May 25, 2001
Stevie Nicks Talks To MSN Music
Friday, May 25, 2001
Stevie Nicks is among the elite in Pop music history. She has had a phenomenal solo career, filled with chart-topping albums such as Bella Donna and numerous Top 10 singles. As a member of Fleetwood Mac, she became the focal point of oneĀ of the most successful bands of all time. Her signature songs such as "Dreams" and "Rhiannon" catapulted sales of the band's Rumours past the 17 million mark. In this MSN Music Spotlight, we talked with Nicks about her tremendous career and her new album Trouble in Shangri-La.
You've just released your first album since 1993, Trouble in Shangri-La, and it's been a long time coming.
It's really been a journey putting these songs together, getting the right 13 songs together. When I came off of the "Street Angel" tour in 1994, I wrote the song "Love Is" which is the last song on the record and one year later in November 1995 I wrote "Trouble in Shangri-La", so I had the beginning and the end. I had the last song and the first song, and then I had to set out writing the middle. That was an incredible journey which started right then, so the day "Trouble in Shangri-La" was written, I thought "I'm on my way now." I did start writing and then the Fleetwood Mac thing started happening, and unfortunately your measly little solo career means nothing when Fleetwood Mac starts to come back into the picture. It's amazing, it's like everything stops![laughs] Just the rumor that Lindsey [Buckingham] might do it was enough to make everybody stop working on everything else. So that was a six month period of time where we were having meetings and talking about the possibility of doing that, and it was like all of a sudden the solo record was really on hold.
Was that kind of frustrating?
No, because I never ever thought that Fleetwood Mac would ever get back together, so I was delighted. I always wanted my band to be together, I never wanted Fleetwood Mac to not be together. So I did that and went on the four month tour and while I was on that tour I wrote six poems that turned out to be six songs on this record. If I hadn't done that this record wouldn't be the record that I wanted it to be. You kind of have to have something to write about, so going on a tour was great because you can write about a million things. You're surrounded by intense people everyday, morning 'til night, and everybody else's problems, the worlds' problems. You're traveling and it's exciting and very romantic and this is a great place to write, you're very inspired. So, that was like a gift for many reasons; I got my 6 songs out of it. By the time I got back to working on my record it had been almost two years. I really wanted all of these songs to be right so that when I'm 90 and driving down the street and something comes on the radio I don't say, "I wish I had fixed that." I really made sure that this was exactly my vision. This is what I wanted people to have.
Would you say that your creative process is different now than it was in the days of Fleetwood Mac?
You know what, it's really very similar, if the people are right and the producers and the people that are playing, if everybody is right that is in the room it works out really well. It's when people mess up and fragment away that the record starts to not work. So I was really lucky because I did really work with Sheryl [Crow] consistently and then I met John [Shanks]. Thank God I met John because I really don't know any producers. Fleetwood Mac didn't really use producers you know? We produce, Lindsey [Buckingham] produces, Mick [Fleetwood] produces, and we don't really have outside producers come in. I don't really have a big list of producers that I can call.
What would you say Sheryl Crow and John Shanks brought to the project, to the whole process?
Mostly they were excited about the songs. But you know, Sheryl really had no idea what to do with "Fall from Grace" or "Planets of the Universe," and she will tell you so. It's like she just didn't get it. I was almost to the point of saying, "I guess they're just not good." When I played them for John, it was just amazing that I met somebody that could take the ball and run with it and finish the record for me. When you take somebody on to do more than one or two songs you really are bringing them into your life, they are becoming a real serious part of your music.
I understand that Tom Petty had a little something to do with giving you a push at a certain point too.
He absolutely did. He has always been a really good friend, and when Tom makes the effort to say something to you, you know he only wants the best for you. I was just having a hard time after the Street Angel record because I was very disappointed in it. It wasn't a good record, and I had to do interviews and go on the road and promote a record that was terrible and that wasn't going to sell, and I knew it, so that was really a bad experience for me. I was in Phoenix in the beginning of 1995 and Tom came and I went and had dinner with him and I was just, you know, all bummed. I just said, "Can you help me write a song, can we just get together and write a song?" He just flat out said no. He said, "Stevie you have given up your whole life to be a song writer. You don't have babies or children because of that, I'm not going to help you write your songs, you have to get over whatever it is that's bugging you. It's over, you're alright, you made it, you survived, and you're ok."
