Interviewed by Mike Ragogna
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Mike Ragogna: Stevie, how are you?
Stevie Nicks: Good, how are you?
MR: Pretty good, thanks. Stevie, you have a new documentary that’s going to be premiering on October 7th at Hamptons International Film Festival. The name of you new documentary with Dave Stewart is In Your Dreams, that title also having been the name of the last album. Obviosly, this was an important album for you.
SN: This was an important album. This was an album that I probably was never going to make, because after I did Trouble in Shangri-La that came out in 2001, I went out on the road with Fleetwood Mac for a couple of years and then in 2005, I was going to make a record. I came off the road with Fleetwood Mac and that’s kind of what I’ve always done. I do my whole thing with Fleetwood Mac, and it was like a year and a half for Say You Will, and then I was going to make a record. I really got very depressed feedback from everyone in the business around me, which was like, “You know what, the business is so screwed up that really, right now, you just shouldn’t bother.” It wasn’t just my manager, it was everybody. It was like I’d tripped and fallen down the stairs. It was a really bad moment in my life, and I said, “Okay.” That’s really not like me, but with the whole internet piracy and everything, I don’t have a computer, I didn’t have one then, but I knew that was coming ten years ago. I knew that that was going to start to destroy the music business, and I was like, “Oh, my God, it’s happening, it’s even happening to me.”
MR: Yeah, it took out the record companies, leaving them going, “How in the world are we going to make money now?”
SN: Right, and then not to mention us—the elite bands from the seventies who never stopped playing and who could go out and do big tours, vis-à-vis Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. We can have a three-hour repertoire if we want. We can have a five-hour repertoire if we want. We can still do these big tours and that’s where the money is right now. But what makes me very sad is all the kids, all those really talented kids anywhere from fourteen to thirty, just so talented and out there waiting to be found. But the problem is that record companies don’t have money so they can’t help you. In my day, they helped you. When we did Buckingham Nicks, Polydor helped us before they dropped the record. For two years, they helped us and they gave us money and they helped us with our rent and our car and food. You can’t get that now, so how in the heck is anybody that’s up-and-coming going to make it if they can’t support themselves because they’ve moved out of their parent’s house and their parents are like, “Hey, you’re on your own. We’re not going to just support you for the next ten years while you try to make it in a business where people are stealing your songs, even if you’re the best songwriter we’ve ever met.” That’s just so unfortunate. I feel so sorry for this generation—for the last five years’ worth of the generation coming up that so want to be in the music business that are having such a hard time because they cannot support themselves.
MR: Stevie, let me ask you, what do you think of these talent shows like The Voice, American Idol and the franchises that have popped up over the years? To me, it does seem like a last hurrah or a last gasp for the record companies to try to hook into something. But it’s the same problem, right, the loss of sales?
SN: Yeah. The problem with that is, people ask me all the time, “If you and Lindsey moved to LA now and you were 23, 24 or 25, would you go on one of those shows?” and I’m like, “Well, first of all, I’d have to drag Lindsey kicking and screaming. However, oh you bet your life we would!” That is the last bastion right now to get noticed. But then again, I know people who have won these shows and some of them are doing really well and some of them disappear within the next year. I guess even once you’ve won those shows, then what? You put out a record, five hundred people buy it, and each one of those five hundred people sends it out to a hundred of their close personal friends and then each one of those close personal friends sends it out to another five hundred people and you may have won a big television show, but unless you’re Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson, you’re still going to have a terrible time. My friend Michael Grimm who won America’s Got Talent, I took him on tour with me and he’s amazing. He’s like Boz Scaggs.
MR: Yeah, I interviewed him a while back. Nice guy.
SN: He’s so sweet and dear and he walks out there on that stage and that voice is amazing. He lives in Las Vegas, he’s doing gigs there, and he said, “You know, I actually had more gigs before I won America’s Got Talent, and it was a great thing. I won a million dollars and was able to set my grandparents up, who pretty much raised me, and I was able to take care of the people around me. But when it comes down to me, my goal…it’s like I’m really back to doing exactly what I was doing before.” The record companies don’t have the money. They’re going to be onto the next thing the second they even see you falter.
MR: Yeah, remember when artists on A&M or Geffen or whatever and the label would hang in there for like four or five albums because they believed in you?
SN: Our record company, after Rumours, when we did Tusk, needless to say, Warner Brothers was like, “What is this?” and Lindsey’s like, “We’re not making another Rumours. We’re making something completely different.” So he went in on a mission to make something that was the other side of Rumours and we did. The record company really wasn’t happy about it, at all, and it was a double album, so it was double bad. But they didn’t drop Fleetwood Mac, they said, “Okay, we’re going to let you guys be crazy…and when your record comes out, we’re going to totally promote it, and we’re going to go with you on this one because we are willing to hang with you and let you morph…from Fleetwood Mac to Rumours to Tusk to Mirage toTango In The Night.” They could have just dropped us. If it had been even in the last ten years, they would’ve dropped us so fast with Tusk. You would’ve never heard about Fleetwood Mac again.
