It is a sad irony when someone with a special talent has the very medium of that talent endangered. A singer who struggles to keep her voice brings to mind the athlete with the trick knee, the musician with hearing trouble.
Stevie Nicks is not only an outstanding singer and songwriter for Fleetwood Mac, but she is a beautiful, elegant lady besides. Yet, a cloud will movie through her expression when she talks about her voice.
“The doctor has told me that my speaking voice is destroying my singing voice,” she says. She has pinpoint nodules on her vocal chords that are aggravated when she speaks in her natural low pitch.
“I can’t ’til the cows come home as long as I keep my pitch up, but it sounds ridiculous to me inside my head,” she told Weekend in a recent interview. Before a concert, she will spend all day inside, not speaking, taking face saunas and gargling. “I just have to do the best I can do,” she says.
Fleetwood Mac is talking a break from its world-wide tour to allow Nicks to rest her voice and also to prepare to the American Heart Association benefit concert Aug. 27, at the University of Arizona stadium.
The concert came about through Nicks’ father, Jess, former chairman of the board of the Maricopa County Heart Association. It will start at 5 p.m. to allow four bands to present a full set: The Marshall Tucker Band, Kenny Loggins and Arizona will join Fleetwood Mac to bring in a possible $350,000, the largest contribution for charity by rock entertainment.
Doing the benefit is not like doing just another concert, according to Nicks. “It takes months and months of work. A crew of 30 people from all over the country have to come together for just one night. If we always did it this way, we’d go into the red.”
But that is about all Nicks had to say about the money. “I never ask about money. I don’t want to know.” She has no idea how much the band is actually giving up to do the concert, but she knows it is a lot.
“That is the amazing thing about rock and roll. You can jig around and have a good time and make all that money — just having a good time.”
In a sad situation, anything can happen, but also it can be cleansing, like rain. — On the ‘Dreams’ lyrics ‘Thunder only happens when it’s raining’
As much as she loves the band and performing, she doesn’t like touring. “It’s grueling. I can’t do it again for a long time, ” she says. it is “the crazy Englishmen,” the band’s namesakes Michael Fleetwood and John “Mac” McVie, who love to tour. “Christine (McVie) and I just sort of hobble along with them,” says Nicks.
The real joy for Nicks comes from writing songs, and she has written several outstanding ones on the group’s two albums, “Fleetwood Mac,” and the more recent, Rumours.
“The fantasy of performing is infectious and it is hard not to be swept away by it all, but the song is real. I have to live, too, by searching for reality,” she says.
Her songs, “haunty and floaty” as she describes them, come from real experiences in her life. “Most are introspective, a running chronology of my life,” she says. Some have come about quickly, on the spur of the moment, like “Rhiannon,” inspired by the sound of the name. “It sounded so free — with personality traits of my own — about a woman who is into her own trip.” Nicks went to her piano and wrote the song in 20 minutes, a more “classical-sounding” version than the one that appears on the album.
Other songs have come about over many years, like “Dreams,” her favorite song their two albums. It is about her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham, also of the group, which lasted until a year and a half ago. “I wrote the first verse, about our break up, over a year before it happened. Then the rest of the song came much later,” she says.
“Thunder only happens when it’s raining” is the song’s chorus. “In a sad situation, anything can happen,” she says. “But also it can be cleansing, like rain.”
She writes whenever she can, even getting in an hour here and there during a tour, but her best writing, she says, is when she is alone and at home in Los Angeles or at her parents’ home in Paradise valley. “When I’m into a song I’m elated. It’s the very best thing for me.”
“My songs are a matter of circumstances, but there also is a natural progression. My earlier songs were bitter. ‘Frozen Love’ is very nonchalant and indifferent. Now, I am less cold. I was upset, and now, like in ‘Dreams,’ it’s okay.”
She cherishes times of quietude in her home and in Phoenix. “At home I try very hard to be ‘normal,” but it takes a couple of days to settle down, to get used to the idea that there won’t be a wake-up call, that we don’t have to get moving,” she says.
“I come to Phoenix often, always to relax, so I have very nice feelings about it here. There are friends here who were into our music before we became popular, so they’re very special.”
Yet, her ideal life still would include a couple of months performing each year.
“Don’t get me wrong — I really love to perform. I love to be up on that stage.”
Onstage, the sedate, poised lady puts on a show. “I’m a completely different person,” she says, and attributes it to the fact that she is a Gemini. Costumes she and her “little space cookie” dressmaker design are long and flowing, her most notable one a black chiffon affair, designed especially to create the fantasy atmosphere of the performance. But because of it, she says, she has been associated in the media with black magic and witchcraft.
“We work at making the show both musically and visually interesting,” she says. “I don’t like being associated with anything evil. We do all that for entertainment. I love to wear long, flowy things and the people love it. But that has nothing to do with the real me.”
The band will complete its tour Dec. 10 and then members will ive in Maui, Hawaii, where McVie has a house, for a few weeks. Out of that time of freedom and rest will develop the makings of their next album, which Nicks predicts for March, 1978.
On that album will be the song she says is the best she has ever written, “Beautiful Child.”
“It is from an experience that sent me in tears — it’s real sad.”
Producing a new album will not be easy. “There is horrendous pressure to be as good as the last album. You can never go back. You have to be as good or better,” she says.
The group faced this especially when it was producing Rumours, to follow up the platinum first album. “We worked 12 months on Rumours and we had our doubts. you start ripping yourself apart. Because it was taking so long, Lindsey was afraid it wouldn’t have the spontaneity, but I was sure that the songwriting was far superior.”
The band was held together despite the turmoil of Nicks’ and Buckingham’s separation as well as that of Christine and John McVie. “We just couldn’t let the emotional thing blow us apart,” says Nicks. “We are not kids, all of us are between 29 and 32, and we just had to handle things in an adult manner. The band stayed together because no one would leave.
“It’s a very integral band. There is strong chemistry among the five people.”
Yet, in their future, she sees them going their separate ways. “I see Lindsey going into producing, Christine to her hosue — she loves to cook and she is an artist and a sculptress.
“Michael and John always will be on the road. They’ll play ’til they can’t play anymore.”
This article was transcribed by Stevie Nicks Info
Marcy Tower / Scottsdale Daily Progress — Weekend / August 19, 1977