Sunday Conversation: Stevie Nicks On Why Hew New Single Was A Premonition, John Lennon And More
by Steve Baltin - Forbes
Part two, below, focuses on her superb new single, "Show Them The Way," which she views as a prayer to lift people up and unite them in these incredibly turbulent and fractured times.
The song actually dates back to 2008, when she had a dream that inspired the lyrics. Looking at how much it fits into our world today she now sees the song and the dream as a premonition.
I spoke with her about the song, the unintentional nod to John Lennon, the powerful video directed by Cameron Crowe and her concert film, 24 Karat Gold, screening in cinemas this week (October 21 and 25).
Steve Baltin: I love the new single, 'Show Them The Way." And I love the symmetry of releasing it on John Lennon’s eightieth birthday. It came from a your dream and Lennon was one of the best at talking about dreams. So was it just a coincidence that it came out on John Lennon’s 80th birthday?
Stevie Nicks: It kind of was, but I have to tell you that John Lennon was the first shadow and the last verse. And the shadow says, “The dream is not over, the dream has just begun. And the last shadow in the last verse is my mom saying, "Don’t forget what me and your father were fighting for, sweetie. Don’t forget it."
Baltin: You have said the song comes from a dream you had in 2008.
Nicks: The reason that I wrote it, I was back in Chicago for about two months editing a film and when we’d get home at about 10 o’clock from the studio we’d turn on the TV. And they were playing all the documentaries from the late '50s, and all through the '60s, and into the '70s. For two months I watched documentaries because it was also at the same time Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were going back and forth on who was going to be the candidate for the democratic primary. So it was a good way to walk away from what you were doing musically into another world. I had all these documentaries in my head. And towards the end of that two months, I just went to bed one night and had that dream. And the dream was so clear I sat up in bed and reached for my journal and just started writing it down in prose, not as a poem. Just like, "I was invited to be the entertainer for the party in the Hamptons . It was for some really famous political figures and why the hell did they ask me? I don’t play piano that well." I just said in the dream, “Well, sure I’d love to do that, right?” So when I woke up I just started writing it down as a story and I got the whole story written down. And then I stopped and walked away from it and went back to it the next night and made it into a poem because that’s what I do with my writing. I write it in prose and then if I think it’s poetry worthy then I go back and I write it into a poem. So the poem came very fast and then the next day I put it to music. And then it was done and I put it in cold storage because it wasn’t the time for a song like this to come out then. It just wasn’t. I knew a song like this wasn’t going to be a song that would always fit.
Baltin: So what made this the time to release it?
Nicks: I started thinking, "I think this is the time. Maybe this song can really be the prayer that it is." And I called up Greg Kurstin and said, “So I have this song called 'Show Them The Way' and could you see if you could get my timing on this? Because if you could help me record this song it would be great.” So he did and we recorded it. And then I left and went on the road for almost two years and when I came back my assistant played it for me and I almost forgot that I ever even did it. So much had gone on in somewhere under two years, that it just went out of my head. So she played it for me and I was like, "Oh my god, this is really good. This is done." ]But] I want to do a rock and roll version of it. So Greg was in Hawaii, I was here. We didn’t get to be in the same room at all. And he just did the whole track up. And he sent it to me and Dave Grohl. He said, “Dave, play on this.” So he did that and then I told Greg that I think we should send it back to Dave Stewart who’s in Nashville and see if he wanted to play some crazy guitar on the last half of the song because I think it could use a character that could play the right guitar on this.
Baltin: This dream came to you in 2008. Do you feel with this song is it almost eerie in a cool way that it's so relevant October 9, 2020, 25 days before the most life changing election of anybody’s life that I’ve talked to?
Nicks: I think it was absolutely a premonition. I didn’t really, I didn’t really see it as a premonition when I wrote it. I saw it like a movie, kind of. But when I sit and read the words, I go, "This was definitely a premonition because 2008 was a long time ago and we weren’t even close to now in 2008." When I first hear the acoustic piano version that Greg and I did two years ago, that version of it breaks my heart, makes me cry. So I heard it and I started to cry and I said, "This fits in right now.It doesn’t sounds like a crazy dream now, now it sounds like the truth. And I think the world needs this song."
Baltin: You say the piano version makes you cry. So why the rock version? Did it seem necessary in 2020 when things are so dark and desolate?
Nicks: When it became the rock and roll monster song that it became, I was thrilled. I never expected that. Because even if you’re the staunchest – if a republican hears this song and they like to dance, they are not going to care. They are just going to dance around the house and that’s good because if it gets everybody’s ear, if it helps people in a political way then I’m really happy about that. If it helps people get out of their chair and they’re dancing in the streets that’s going to make me happy too. As a writer, there’s many reasons for this song to be out right now. I do want it to be a prayer for the world. I want it to be a prayer for everybody. Until five years ago, I’ve really have never been a political person in my whole life. This is the first time and it’s probably because I’ve been watching the news solid for five years. So I’m not one to make political statements at all. But whatever it is that might be considered political in this song, haters are gonna hate. You can be mad at me for this song, I don’t care. I didn’t write it. Whoever wrote up there in God’s heaven or wherever, sent it down to me in a dream. The whole story was not something that I sat down at my desk and penned. It was just given to me, this story. In my sleep. And I wrote it down the second I woke up. And that turned into a poem and that poem turned into a song. It was written in 2008. It was not written about right now. It just happens to feel like it was written about right now and that’s the reason I released it, because I thought this might help. Sometimes that’s all we can do is hope that we write something that might help to save the world. That’s what I say at the end of my show every night, save the world, you can. That’s what I hope for this song is that it makes people happy, if they don’t want to look at it as a political song, good then don’t – just dance to it. Just enjoy it. If it fulfills a political thing that you wanted to say or you wanted to see, then good. Use it that way. I’ve given it up now. So I just hope that people will love it and never forget it and still be playing it in ten years.