Was that a hard thing to hear at the time?
No, it was a good thing to hear. It's ok. So Street Angel wasn't a good record; everybody makes a mistake you know? I wasn't feeling very good, I certainly wasn't inspired, and that's what Street Angel was, it was a very uninspired record. So get over it and move on. That doesn't have to mean that your whole life has to be Street Angel. It took somebody like Tom who I respect totally -- he doesn't say anything to you unless he really means it. So, if it was important enough for him to remind me that I was a song writer and that he believed in me -- it just snapped my brain. I just snapped, when I left that hotel it was just like, I was okay.
Do you favor performing live or working in the studio more?
Well, again the journey of this record was pretty cool because of all the cool people that were involved, but going out on stage is the pay off. That's the reason that I basically do this. That two hours in front of an audience -- if you're an entertainer you just have to have that to breathe. Like circus people, we entertain until we can't entertain anymore.
Are there any plans in the future for Fleetwood Mac to do any more performing?
You know what, it's totally not up in the air. I just had a big meeting with Mick and Lindsey a couple of weeks ago and I gave Lindsey seventeen demos that I had pulled out of the song vaults and he was very inspired. We're going to do it, but we're going to make a record. I mean, we could just go tour and make a zillion dollars but we're not going to do that, we're going to make a real record. What I think is pretty great about the idea of having to move ahead without Christine -- because she really is not going to do it; it's ok, she doesn't want to, that's alright, it's her world, and it's her choice -- but without her, you take her out of the mix, then you're taking the synthesizer/organ out. You're also taking the trio of singers away, so the trio singers are going back to...what? To Lindsey and Stevie, to Buckingham/Nicks basically. The band itself goes back to being much more guitar orientated. It could go back to Blues; it could go back to serious ZZ Top Rock & Roll or whatever. It gives us, I think, a very interesting artistic thing to do with Fleetwood Mac now. I'm very excited about it, I will run "Trouble in Shangri-La" to where it ends, and when it ends I will probably go straight into the studio with Fleetwood Mac.
Often I ask artists who they would most like to work with, but you have basically worked with everybody. So, my question for you is who would you most like to hear perform some of your songs?
You know, all my favorite singers! I love Sheryl Crow's voice and I love the way she interprets songs. I love Sarah McLachlan's voice and how she interprets songs. There are so many great singers out there. When I'm dead and gone, then I think that's when people will really do my music. I think that while I'm alive they probably won't, but when I'm dead watch out! [laughs]
Do you feel in general that the state of Pop music is pretty healthy?
I think that Rock & Roll is coming back. I think there are some good bands out of England and some good bands out of the United States that to me seem very Rock & Roll oriented. I like that new band Lifehouse. I like that song "Hanging by a Moment." I think that we've been waiting for a long time for some bands to come along to compare with some of the bands from the old guard and I think it's happening. I think that people miss Rock & Roll and it's coming back. It's just a cycle; it always happens, it goes away for a little while and then it comes back. I think that we are on the cycle where the wheel is coming back up.
If you could pick three or four albums that have all been very important and influential to you, what would they be?
I would say that Led Zeppelin record with "Going to California" on it, [Led Zeppelin IV]; Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced; Janis Joplin, Big Brother and The Holding Company; Court & Spark [Joni Mitchell] was very special to me; the first Jackson Browne album, very much influenced me. These are the records and artists that influenced me on stage and in my song writing.
Those are all very complete albums. It seems that a lot of the business today is driven by singles, rather than the idea of an album being a cohesive statement from start to finish.
The whole ideal of the concept record is gone now. But the fact is it works. People do like it. They enjoy it if you build a whole little creative world for them to crawl into. When you make a whole record, you make the whole record; you don't just make 3 songs good. I'd rather just have a record just do well and not have singles, you know, which is a death thing to say in the radio business. If you don't care about the whole record then where is the album journey? If there are only 2 or 3 songs that are those hit singles that are absolutely written to go onto Top 40 radio, then what is it about us that wants to go home and spend weeks with that record, learning all those songs, singing along, and just learning from them? I learned so much from all of those people that I told you about.
MSN Music spoke with Stevie Nicks as she began preparing for her summer tour in support of her new album Trouble in Shangri-La, out now on Warner Brothers Records.