[The Nicks Fix]

Wall of Sound - Interview
May 2001

Sound Off

Stevie Nicks

by Gary Graff

She's been the Bella Donna, The Wild Heart, the Street Angel, and the Welsh witch — and now she's ruminating over Trouble in Shangri-La. Few female rockers, before or since, have achieved the kind of iconic stature Stevie Nicks has since she and then-boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham recorded as Buckingham-Nicks during the early '70s and subsequently joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975. There was no shortage of talent in that band, but Nicks quickly became the star of the show, thanks to sun-kissed California looks that attracted the guys and a mystically feminine persona that engaged the girls — not to mention hits such as "Rhiannon" and "Dreams."

There's been no shortage of drama in her life, from a nasty breakup with Buckingham (chronicled on the Rumours album) to the turbulence caused by being the first Fleetwood Mac member to experience solo success, other romantic woes, and debilitating addictions to cocaine and, subsequently, to the tranquilizer Klonopin, which dulled her creative edge. Trouble in Shangri-La is her first new solo album since 1994, but Nicks — who's been clean, sober and healthy for several years now — hasn't been wanting for work; she took part in Fleetwood Mac's 1997 reunion and even recorded a track with Buckingham for the Twister soundtrack. But her primary project has been Shangri-La, an album that's being rightfully compared to her chart-topping solo debut, Bella Donna, and which finds Nicks working with admirers and protégés, including Sheryl Crow (who co-produced and performed on five tracks), Sarah McLachlan, Macy Gray, and Dixie Chick Natalie Maines. With a tour kicking off in late June and another Fleetwood Mac reunion on the horizon, the only trouble in Nicks' own Shangri-La these days is figuring out how to fit everything in.

Trouble in Shangri-La has been a long time in the making, hasn't it?

Well, I started this record in 1994. I wrote "Love Is," which is the last song on the record, at the end of 1994, and I wrote "Trouble in Shangri-La," which is the first song on the record, at the beginning of 1995. So I had the beginning and the end; that's where it really started. So then I just had to fill the middle. And then the Fleetwood Mac reunion came up, and, of course, everything stops when Fleetwood Mac comes up; the whole world stops, and anything you're doing personally stops. So when I tell people this record took seven years, it didn't really take seven years; it just took that much time for it to be done. I would say the record probably took about seven months of actual recording through that whole time.

Did touring with Fleetwood Mac again impact on the songs — both what you wrote and how you wrote it?

Definitely. The Fleetwood Mac tour ended up being a great thing for me as a writer; when I was on the tour, I wrote about four or five of the songs — not the music but the poetry. So when I got home from that tour and went to really start writing for this record, I was able to go back through my journals and pick up some really wonderful songs.

So it would be correct, then, to read your relationships with the other group members into some of these songs.

Absolutely. As a writer, I'm able to use all that information, which is great. "Fall From Grace" is really about Fleetwood Mac onstage — that's always mostly going to be about me and Lindsey, just about our energy and what a trip it is to be in Fleetwood Mac and walk up there onstage. It's just — it's grand, you know? It's a very grand thing. It's nothing like your solo career. Don Henley and I laugh at each other sometimes; there is our solo career, and there is The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, which seem to take precedence over everything else that we do.

You've clearly gotten a great deal out of your personal and professional relationships with Sheryl Crow. How did you guys hook up?

I first met Sheryl Crow at the House of Blues on the premiere night of a movie called Boys on the Side. There was a soundtrack to that; they sent me a song Sheryl Crow had written ["Somebody Stand by Me"] to record. I didn't know Sheryl; I knew who she was, but I didn't know her. And I liked the song and recorded it. I met her at the premiere thing, and that was the first time I talked to her about possible production because I had really liked her song and I really enjoyed doing it. We really planned it out; we wanted to work together and we wanted to sing together. Sheryl's a harmony singer, and I'm a harmony singer; we go to harmony immediately before we go to melody. So we thought it would be something that would be great to do.

How about Sarah McLachlan?

What happened between me and Sarah happened totally accidentally. I called her producer, Pierre Marchand, to do "Love Is," and something happened with his green card and he could not come here. So I went to Vancouver, and Sarah lives in Vancouver [British Columbia]. We were there for a week, and she did piano and guitar, and her husband, [Ash Sood], played percussion and drums, and it was really fun and it was a wonderful experience. And I got to go to Sarah's house. We don't get to do that very much; we don't get to go over to your rock star friends' houses; it just never happens. So this was a really nice thing; in a week, we really got to know each other.

One can only imagine what a night in the studio with Stevie Nicks and Macy Gray must have been like.

Macy came in for one night. She's managed by my management, and I asked, "Do you think Macy would sing the high part on this chorus?" We asked her, and she came down and it just happened. She said to me as she walked through the door, "I don't do harmony;" I said, "OK, you're not going to do harmony tonight, either," and I went out and I put the high harmony on it, and we took the melody out and she went out and sang it as if that high harmony was the melody to the song. She did it perfect, and she was gone in a puff. The great thing is, it's forever now; it only took a moment, but it's forever now.

Did it occur to you as you were working with these people that, were it not for you, they might not be here?

Well, that's a very nice thing of you to say. I hope so. I hope that I'm part of the reason why they make music. I always wanted to be inspirational to other singers, and I wanted to be a success story for women where they can say, "Well, she made it. I can make it, too." It seems that somehow I've managed to do that. I never really tried to do that, but it seems that that has happened. And it sometimes seems like I have found all my lost children, because they are so sweet and precious to me, and they treat me like I'm mom, like I'm someone they really love. This is pretty wonderful for me; I never expect that.

The word is that after Trouble in Shangri-La and Lindsey's next album, Fleetwood Mac will ride again.

Absolutely true, yes. Mick [Fleetwood] and I are going to make this happen; we're the strong ones, and we're going to push this through if it kills us. We really want to do another record. Christine [McVie] doesn't want to do it; if that's what she wants, that's what she's going to get. But under that circumstance, Mick and I think it's very exciting, and Lindsey and John [McVie]. That pushes Fleetwood Mac back to being a power trio, basically; you take that lead keyboard element out and you are left with a more guitar-centered band. That's a very exciting premise to all of us, so I think it'll happen.

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