The Toronto Star
May 7, 2001
Singer fit and contented as she prepares to set out on tour
Stevie Nicks is getting by with a little help from her friends. But not too much help.
Trouble In Shangri-La, the new solo album by the famous Fleetwood Mac vocalist, was kick-started over dinner with long-time friend, the songwriter and guitarist Tom Petty. It was 1995, the year after the release of the unsuccessful Nicks' solo outing, Street Angel, and the singer was having a hard time moving forward artistically.
"I said to Tom, `When you get back to L.A. could we work on a song together?' I didn't ask him to write me a song. I just wanted to work on something together," Nicks said during 20-minute interview at the Sutton Place Hotel yesterday.
"He knew that was a red flag because I don't ever ask anyone to help me write a song. I am a solo writer. I don't collaborate.
"He said, `No, I'm not going to help you. Get over whatever it is that's bothering you and go home and write some songs. That's what you do. That's your life. You're not married. You don't have kids. You gave up all that so that you could be a songwriter par extraordinaire, that you could travel and do whatever you wanted to do and be free. And for you to ask me to help you write a song is really not a good thing.'
"Coming from Tom that was a very good thing. Coming from anyone else, I probably wouldn't have listened."
Trouble In Shangri-La, released last Tuesday, doesn't list any Petty writing credits. It does, however, include a song, "That Made Me Stronger," that is about the encounter, as well as a very detailed acknowledgement: "Special thanks to Tom Petty for his inspirational lecture over dinner at the Ritz-Carlton in Phoenix, April 24, 1995. I returned home and began writing these songs."
While Nicks doesn't like sharing writing duties, she isn't opposed to recording another writer's material, if it strikes her fancy. "Every Day," one of the more striking numbers on the CD, was sent to her by songwriter John Shanks, who also ended up co-producing "Planets Of The Universe," one of three songs on the album that Nicks actually penned in the `70s, this one concerning her rocky relationship with Fleetwood Mac cohort and former beau Lindsey Buckingham.
"Lindsey, who has heard me play `Planets Of The Universe' a million times on the piano, said, `I'm very impressed with John Shanks' work on `Planets Of The Universe' because I've heard that song for 25 years and have never known what to do with it.'
"Sometimes you need the right people at the right time," Nicks continued.
"You can have a really good song and your producer doesn't get it. Most times you just drop it."
Friendly help also came from chum Sheryl Crow.
In addition to singing on the album, along with Sarah McLachlan and Macy Gray, Crow produced several songs and wrote one of them, "It's Only Love," as well.
"(Crow) told me she had written a song for me and about me," Nicks recalled. "I've known Sheryl for about four or five years and have pretty much told her my whole life. In my heart, I was thinking, `Gosh, I hope I like it,' because I don't want to have to tell Sheryl Crow I don't like her song. But I did like it. It really is about the life of a rock star and the turmoil we come through ."
For Nicks, that turmoil included a decade-long addiction to cocaine that ended in 1985, only to be followed by an even more debilitating eight years on tranquillizers. The cocaine period generated a lot of music, at least, including the 25-million selling album Rumours.
"I call them the cocaine and brandy years, the raucous, rock and roll years, from 1975 to 1985. I don't ever want to say anything that will make someone think, `Well, I'd better run out and do some of that so that I can write something too.' But we did a lot of great work. You can't fight that.
"I've always tried during interviews to stress that, `If somebody ever says let's put you on a tranquillizer and you are any kid of artist, run away screaming, because you will love your bitter, little, angst-ridden personality a lot more than what you get from the other end of the spectrum. You'll gain weight, nobody will ever like you anymore, you won't be fun or interesting and you'll just lay around doing nothing."
Nicks, who has lost 25 pounds and will turn 53 later this month, is looking fit and contented as she prepares to set out on a tour that gets under way on July 6 in Pittsburgh. No Canadian dates have yet been set.
Work will also begin sometime this fall on a new album by Fleetwood Mac, which has stayed in touch after a successful, 1997 reunion tour.