First she gave up sunbathing, then drugs
Sitting two feet in front of Stevie Nicks, it is difficult to tell this is the same Fleetwood Mac siren who once lived the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle so severely that she has the quarter-sized hole in the cartilage of her nose to prove it.
Not only did the 10-year cocaine habit (which she quit in 1985) leave her permanently damaged, the addiction to tranquilizers that followed for eight years afterwards also nearly killed her. Then there were the breast implants that left her poisoned with the Epstein-Barr virus, causing lethargy, followed by a 30-pound weight gain in the mid-90s, which depressed Nicks to the point she swore never to sing in public again.
Combine all of that with the three decades she has spent on the road with Fleetwood Mac and as a solo artist, and you would expect Nicks to look a bit bedraggled.
Instead, the singer/songwriter, who turns 53 on May 26, remains radiant, and claims she is the healthiest she has ever been.
Nicks gives some of the credit for her slim, tiny frame and smooth skin to her high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, and a vow at age 30 to stop sunbathing.
“Even in the worst of times, I kind of think I tried to take care of myself. I’ve never had a facelift,” says Nicks in a recent interview during a press-tour stop in Toronto to promote her latest solo album, Trouble in Shangri-La.
Nicks, dressed in form-fitting shiny blue pants, a long black shirt and open-toed black sandals, her signature straight blond hair resting on her chest, says she would consider having cosmetic surgery around her neck, but not on her face.
“The idea of really changing my face, I don’t want to do that,” she says. “I don’t want to look like another person. All of those other people who have plastic surgery don’t like the way they look.”
The what-you-see-is-what-you-get attitude is also evident on Nicks’s new album, which she describes as a reflection of her own life experiences.
“The whole concept of the record, Trouble in Shangri-La, is really about people making it to the top of their field and messing it up really bad.”
While the album is not about O.J. Simpson, it was written during the last two months of the trial, Nicks says.
Its release last week also fits in nicely with the recent career dive actor Robert Downey Jr. is experiencing after his arrest again last month for illegal drug use.
“I think Robert Downey fits right into my Shangri-La mode. Someone who is as respected and loved as he is — it is just Shangri-La and the fall of Shangri-La.”
Nicks acknowledges her own storied background fits into the same fall-from-utopia category, but she says the album is not all autobiographical.
“Of course I went through it, but sometimes you write more about other people than you do yourself. If you are sad about something, maybe you don’t write so much about it. When you see someone else go through it, well, there you go.”
Trouble in Shangri-La also features such guests as Sheryl Crow, Dixie Chick singer Natalie Maines, Macy Gray and Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan.
While Crow made the largest contribution, co-producing and performing on five of the songs, McLachlan sings background vocals and plays guitar and piano on “Love Is,” the final track.
McLachlan’s husband, Ash Sood, also plays drums on “Love Is,” which is one of the first songs Nicks wrote when she started working on the album six years ago.
Nicks first learned of McLachlan in 1994 while hearing her song “Possession” on the radio, while fast asleep during a visit in her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.
“It woke me up … I sat up and said ‘Who is this?’ “ Nicks recalls. She bought the CD the next day.
She calls McLachlan’s contribution to her new album “one of those perfect accidents.”
Canadian producer Pierre Marchand was supposed to go to Los Angeles to record “Love Is” with Nicks, but had trouble crossing the border, and instead arranged a meeting in Vancouver. He then asked Nicks if she was interested in having McLachlan, now on a career hiatus and living in Vancouver, perform on the album.
Nicks agreed, and spent time with McLachlan and Sood at their home for a week in November.
“I really got to hang out with her. It was really neat.”
Not only are McLachlan’s musical talents on the album, but her artwork as well. She drew the ‘S,’ used to spell out ‘Stevie Nicks’ on the cover of Trouble in Shangri-La. Turned upside down, the ‘S’ is meant to be a picture of a dragon.
Nicks says she saw McLachlan’s drawing on the coffee table in the Vancouver studio and asked if she could use it on the album.
“This record was very hand-stitched,” Nicks says. “I love that part about this record, that everybody did a really special thing.”
Also appearing on the album is Nicks’s ex, Lindsey Buckingham, with whom she recorded her first album in 1973, Buckingham-Nicks, where the couple appeared nude. (She calls doing the nude cover “the most terrifying moment of my entire life.”) A year later, thanks to the nude cover, which got them noticed, the couple joined Fleetwood Mac, which became one of rock’s most storied and highly successful acts. That band’s 1977 album, Rumours, sold more than 17 million copies, and stood as the all-time best-selling album for several years.
Despite the band’s acrimonious past, which included Nicks’s affair with Mick Fleetwood after she and Buckingham split, Nicks says members of the band remain friends.
She rejoined Fleetwood Mac in 1997 on tour for the album The Dance. Since then, Buckingham has remarried and has a child, which Nicks says has been good for their professional relationship.
“It is all good now,” says Nicks, who is single and has no plans to have children. “He is very married, which kind of takes out that thing of ‘Will Lindsey and Stevie get back together when they are 90?’ It makes it easier for us.”
Nicks begins touring for Trouble in Shangri-La in early July in the United States. No Canadian dates have yet been scheduled.
Meantime, she says Fleetwood Mac will head back into the studio again at the end of the year. The band will record another album, but this time without singer and keyboard player Christine McVie.
Nicks is also considering collaborating with the all-girl group Destiny’s Child, who have asked her to play guitar in the video of their next single, “Bootylicious,” which uses music from Nicks’s 1982 solo song (single) “Edge of Seventeen.”
Brenda Bouw / National Post (Canada) / May 9, 2001