Barnes and Noble Interview
May 1, 2001
NICKS IN A HARD PLACE
How Stevie Got Her Groove Back
Stevie Nicks talks fast and frankly, and leaves out very few details. In other words, she speaks like she writes songs, which have always come straight from her heart and her life. Nicks has written far more songs than her albums could accommodate. When she and high school sweetheart Lindsey Buckingham joined Fleetwood Mac in the mid-'70s and revitalized the former British blues outfit with an infusion of California rock, she contributed a mere six songs to the revamped band's smash albums, 1975's self-titled release and 1977's Rumours. But those songs -- "Rhiannon," "Landslide," "Crystal," "Dreams," "I Don't Want to Know," and "Gold Dust Woman" -- could have powered a greatest-hits album for the entire band. Trouble in Shangri-La, Nicks's sixth solo affair and her first release after a seven-year hiatus, features an all-star cast -- Macy Gray, Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, Buckingham, most of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers, and, especially, Nicks's buddy Sheryl Crow, who co-produced five tracks on the album. The final result contains some of the songs that she couldn't get onto Fleetwood Mac albums, some of her friends' songs, and songs born out of the most miserable years of her life in the late '80s and early '90s. Taken together, they comprise one of her strongest albums yet -- a crystallization of one of the most sultry and alluring voices in pop music. Nicks spoke with Barnes & Noble.com's Bill Crandall and gave him the full -- and we do mean full -- story behind Trouble in Shangri-La, and the scoop on Fleetwood Mac's future plans, too.
Barnes & Noble.com: What took you so long?
Stevie Nicks: Well, in 1993 I put out Street Angel, a terrible record because it was made during the eight years when I was taking Klonopin and Prozac, and it just sucked all my creativity out, and I just wasn't well enough to make a record. But it had to go out [and] I had to do interviews, and that was depressing. I went out on tour that summer, and then I came back and wrote the song "Love Is," the last song on Trouble in Shangri-La. And then a year later, in '95, I wrote the song "Trouble in Shangri-La," so I had the beginning and the end. Then I started to work on the whole record. I was in Phoenix and I worked for about six months, and then the Fleetwood Mac thing -- the rumor that we were going to get back together -- started to happen, and, of course, I didn't believe it. I really didn't. I really did not believe that that was ever going to happen again. So as soon as the possibility that it might happen happened, everything stopped. The world stopped and everything became all about Fleetwood Mac.
So my record definitely got put on the shelf. [After negotiating the reunion, filming the TV special The Dance, and going on the road,] I went right to work on the [Stevie Nicks] Enchanted box set. [Then] I went out on the road for a three-month summer shed tour. You know, that's like six months of working it -- putting it together, doing the tour, and then two or three months to come down from being on that tour, and get away from that -- my box set, my past. I was also leaving Atlantic and going to Warner/Reprise, so that was a new record deal happening. So, anyway, can you kind of get the gist here?
B&N.com: Totally. Your job wouldn't let you do your job.
SN: Exactly. Then I hooked up with Sheryl Crow, who has since become my really dear friend and confidante. We recorded two old songs ["Candlebright," from 1970 and "Sorcerer," from 1972]. We tried to get her do the whole record, but she had just released The Globe Sessions so we couldn't really do that. Then Sheryl came back from one part of her tour, realized I was in big trouble because I did not have a producer, and jumped back in. We did three more songs, so it ended up that she's produced half the record.
B&N.com: Talk about the different producers and the sounds they brought to the record. It seems to strike the right balance of mysticism and earthiness.
SN: Well, Sheryl is very guitar-oriented, even though Sheryl is an incredible piano teacher -- she was a teacher of piano. [Songwriter/producer] John Shanks sent me a song called "Every Day," which is the single, and I actually played it -- your chances of me playing a song that sits here on my assistant's desk are slim to none. It said "Every Day," and I thought, "Ooh, Buddy Holly, 'Everyday' -- all right, I'll play it." And so I called him, went over to his house, put the vocal on the song that's out now, and that relationship started. So then he did, like, five songs. So my record was really starting to move very quickly. Then I asked Pierre Marchand, of Sarah McLachlan fame, if he would do one song, "Love Is." I went up to Canada and called Sarah 'cause she lived there, and she played piano, and that was done in a week.
B&N.com: How do you go about collaborating with other people? At what point do you bring someone else in?
