Between Fleetwood Mac and her solo career, Stevie Nicks is one of the bestselling artists of all time. And in the lead-up to a new Australian tour – and her 70th birthday – she is showing no signs of slowing down
She’s one of the greatest artists of all time, but Stevie Nicks says success hasn’t changed her one bit.
Every night before she goes onstage, Stevie Nicks has a longstanding ritual. “I make my little mix tapes, and I play them and I twirl around and dance my way through three hours of make-up and getting ready,” the rock legend tells Stellar, adding that her current playlist features Harry Styles, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Selena Gomez.
“I like to keep up with what’s current and, honestly, if I wasn’t touring I would still be listening to music and dancing around my house.”
When Stellar speaks to the Fleetwood Mac icon it’s close to midnight, but Nicks – a lifelong insomniac – is right in the middle of her day.
“It’s the best part and most zen part of my whole day,” Nicks says, adding that she stays up “writing in my journal – poetry, songs, movie ideas, anything”.
“It’s peaceful because everybody is asleep except you. It’s when I feel the most creative and also my most calm.”
At 69 (she’ll turn 70 next May), Nicks’s frantic itinerary is enough to make any average person want to lie down.
In the three weeks before meeting with Stellar, she’s pinballed between a solo gig in France, a massive Hyde Park show in London with her old musician mate Tom Petty, a Los Angeles stadium concert with Fleetwood Mac,
a 70th birthday show in Texas for another good friend (and former flame), Don Henley of the Eagles, and now she’s in New York where she’ll play another stadium gig with Fleetwood Mac.
“Sometimes I would like a serious vacation, you know, like two months in Hawaii with my dog, because at times you feel like you hit a wall,” she admits. “But there is always going to be that knock on the door and I’m always going to be called back to one of the two big things in my life, which is basically either Fleetwood Mac or my solo career.”
But even after her phenomenal success (between them both she’s sold some 140 million records, making her one of the bestselling artists of all time), Nicks still has a compulsion to work as hard as ever. She’s also been open in the past about choosing her art over getting married and having a family.
“I have a love of music that goes far beyond what I do onstage,” she says.
Like the title of one of her most famous songs, ‘Gypsy’, Nicks got a taste of the nomadic life early on when her father would move the family around with his work, and decades later the lifestyle still suits her.
“I could roll with that. I was able to go into new schools and make new friends. My brother, on the other hand, didn’t cope with it so well,” she recalls. “So the thing is, am I still that gypsy? Well, I was always that gypsy.”
In recent years, her life has been split between her solo tours and Fleetwood Mac’s massive touring commitments. But returning to Fleetwood Mac, one of music’s most dysfunctional families, comes with its own issues.
“Compromise with Fleetwood Mac has always been an ongoing challenge because we seldom agree on anything,” Nicks confirms.
“Everybody has a big, huge opinion and you make your choice – is it worth fighting about? Is it worth throwing the next two days of rehearsals away because everybody is pissed off? Or is it worth fighting for something you believe in? It’s like being a politician in a lot of ways; you have to choose your battles, and sometimes you have to let things go even when you don’t want to.”
These days, the singer says her relationships with her famous band mates Christine Mcvie (“Chris and I have been the best of girlfriends since the day I joined Fleetwood Mac”), John Mcvie (“I adore him”) and Mick Fleetwood (“I’m godmother to his daughters”) will go beyond whenever it is that Fleetwood Mac ends.
But her friendship with former love and musical collaborator Lindsey Buckingham remains tricky. The pair met while they were both at high school in California and formed musical duo Buckingham Nicks in 1972, before joining Fleetwood Mac three years later. Their combustible relationship, particularly leading up to the legendary 1977 album Rumours, spurned hits such as ‘Go Your Own Way’, ‘Dreams’ and ‘Landslide’.
“Lindsey and I never see each other. He has a family – a wife and children – and I do not have a husband or children. I mean, it’s just a different world,” she says.
“The thing is, I work with Lindsey when we have to work together, but his whole deal is very different than mine. He has to leave at 7pm at night to get home and have dinner with his children, and then he has to get up early with them.
“Like, are you kidding? I don’t even get up until 3pm and he wants me at rehearsal at 2pm? No, our lives are so diametrically opposed. So that’s kind of where our relationship is.”
Recently, Nicks has been enjoying touring with Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders, and will bring the tour to Australian shores in November. The two icons, surprisingly, had never even met before making the decision to tour together.