Baltin: Let’s tie it into the 24 Karat Gold The Concert. Can you go back and find those one or two sentences or songs for you, "I can understand why people are so drawn to these songs?"
Nicks: I can’t think of my songs, I’m thinking of Don Henley and what’s my favorite, one of my favorite Eagles songs is "Wasted Time." And maybe it’s because I was going out with him when that song was being written or just done, so I feel like I have a little part in that song. I’m sitting here looking at the songs that are in the film. I’m really thrilled that" Crying In The Night," after all these millions of years finally went into the set from Buckingham/Nicks because it went over so well on stage. And I think people thought they would never hear a Buckingham/Nicks song on stage. So I was thrilled to put that we’d be able into the whole set because people loved it. And of course I was able to tell the story of it which makes people love it even more. It would be very hard for me to tell you lines in my songs that I think people would love because if I write a poem and make it into a song, and it goes out, actually goes on a record, I’m pretty sure people are going to like it because I have to really love it to put it out. I very seldom put a song that I think is iffy on a record. So of all the songs, if you’re talking about "Crying In The Night" or "If You Were My Love," which is one of my favorite songs of all time that never got on a record until 24 Karat Gold, because it was never recorded right, "Bella Donna," and "Enchanted," "Bella Donna" was only done on the Bella Donna tour, which was about three weeks. "New Orleans" has only been done on this tour and that was the first time it’s been done. "New Orleans" was 2005.So it took all this time for that song to make it to the stage. So I’m not the best person to ask about my own songs. I can tell you that "Moonlight, (A Vampire’s Dream)" was probably my favorite and that’s just because part of Moonlight was written a long, long time ago. And then when I saw the Twilight movies, it just seemed to fit so perfectly that I used the verses from that and then wrote the chorus and stuff around it. I guess each one of my songs is precious to me, and there are no songs — I’m looking at the list of songs that are on the show. And there’s not one song on all this that I don’t love. When I go on stage and I try something new and if I don’t love it, then it’s not in the set.
Baltin: Tell me about the video and what Cameron brought to it.
Nicks: Well, the video really was the last of our project. I told Karen, my assistant, "Go home and do some kind of a rendering," because we knew we couldn't go out and do a full-on video, not in the days of pandemic. So there's no way we could do that. So she went home and she got some stills and just dropped them in slowly and I watched it and I thought, "Well, this is pretty neat actually. And it is strange it's hard to tell if it was 50 years ago or now." So that's when I said, "We have a good idea here. Let's call Cameron Crowe, he lives right down the street and I'm pretty sure he's totally confined, so let's call him. Then we can also call Neal Preston, Cameron's best friend. So we called both of those guys and said, "Listen, we're gonna send you a song and we need a video like yesterday. So we're gonna send you this little rendering that my assistant did, watch it, listen to the song and call us back. Tell us what you think." This was Monday and it needed to be turned in by Friday or it wouldn't go out on the eighth and it needed to go out on the eighth and worldwide on the ninth. So we said, "Can you do it? Do you want to do it?" So they watched it and they called us back five minutes later and Cameron said, "I would love to do it." So we set it up and we did a teeny, tiny three-hour shoot in my entryway where everybody was full-on Hazmat suited except me. And we just did a walk down the hall and me sitting at the piano writing the words and Neal was up my staircase shooting down and then we did one or two other things just in that small space of my entryway with really high ceilings. And I found a really great old Polaroid of me sitting at the piano. We turned everything to black and white and I thought that particular Polaroid showed some sadness because I remember when I took that Polaroid for some reason I actually was really sad. And so we used that. Then we had to edit so we got the Palisades people to rent us a boardroom in the Palisades Village, where nobody had been in for months. So we went in there, me and an editor and Cameron's guy, all of us totally in masks, booties and gloves and everything as we edited it. Then we turned it in the next day and they had to do whatever they had to spit and polish up a video so it's ready to go out. So we made our deadline where it went in and it was able to come out late, late last night I guess. So we did it, we got it all done and I was so happy because I was afraid we weren't going to make the video. But everybody was pretty passionate about this project. That was why we were able to skate by and make all the deadlines. Cause if it hadn't been done on time it wouldn't have went out until the sixteenth of October and I said, "No, no, that's too late. The song needs to be out on the ninth. If it's gonna do anything to help the world right now it needs to go out on the ninth, no matter what." And it did.
Part 1 of this interview is here