SN: I only write with other people if they send me a track. And they don't come with the track; they don't come and sit in my living room and play me the track. Because then if I don't like it, I hurt their feelings, and I don't want them to see my face. If they send it to me, I play it. If I love it, in two days, I will have written a song to it.
B&N.com: How about Natalie Maines, for example?
SN: Natalie is a friend of Sheryl Crow's, because, of course, Sheryl Crow knows everybody in the world. If you need anybody, call Sheryl -- she'll have a number. This was a song, "Too Far from Texas," from a good friend of mine named Sandy Stewart from Texas. So I said to Sheryl, "What do you think? Do you think Natalie and I could sing this?" And she said, "I think you could, and I think she'll like it. Let's send it." So she sent it to her and within two days me, Natalie, Sheryl Crow on bass, Waddy Wachtel, Michael Campbell, Benmont Tench, and Steve Ferrone went into Michael's home studio, and basically it's like Natalie and Stevie and Sheryl and the Heartbreakers, without Tom. We replaced Tom with us. [laughs] And the singing is live. We did two days. I was very proud 'cause I thought, You know what? My idea really worked. And then [Sheryl] was gone. That's how this whole record has been.
B&N.com: And we can expect to hear you on her upcoming album, right?
SN: Well, she says I have to be on it. She wants me to write her a song, so I'm trying. I said, "OK, Sheryl. I'm going look for that experience. I'm kind of tapped out right now, but I'm going to try."
B&N.com: Flesh out the story of "That Made Me Stronger," how Tom Petty lit a fire under you.
SN: At the end of 1994, when I wrote "Love Is," I was so grieving about the whole Street Angel thing. Even though I thought it was a terrible record, I loved the songs. The songs were my children, you know. And I was very much grieving about the Klonopin and the Prozac, because I had done many things in that eight years that I was not proud of, that were not me, things that I would never do. And, basically, Tom came to town to play, and I had dinner with him at the Ritz-Carlton and he said, "You know what? [pauses] Everybody makes mistakes. Certainly, you can't blame yourself for the Klonopin and the Prozac -- you didn't go out on the streets looking for that. That's just a nasty thing that happened to you, so now get over it. You're upset 'cause you're 20 pounds overweight -- lose it, you can do it. That's not your problem. Your problem is knowing and remembering that you're a great songwriter, Stevie. I'm not going to help you write songs, I don't have to help you. You need to go home to your piano and sit down and do what you love to do. You never married, you never had children because your love is songwriting, and what in the world is up with you telling me that you need me to help you write songs?" And you know what? That's all he had to say. And it was like, "OK, chief, I am so outta here, and I am going home." That was just that little kick in the butt that I really, really needed from somebody that I totally respect, that always has my best in mind.
B&N.com: Talk about the Fleetwood Mac album. Are you excited?
SN: It's happening! I just gave Lindsey 17 songs that are demos from the same group of songs that I pulled the three that are on this record out of. These are a certain small group of songs that were there through all the records from Fleetwood Mac 'til now. You can only put so many songs on a record; if you write ten songs per record, you have a good seven songs left on every record.
B&N.com: Any chance Christine McVie will come back?
SN: I don't think so. If the whole world wants to say a prayer -- "Please, Christine, don't quit!" -- then maybe she will. But, you know, she is English. She does not want to come back to America; she doesn't want to leave England. She wants to have her life there, and Chris is so much more than a rock star: She's an incredible chef, she's an incredible artist, she's an incredible writer -- you know, she's fabulous Christine McVie. She doesn't want to go on the road anymore.
B&N.com: Have you heard the Destiny's Child new song, "Bootylicious" [from Survivor]?
B&N.com: They sample [Nicks's 1981 hit] "Edge of Seventeen."
SN: [excited] Really?
B&N.com: Yes, it's on their new album.
SN: I love Destiny's Child. I watch my MTV and my VH1 and my MTV2 and whatever other ones I can get in. I'm totally honored! I think these girls can really sing, so they're OK in my book.
B&N.com: Over the sample they sing, "I don't think you're ready for this jelly/My body too bootylicious for you, babe."
SN: Oh my goodness! Oh well, I'll try not to turn into my mother, Barbara, and give them a quick call.
B&N.com: Are you proud to have "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" so closely associated with Bill Clinton?
SN: I am proud that we became a part of history. I am proud that Fleetwood Mac will now be in the history books. I am proud that -- no matter what you think of him -- that Fleetwood Mac was his favorite band, and he loved that song. You cannot take that away from him. And you cannot take it away from the country. The country loved the song, so that was a great thing.
May 1, 2001