maybe once you understand that, it's kind of all okay, and you don't expect too much.
EW: How sharp are your memories from all these years the boxed set represents? I remember hearing you talk about the '89 tour, when you were on-I believe you've said-a lot of painkillers, and you don't have such a clear memory of that particular tour. Are any of the recordings a blur, too?
Nicks: I'm always amazed to hear what people think I was taking, because it wasn't painkillers. I was taking a thing called Klonopin-like a Valium thing. This was prescribed for me by a serious doctor. I started taking it in 1986. By 1989, it wasn't that I didn't write well, I just stopped writing. Just too blase to care. Any kind of a Valium thing, any kind of a Prozac thing, very bad for people who write-if you're not seriously depressed. If you need it, then that's one thing. But if you're just a person that wants to feel better and feel happier, those drugs don't do a lot for creative people.
EW: You weren't in the kind of depression where you really needed that?
Nicks: No. I don't think I was ever even depressed. Because I didn't need it, I stopped taking 'em. So why was I ever taking 'em in the first place? Who knows? Because somebody said that this would be good for me after my cocaine years, that this would keep my nerves [steady], that this would keep me from going back to cocaine. It almost killed me, this stuff. I fared way better on cocaine and coffee than I did on the Klonopin. And at least on the cocaine and the coffee and the shot of brandy here and there, I could write, and I could write really well, and I was somewhat still there. But have a half a glass of wine with a Klonopin, it's like Rofonal; it's like stuff they put in people's drinks to dape-rate you. It's like you aren't there. So if you're not there, you can't possibly be writing anything that's very good.
EW: So it's from '89 till a couple of years later that feel like lost years?
Nicks: Till '93, absolutely lost. Horribly lost. It's kind of a drag. When you're just about to turn 50, you think of how so many of your precious 40s are gone, never to be brought back. It was so awful that I could go into a psychiatrist's office and they could put me on this medication that nearly destroyed my career, nearly destroyed me, nearly destroyed my parents-because they just lost me for those years. In those 45 days [of rehab], my hair turned gray, my skin molted, I had a headache from the second I got in there until the day I left, I didn't sleep, and I couldn't go to any of the therapy things, I was so sick. It was awful.
EW: I'm curious where the line is drawn for different definitions of depression.
Nicks: I mean, I think the real reason why I'm angry is, I don't think I'm depressed. I'm not depressed now. I had nothing to be depressed about then. I was successful, I was doing well in a man's world. I'm a rock star-I didn't have anything to be depressed about! I had just stopped doing cocaine, and it was like a month and a half after, and I was fine, totally fine. [But] to soothe everybody's feathers around me, I went to a psychiatrist. It was a bad decision. Boy, I wish I'd gotten sick on that day. But at least I figure if I plant that word Klonopin in enough people's brains, they'll watch out for it. And also, if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. And all those years, nobody knew what it was. I'm the one who finally realized that that's what was killing me. Everybody else just thought I was very, very f---ed up, but they didn't really know why. And I was constantly wondering, "Gosh, if I have one glass of wine, I'm totally drunk -- how does that happen? I used to be able to drink with the best of 'em-I learned to drink from the English!"
EW: So that's part of why there was five years between albums?
Nicks: Absolutely why.
EW: When that came to an end, did you start writing in a huge way again?
Nicks: Instantly. It's amazing how fast your body goes "I'm gonna heal myself." When I went to Phoenix and spent the two years there, that's when I wrote a lot of this next album that I haven't done yet, just letting it go out of my system. And now things are way better, and I can't even imagine that stuff... I'm just sorry I didn't figure out what it was earlier. I was always afraid to stop taking it, because every time I stopped taking it, my hands started to shake really bad and it was like, "Oh my God, I've got Parkinson's disease or something." It was kind of a frightening thing, where I finally just got so afraid that I realized that [Klonopin] was it, that [Klonopin] was what was literally ruining my life. So I went to a hospital.
EW: Was getting off that worse than getting off cocaine?
Nicks: 45 days. It was so much worse than getting off of cocaine. I wasn't in there like getting therapy for 45 days, I was in there sick for 45 days, really sick. And I watched generations of drug addicts come in and go out. "Goodbye!" "Hi!" "Bye!" You know, the heroin people: 12 days, 3 days of psychotherapy, and they're gone. And I'm just still there.
EW: You've gone through so many changes with your body in the last few years-that detox, losing weight, giving up cigarettes, etc. Do you notice any or all of those things having an effect on your voice?
Nicks: Totally. And also, I'm taking voice lessons now. On the whole Fleetwood Mac tour, I took a voice lesson before every show -- 45 shows, 45 lessons. It's the most committed thing I've ever done. And I didn't have a bad night. I mean, I'm in good voice; I'm a good, strong singer now. And I love that. I love the fact that when I go on stage I know I'm gonna be okay. And nobody liked to smoke more than me. So when people tell me, "I can't do it," I'm going yeah, you can, because I smoked three packs a day-Kools, menthol. I'm here to tell you, I don't miss it, and I'm so glad that I'm not going to die of lung cancer that I can't even tell you.
EW: After doing 45 days with the other thing, quitting cigarettes was probably a piece of cake by comparison.
