Rock ‘n’ roll legend and gay icon Stevie Nicks reveals her down-to-earth nature. In an exclusive interview, she discusses a new album, old diets and life as a single girl.
She’s our gypsy, our favorite flurry of lace, chiffon, capes and veils. And she returns next month with Trouble in Shangri-La (Reprise), an album of her strongest material since the days of Fleetwood Mac. Of course, Stevie Nicks, 52, has endured her share of tribulations, living a rock ’n’ roll lifestyle that included complicated affairs with band members and her mid-’80s diagnosis with lethargy-inducing Epstein-Barr virus. But Nicks twirled through the troubles and traumas (not to mention the rumors) and even overcame a creative block that led the talented songwriter of “Dreams,” “Sara” and “Bella Donna” to ask friend Tom Petty to write for her, a suggestion that prompted him to bark “You’re talented, Do it yourself!” Petty’s brotherly chastising did the trick. Once back in the studio, Nicks joined forces with guests and producers such as Sheryl Crow, John Shanks, Macy Gray, Sarah McLachlan and Pierre Marchand. The result? Shangri-la, indeed. But no trouble that we can hear.
On April 12, a day following her televised appearance on the Blockbuster Awards, Nicks rang us up to discuss her recent foray into paradise. Rock ‘n’ roll legend and gay icon Stevie Nicks reveals her down-to-earth nature. In an exclusive interview, she discusses a new album, old diets and life as a single girl.
What a fabulous album! It’s so good to hear you go back to the…well, the Fleetwood sound.
You know what it is? It’s guitar oriented. Sheryl’s very guitar oriented. John Shanks, my other producer, is [also] very guitar oriented. We didn’t have anybody who was very piano oriented on this record except for maybe on “Love Is,” with Sarah and Pierre Marchand.
The press release says that you were looking for people to write songs for you until Tom Petty said, “You can write for God’s sake, get back to it!”
That’s exactly what he said. He gave me one of the most quintessential lectures of my life. He basically [said], “I know you’ve had a hard time, but get over it. Songwriting is what you do.” If anybody else had said that, I probably would have just walked out.
Were people trying to keep you down creatively, or was it all self-doubt?
It was a matter of getting over the Street Angel album. It was not a very good record, and I was not very well when I did it. And then I had to go and do interviews for that record, and it was horrifying. After that, I went on the Street Angel tour. Then I went home and wrote “Love Is,” which is the last song on this record. That was the end of 1994, and the beginning of 1995 was when I had my talk with Tom.
We all know you’ve done your share of substances, but your voice sounds great. Is that an inadvertent benefit?
Absolutely. Also, I stopped smoking three packs of Kools a day three years ago. I put the patch on, and it totally worked. I also took voice lessons. It’s too bad I didn’t know about that in the early years of Fleetwood Mac when all I got was bad press about my vocal problems. At least I learned. I started doing it right before the [1997 Fleetwood Mac] reunion tour. I do the vocal thing for like 40 minutes before I sing, and I won’t walk on stage without doing that.
Three packs of Kools a day? That’s hardcore. That is hardcore.
That’s two packs between 11 in the morning and midnight, and one pack between midnight and four.
I read you went on the Atkins Diet, too.
I’m always on the Atkins Diet! It’s a tough diet, and it really works. You should go on it one time and lose the weight and then re-establish your eating habits. I’ve been on it for so long now that my body thinks that toast, fruit, pasta, bread and sugar don’t exist.
I also heard that Laura Dern and Rosanna Arquette stopped by one of your recording sessions while making this album.
Sheryl Crow knows everyone, so they did come by. Actually, Rosanna and Laura were a very big help on “Fall From Grace,” because John had taken out the last three verses. I gave them the formal poem and said, “Do you think these verses can go?” They said, “Absolutely not.” So we put them back in.
Who else visited your recording sessions?
The interesting thing was the movie stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Affleck, Meg Ryan.
You could have shot a Miramax film!
Well, we just about did. I didn’t know any movie stars, but now I do.
Are you familiar with Sandra Bernhard? She used to tell a story in her show about how you two did Tarot cards.
Behind all the scenes, I love Sandra. She’s wonderful and so talented. I know she has a crazy show and I’m part of it, and you know what? I’ve sent her a poncho or two so she actually had a real glittery thing to work with, to help her as a prop. When she says stuff, it’s okay because I know it’s totally homage.
Where do you get your clothes and veils?
My friend Margie Kent makes all my stage clothes and has been making them since I first met her in 1976.
So you don’t raid Moroccan clothiers?
No. What I wear is very similar, but the fabrics are always changing and beautiful, and Margie’s forte is finding those fabrics. [Editor’s note: visit geocities.com/FashionAvenue/5171 for a full rundown of Stevie’s style and fashions over the years.]
I read that a few years ago you had a gay stalker in Denver who believed you could cure his homosexuality.
I never heard that one. [Laughs.]
Finally, what do you think of your status as a gay icon?
It’s great. When I write my music, I want it to be for everybody. That’s my way of teaching. If I hadn’t been who I am now, I would be a teacher and I would be somehow teaching with my music. So when I do this now, I get to share my philosophies on the world and love and how we get through life and what is making us happy, what’s not, how to move on—that’s what I try to do. The fact I have made a connection with the world in the way I have is really amazing and I feel blessed for that.