“The first time I met Chrissie, I was playing a show at this big arena, and my hair was in rollers and I was wearing these big black glasses, being driven around on a golf cart. And she saw me and started laughing, and I said, ‘I know, I look ridiculous – I am ridiculous,’ and she said, ‘No, you look like Elizabeth Taylor. I’m touring with Elizabeth Taylor.’”
``it´s always a challenge with fleetwood mac´´
And Nicks, who has been a frequent visitor to Australia, can’t wait to return.
“I always have a really good time [in Australia] because it’s a very special place and I have really great friends there, and it’s very different from the United States,” she says.
“It’s a friendlier place and it reminds me of how the US used to be. And with everything that’s going on in the political landscape right now, it’ll be nice to go to Australia and get out of here for a while.”
She has also been enjoying the tour because it’s given her the luxury of performing some rare solo songs and some newer material she’s either never or rarely performed.
“I’ve had to wait until I’m in my sixties to play some of these songs,” she says with a laugh.
“And I’m so pleased because it’s that that makes me want to continue to tour. If I have to go out there and do the same songs every single time I go on the road, it gets boring and it’s not very creative after a while.”
One hit she does perform is the 1986 classic ‘Stand Back’, which originally featured her friend Prince on keyboards. “Prince spent a lot of time worrying about me,” she remembers. “Our friendship was kind of odd; we didn’t see each other that often, but when we did we really were musically very tight. But he was always worried about my drug habits; he always thought I was going to have an accidental drug overdose and die.”
When Nicks was struggling with addiction, she recalls Prince coming to visit her with little care packages. She’s previously said that she spent “millions” on cocaine in the ’70s and ’80s and also had an eight-year addiction to prescription drug Klonopin, until eventually getting clean in 1994.
“There would be cough medicine for my throat, but he would only let me have a spoonful. I’d be like, ‘Chill out, my friend, I can have another one,’ and he’d say, ‘I did not come here to start new drug habits for you.’”
Sixteen months later, and Nicks is still grieving over Prince’s death.
“The fact that my friend, who was so anti-drugs, is not here is so disturbing to me. I miss him.”
When it comes to herself, Nicks is not one for reflection and finds the idea of being referred to as an icon almost absurd. “It’s really nice to know and people tell me that, and I feel a great amount of pride, but at the same time that person – basically the person I am onstage except in much better clothes and much better hair and with heels on – is really the same person I am sitting here right now,” she says.
“I’m pretty much the same person that I’ve always been. I’m nice part of the time and irritated part of the time; that’s really who I am, and I’ve never changed since I joined Fleetwood Mac.”
When Nicks surveys the music industry landscape today, she reckons it’s become difficult for emerging artists.
“You have one big song and you better follow it up, because they will just find somebody who is younger and cuter than you are.”
“It’s a battle,” she continues. “And I don’t know what I would do if I was 21 and in their position. The only thing you can say is that Lindsey and I really believed that we were very good and that we were really, really special. We just believed in ourselves and we believed that what we had to offer the world was really spectacular. It sounds conceited but it wasn’t. We just weren’t going to give up.”
She also has concerns with the lack of control musicians today have over their own work.
“I love a lot of current music, but a lot of these artists are being told what to do by producers and the record companies. You know, their songs are all starting to sound very much the same to me, and that bothers me because I think, ‘I really like that song, but the production sounds just like the production on the song before it and that’s kind of a turn-off.’” She remains optimistic, though. “I love Harry Styles; he’s so cute and charming and I think he can do anything he sets his mind to. And there’s a Fleetwood Mac and a Led Zeppelin out there somewhere. Whether or not they’ll ever be able to rise to the top is the question, because the industry slaps them down, but my advice would be to any musician is just don’t give up. Believe in yourself.”
With that, she gets set to go back to her evening, but sleep is still a while off. “I have this thing, like between 3am and 5am, when it starts to get light and it’s really beautiful, and I just sit there and I drink tea and I read Vogue and I just look out and think, ‘Why would I want to be asleep right now? Why would I want to miss out on all of this beauty?’” Stevie Nicks’s 24 Karat Gold Tour with special guests The Pretenders comes to Australia in November. Tickets go on sale August 18; livenation.com.au.
``I´m pretty much the same person I´ve always been´´
LIVING LEGEND (clockwise from top) The enduringly cool Stevie Nicks; the singer joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975; sharing the stage with Harry Styles; Nicks and Chrissie Hynde are bringing their show to Australia.