Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Interview: Stevie Nicks: 'The most fun I've ever had'... UK Telegraph

Stevie Nicks tells Helen Brown about her latest album – and the joys of being part of a double act.

By Helen Brown
The Telegraph

When Stevie Nicks asked her 15-year-old god-daughter to take part in her new music video – “playing me at 30, around the time I joined Fleetwood Mac” – the girl asked for a little direction. “So I told her to twirl, talk to yourself, make like you’re crazy, be me,” she says. “We put her in my vintage, evergreen tie-dye with my top hat. Oh, she looked so beautiful. My girlfriends laughed when we saw the dress. Were we ever that small? We must have been!”

She may lament outgrowing her youthful stage gear, but Nicks is still a rock star Rapunzel at 63, blonde locks cascading over billowing, black chiffon sleeves. Today, she’s filled her hotel suite with candles and draped a fake fur blanket over a chair that reclines so far back I briefly worry she’s expecting a therapy session, not an interview.

But she’s warmly professional. “I wasn’t going to dress up for you,” she confides, tucking a pair of long, leather boots up off the floor, “but then I thought: In Your Dreams [her first solo album in a decade] feels like the best thing I’ve ever done and I want to make sure I’ve done everything right to get it out there.”

There have been times in Nicks’s career when she wasn’t capable of such commitment. She developed a huge cocaine addiction between the 1977 release of Fleetwood Mac’s 40 million-selling Rumours and her 1986 admission to the Betty Ford Clinic. Her recovery was “aided” by a prescribed tranquilliser to which she became addicted for a further eight years. “I’m still very angry about that,” she says. “I might have met somebody, had a baby, made three more amazing albums in those years. I’m pretty sure that had I not eventually checked myself into a hospital and stayed there for 47 days, I would be dead now. I would have OD’d on something crazy, over the counter.” Nicks’s struggle with substance abuse is, perhaps, less surprising when you know that her rock role-models were Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin – although she looked to them more for wardrobe inspiration than lifestyle advice. Arizona-born Nicks met her future boyfriend and songwriting partner, Lindsey Buckingham, in high school, and their first band, Fritz, supported many big stars between 1968-1972.

“When I first saw Janis she was very angry,” she says. “The first band had run over time and she came on stage screaming, scared me to death. I was hiding behind the amps. She told them to get the you-know-what off her you-know-what stage. And they wrapped it up! Twenty minutes later, on walks this girl in silky bell bottoms, a beautiful top, lots of gorgeous jewellery, feathers in her crazy big natural hair. Lots of attitude, arrogance, the crowd in the palm of her hand.

“She was not a beautiful woman, but very attractive. I was very taken with her. Then, on the other side, was Jimi Hendrix: humble, sweet. So from Janis I learned that to make it as a female musician in a man’s world is gonna be tough and you need to keep your head held high. From Jimi I learned grace and humility.”

In 1974, Buckingham and Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac. They took the group into the mainstream with their poppier sound – and into personal soap opera territory with a series of romantic dramas that would feed back continuously through their lyrics. Nicks wrote some of their biggest hits, including Rhiannon, Gypsy, Seven Wonders and (the band’s only US No 1) Dreams: about her break-up with Buckingham. She then began a secret affair with Mick Fleetwood (then married), who later left his wife for Nicks’s friend Sara (yes, the one from the song Sara).

In 1981, Nicks released her first solo album, the critically acclaimed Bella Donna, featuring a duet with her next famous beau, Don Henley (though she recently said that Henley’s fellow Eagle, Joe Walsh, was the love of her life). On the day Bella Donna topped the US album charts, Nicks’s best friend, Robin, was diagnosed with leukaemia. She asked Nicks to be godmother to the boy who was born two days before Robin’s death. Nicks went one further, and – in what she now describes as her greatest regret – married Robin’s widower. The couple divorced three months later.

Followers of Nicks’s tangled personal life will find songs about old lovers on In Your Dreams. She claims not to remember who the opening song, Secret Love, is about. Although the clue is that she wrote it in 1976.

But Everybody Loves You is about Buckingham. The whole album is a collaboration with former Eurythmic Dave Stewart. “He sent me the song, which just had a chorus,” she says, then begins to sing it: “Everybody loves you/ But you’re so alone/ Everybody knows your name/ But you can’t find your way home.”

Those husky, witching-hour vocals are still spellbinding. “I felt he wrote it about Annie Lennox, because when you’re in a duo you really know that person better than anybody else. So I flipped it around and wrote the verses about me and Lindsey.”

Working with Stewart was a revelation for Nicks, who’d been a “staunchly selfish, staunchly private songwriter” before the project. “But Dave came to my house, pulled a poem out and said, 'Let’s start here’.” She pulls a horrified face. “There’s a mic hanging over the coffee table, and he’s plugged into a little amp and he starts playing. I’m just in the headlights. But in under an hour we had a song recorded. The doors had opened. Now I understand why all those duos — Lennon and McCartney, Rogers and Hammerstein, Goffin and King — wrote together. Dave made it so easy.” Stewart even talked her into a documentary about making the album.

She laughs: “I said, 'I have to put on make-up every day? I can’t come down the stairs in funny slippers?’ and he said, 'Well, no’. But he said, if you don’t want to put on make-up, wear sunglasses. It was the most fun I’ve ever had.”

In her enthusiasm, Nicks doesn’t sound a day older than her teenage god-daughter. “We shot scenes with white horses, owls, gorgeous gowns… Dave made a magical playground where everything was a toy. It was all like Christmas morning! When I saw the film, I sat down on my red couch and cried because it was all over.”

The oldest song on the album is a reworking of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem Annabel Lee, which Nicks set to music when she was 17. Elsewhere, she found more recent inspiration from the Twilight vampire movies. While she rearranges her gothic sun and moon pendants, I come to the conclusion that Nicks is, to some extent, still a 15-year-old girl with an unfaded passion for drama and dressing-up, eternally romanced by lost love, ancient myth, magic and dreams.

Stevie Nicks plays the Hard Rock Festival on June 26. 'In Your Dreams’ is out now on Reprise Records and released on June 24th in Ireland and June 27th in Britain.

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