Nicks: Well, it was a lot easier. I really did think, what would I do if somebody told me that I had throat cancer, that something was wrong with my vocal chords and I couldn't sing anymore? After getting through this life and surviving everything I've survived, somebody's gonna tell me there's something wrong with my throat? That's how I stopped smoking. I talked to myself for two solid months, November and December of '96. And I smoked hundreds of cigarettes while I was talking to myself. So by the time it got to be Jan. 1, I'd smoked so many cigarettes in the two nights before that I really could feel the real awfulness of what it does to you. And I got up Jan. 1 and put the patch on and have never smoked ever since. Didn't suffer, didn't feel bad about it, didn't ever consider starting again.
EW: Now that you have no terribly obvious vices left...
Nicks: I know. It's sad. I'm boring. I don't drink much any more, either. And not because I tried to stop drinking, I just don't care about it that much, you know, for I don't know what reason. There is definitely a God, that after the Klonopin and everything went away, that drinking seemed to become unimportant. It's like if I want to drink I can, but it's something that I hardly ever do, so when I do, it's fun. That's kind of how I'm trying to look at life-that you can kind of have it all, if you're careful and you think about everything and you don't rush into things and you just try to use a little of our wisdom that we've hopefully gathered over the last 25 years in making good decisions now. It wouldn't have done me any good to have partied and stayed up late on this last tour every night. I took care of myself, and I didn't have any bad nights. But I also didn't stay up and party. So maybe I missed a little part of that, you know. But for me now, it's really important for me to be a really good performer, and it's not worth being stupid the night before.
EW: Is there ever any sense of missing the drug days in the sense that- ridiculous as it may sound to some people-there is a communal aspect to partying. And so when people aren't getting along, as Fleetwood Mac sometimes famously didn't, you don't necessarily have to be getting along to share in that, at least.
Nicks: Right. Well, there's a little bit of the attitude that if you don't go and party, you're kind of out of the loop. But, you know, it's sure nice to wake up and have somebody hand you the New York Times and have a really good review in it, instead of everybody going "Oh, God."
EW: I've heard you say recently that you feel fine, if not better, not being involved in a serious relationship right now. And yet in the songs on this boxed set, there's such a sense of idealized romanticism-and, of course, the disappointment that goes along with that-that it's hard to imagine you being blase about the whole thing, even though we know what a strong, independent woman you seem to be in real life. Is there a sense for you that you've matured or grown past that desire you wrote about in the songs? Or is it a matter of it always having been exaggerated somewhat for the sake of a good song?
Nicks: Well, that's always a factor. But it's funny, because me and all my friends, we talk about relationships a lot, and talk about what we are looking for and what kind of man could come into our lives and like our lives. Because when you're 50, if there isn't a guy in your life, you have a pretty big life that goes on without a guy. And life has to really change, as you know, when somebody comes into your life. It's very hard for any man to come into the life of a woman who has never been married, never had children, and who is rich. So how I feel about it is, if that right man comes into my life, I would be delighted. I would love that. I'm a good girlfriend-you know, I am. If he doesn't come, then it'll be okay too, because my life's going to be very interesting, I'm going to do a lot of stuff, I've got a lot of ideas, and I'll be okay. And I am independent, I can support myself and take care of myself. So it's not that I don't want it to happen; I don't want to have all of the problems that it usually brings along.
EW: You're friends with Courtney Love. But how do you feel about the way she and Madonna and other female stars of today feel they have to reinvent themselves every album? Everyone seems to zero in on the need for a "this year's look" to grab people's attention.
Nicks: I don't have a this year's look. I have a look that I like that I started with 100 years ago, and I just stayed with it. And when the styles change, I just don't notice, because I have my beautiful clothes and I just keep wearing them. I'm really not affected too much by what goes on in fashion. I like a certain thing. I like to look feminine. I like to have heavy boots on. I like to have ballet kind of floaty skirts. I like that long, cool, tall look. And my look works for everybody. So why in the world should I ever change it? I could put just about anybody-all figures, tall, short-in my handkerchiefy skirt and my leotard thing that I wear and my boots. Every chick I've ever met that said "Can I just try this on and see how it...?" It's like wow, you look amazing. I knew a long time ago that I was certainly not gonna want to come up with a new idea every year, a new me. That's a lot of work. Everybody just needs to get a look and stay with it. It's a lot easier.
EW: There've been rumors that Billy Corgan might work with you on your new album.
Nicks: That's very possible, yeah. We were gonna do this like a year ago. Before [the] Fleetwood Mac [reunion] happened, I was gonna do my first record for Warner/Reprise, and we did talk.... And then the Fleetwood Mac thing steamrolled and just took over everything. So... maybe.
EW: Obviously you have a rapport going with Courtney. But how does it really feel when it's so trendy to worship you all of a sudden? Not that with her it doesn't come from a place of sincerity....
Nicks: Well, it does. Even though I was like her hero for a long time, now I really know her, and she knows me. She's like my wild child. I don't have a whole lot in common with Courtney Love, but I really like her, and I want her to be great. And I know this life is hard, being in this business, so maybe I'm just here to give her advice every once in a while -- "don't make this mistake or this mistake." [Pause, and a laugh.] Like I can tell her, right?
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