Stevie Nicks by Sheryl Crow
With her first solo album in seven years, rock's poetess finds her life is rhyming once again
It's been seven years since the mystically inclined chanteuse made a solo album, but Stevie Nicks didn't spend the time relaxing. In addition to a 1997 reunion album with Fleetwood Mac, Nicks was waylaid, by doubts about her own songwriting. And so it was that, last year, she turned to her old friend Tom Petty, and asked him to help her start writing. Petty took one look at Nicks and said, "No, you can do it yourself." With that, she returned home and began crafting the emotionally layered set of songs that became Trouble in Shangri-La, including one, "That Made Me Stronger," about Petty's fortuitous advice. From her house in Los Angeles, she took a call from London; it was her friend (and midwife of five tracks on Shangri-la) Sheryl Crow.
Stevie: What are you doing over there?
Sheryl Crow: Hey, Mommy. I'm just doing some recording with my friend.
Stevie: Really, are you having fun?
Sheryl: I'm picking up a fake English accent.
Stevie: Oh, great. (both laugh) We'll knock that out as soon as you get back.
Sheryl: So first I have to say, how are you? And I miss you terribly.
Stevie: Well, I'm fine, I'm doing lots of interviews and stuff. I'm longing for the days of getting up, not having to put on makeup and do my hair and just going to the studio.
Sheryl: And you know it's just starting.
Stevie: And it's intense because obviously I haven't done this since the Fleetwood Mac thing, when we recorded The Dance, in '97.
Sheryl: You're an artist that people really miss. In this day and age, so much of what is out there revolves around teens. What does that feel like for you? Because the music world has really changed in the last seven years.
Stevie: Well, Sheryl, the biggest difference is that when I put Street Angel out seven years ago, I had been so ill on klonopin for that eight years that that record was just a disaster. It was not clear. Since then, I went to rehab, came out, went to Phoenix and started writing the songs for Trouble in Shangri-La. Everything on this record is what I really wanted to say, and I'm back to being the poet I always thought I was. For a long time I was terrified that I had lost that. I'm so delighted with the fact that I'm OK, and that this record really tells everybody that I'm OK.
Sheryl: Are there any funny moments that you think of when you recall making Trouble in Shangri-La, or anything that was painful?
Stevie: Well, the painful thing that we had to cope with, was when we realized that you weren't gonna be able to produce the rest of the record.
Sheryl: Yeah, that was hard for all of us.
Stevie: But you had just put a record out, so it was incredible that both you and me kinda even thought in our wildest dreams that we could actually pull that off.
Sheryl: I know, silly. And you've got Macy Gray on the record, and you've got Sarah McLachlan and Natalie (Maines from the Dixie Chicks).
Stevie: And, of course, everybody's asking me: did you purposely gather together this group of girls? But we didn't plan any of those things.
Sheryl: Yeah, usually people wander into your life, and that's what creates those special moments. Tell me what Shangri-La means to you.
Stevie: That song was written during the last two months of the OJ Simpson trial, but that's not what it was about. What the OJ trial made me aware of was relationships, and how difficult they are - especially for people who are in the public eye and are very famous and how difficult it is for them to hold on to Shangri-La. Of course, to somebody who doesn't make very much money and would just love to live in Shangri-La, it's hard to even hear that. But there is a price to pay for this kind of fame. It's strange, because in a sense I was writing about the same things when I recorded Bella Donna, almost 20 years ago.
Sheryl: But in Bella Donna you're inside it, and in Trouble in Shangri-La you've made your way through it, you're able to get some distance and have some commentary on it. Do you always start your albums with a theme?
Sheryl: That's a very brave thing to do because then you have to stick with it.
Stevie: You know what? You do have to stick with it, but it really is fun. I prefer doing that.
Sheryl: OK, so here's a question for you. What were you like in school?
Stevie: Well, we moved a lot, so I was always the new girl. I knew that I wasn't gonna have too much time to make friends, so I made friends quickly, and I adjusted really well, and when I'd say, "I'm gonna miss my room," my mom would always say, "There's always a better house." In 10th grade I was at Arcadia High School, in California, which was a very hotsie-totsie school, very cliquey and a lot of rich people went there. And I always dressed kinda crazy and I always had a big straw bag 'cause I wanted to carry everything with me, and so I was kind of odd. I was always kind of in the popular group, but I was also in the not really popular group.
Sheryl: Yeah, that's how I was, too.
Stevie: I wasn't there long enough to have any group get mad at me. I'm sure that if you talk to people that went to school with me, they would say, "Well, she was a little crazy, she loved her music, and she was interesting." I think I was very interesting to everybody.
Sheryl: Did you think you might be famous?
Stevie: I think I absolutely knew I was gonna be famous. I knew from when I first wrote my first song about the first love of my life, and sat there on my bed and watched myself play it in the mirror with tears running down my face. It was my 16th birthday - my mom and dad gave me my Goya classical guitar that day. I sat down, wrote this song, and I just knew that that was the only thing I could ever really do - write songs and sing them to people.
Sheryl: Do you remember the name of that song?
Stevie: It was called "I've Loved and I've Lost" and it went "I'm sad but not blue / I once loved a boy who was wonderful and true / But he loved another before he loved me / And I knew he still wanted her, it was easy to see."
Sheryl: I cannot believe you remember that.
Stevie: Yeah, and I know the melody. Next time I actually see you, I'll sit down and play it on the guitar for you. I played it at a school assembly in front of a thousand kids.
Sheryl: Maybe we'll put it on the next record.
Stevie: OK. (both laugh)
Sheryl: So if you weren't a rock 'n' roll star, what do you think you would be?
Stevie: I think I would've gone into some kind of teaching. And I would've figured a way to use my music, even though I never took any music in school. Right before I joined Fleetwood Mac, I was really starting to think, You know what? Being poor sucks. I hate it, and I'm not happy anymore. I've got to do something. And Lindsey and I, we hadn't given up, but we were starting to get a little depressed. So when Mick called us it was like, "Thank God something happened." If that hadn't happened, I absolutely would have gone back to school.
Sheryl: Of course, being a teacher means that you probably would have wound up having very little money. (laughs)
Stevie: But you know what? I can't remember ever really thinking about doing anything else. I could never work in an office. I don't think I could work for somebody else, that's my problem. My mother always said to me, "You will never be dependent on a man. You will be independent. You will take shorthand. You will take typing. I will make sure that when you leave my house, you can take care of yourself."
Sheryl: Wow, your mom was very forward-thinking.
Stevie: She was, and she really instilled that in me. When she would be telling me what to do and I would say, "I really hate it when people tell me what to do," she would say, "Well then, you be the boss, so you don't ever have to have anybody tell you what to do." And you know what, Sheryl? I just filed that in my head and said, "OK, I hate it when people tell me what I have to do, or what I cannot do, so I will never be in that situation." And I haven't ever been in that situation. Even in Fleetwood Mac, it's like, if they pushed me too hard, well I will walk.
Sheryl: Obviously your mom was very insightful. Do you think that is the best advice you got from her?
Stevie: Yes, because now if I am in love, I can be in love for the real reasons. And you, too - we don't need to have somebody that's gonna make sure they pay for our market bills. It's like we have only one reason to love and that is for the real idea of love.
Sheryl: Being that independent, do you think it's possible to have a long-lasting relationship and not have it be emasculating to a man, for you to be your own bread-winner and go off and do the things that you love to do?
Stevie: I look back on all the men in my life, and there was only one that I can honestly say I could truly have lived with happily every single day for the rest of my life, because there was respect and we loved to do the same things. I was very content with him all the time. That's only happened once in my life.
Sheryl: I guess you don't wanna tell us who that is.
Stevie: No, I can't tell you who that is.
Sheryl: (laughs) You could tell me later.
Stevie: I could tell you, but the point is, it can happen. This man, if he'd asked me to marry him, I would have. And for reasons unbeknownst, that had nothing to do with him and me, it just could not go on, it had to stop. So I think it could happen to us, it just all depends on your luck, and if we happen to meet that right person. There are people in the world who would not be jealous of us, who would love our friends and enjoy our craziness. Most men would think that we're nuts, and that we're impossible. But there are a few out there who might really enjoy the crazy world that we live in. So we just have to hope that we'll find those men.
Sheryl: Was the person a musician?
Sheryl: Yeah, see that's the thing. It's very difficult to find somebody who can understand that language - the drive of it and the need to express oneself, the need to communicate with people. One of the pitfalls is falling for somebody who does what you do, because you have that common language. It can be competitive sometimes, and I think that is where it becomes threatening. But they are out there. What is your greatest fear? You seem like a pretty fearless person.
Stevie: I am pretty fearless, and you know why? Because I don't handle fear very well; I'm not a good terrified person. I learned that a long time ago. You know when you walk into your house and there's nobody there and all the lights are out, it's like I just fearlessly go into the dark, because I know if I start creepin' out that it'll get me. So I just try not to ever be afraid of anything. I just go, "Well, if the earthquake happens, I've got my steel-toed shoes and some rope, and we'll get down a mountain." Or you'll be up there in a helicopter waving at us. I believe that we will just about get through anything.