MR: Before you leave Tusk, I also got to interview Lindsey and one of the things I mentioned to him was that I’ve found that over the years, Tusk has become much more appreciated, with artists doing projects based on what they’ve learned from the project.
SN: People love it now because it was way ahead of its time. I used to say that we were climbing to the top of the mountain to find the gods. It was a thirteen-month project where we there 24/7 every day. It was pretty outrageous, but we lived in that bubble where it was kind of strange and mystical world music, music from all over the world we were listening to in order to make that record. We knew it was weird, but we also knew in our hearts, I think, because…people always ask me with Fleetwood Mac, “You guys were doing a lot of drugs and you were all crazy and breaking up and mad with each other and stuff.” My answer to that is always, “Yes, that’s true.” However, we were so very focused on our music that we weren’t letting anything get in our way and if we were mad at each other, we did not take that into the studio. If we were a little bit too high, somebody would always say, “Why don’t you go home and come back tomorrow and don’t be that way.” It’s like with every one of the five of us there were always two or three people going, “Listen, what’s most important here?” Fleetwood Mac is most important here. Fleetwood Mac trumps everything that is happening in everybody’s life. So whatever it is, don’t bring it here.
MR: Let’s get further into In Your Dreams. On camera, you appear fluid, informed, and very comfortable. You’re very at ease here.
SN: Yes. You know what, I have been a little performer since I was four years old, and you’re going to see that in this film. I was just nuts for the stage. I came into the world dancing and singing, and my mom and dad, I think, knew from the very beginning. My grandfather was a country-western singer and a fiddle player and guitarist, and he wrote songs and traveled all over the United States and played gigs in the forties. My parents were very supportive of my love of music and my focus was very strong from when I was in grade school. They knew I didn’t want to be an actress, I didn’t want to take drama, I didn’t really want to take musical drama. I just wanted to listen to rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll and R&B, and I just was in my own little musical world. I had it planned out. In sixth grade, I was wearing a black outfit with a top hat. I had it all planned out.
MR: We like to diagnose things as ADD or ADHD, but how about, “No, she just had the music in her?”
SN: Exactly, and I was really refusing to go any other way. But you know, the great thing about this record is that I wrote a song in the early seventies when Lindsey and I first moved to Los Angeles called “Lady From The Mountains.” It never got recorded for real, but a demo was made of it and the demo was stolen from my house and it went out as a bootleg. So the whole world heard this song called “Lady From the Mountains.” In 2009, we went to Australia and I saw the second movie in the Twilight series and I was very taken with it. Either you are or you aren’t; I was. I went back to my hotel in Brisbane and I took the first and the third verses from “Lady From The Mountains,” and I wrote the second verse and the chorus and it became the song, “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream).” When I finished that song and we did it on a demo, I got up from the piano and I said to my assistant, “Karen, I am ready to do a record now, and I don’t really care what anybody says and I don’t really care if the record business in trouble. I’m going to make this record for me. I need to do it and I feel the power right now.” So I did. I went straight back and I called Dave Stewart at the beginning of January and I said, “I’m going to do a record, Dave. Would you produce it?”
We got together at his studio and offices in downtown Los Angeles and that’s when we decided to do it at my big house and from there on, within three days, we were filming. Even though the filming thing was like, “Okay, really, does that mean I have to wear makeup every day and I have to kind of dress up every day and do my floor-length hair every day,” he said, “Well kind of. Or you could come down in your pajamas, it’s okay, I don’t care.” He said to me, “Darling, if you don’t like it, we won’t use it,” and right there, it was like, “I love him and I trust him.” And I knew that, first of all, he really knows how to film women and has since Annie Lennox, and so that right there is a big, huge plus. So I said, “Okay, we’ll give it a go,” and by the end of the first two weeks, not only Dave was filming and not only did he have a friend of his who was a great film photographer who just came in with a small, really great camera, he had the girl background singers and the chef—my god-daughter who was a really great film photographer—he had everybody in the house filming. Then it became really, really fun because all of us had really great stuff. Not only were we writing songs and making this great album, but we were all part of this filming project. It was the best year of my life and that’s what I tell people. It’ll be hard to ever recreate something that is this much fun.
MR: Yeah, and you’ve said you would like to leave this behind for people who are getting into music, which brings me to my next question. What advice do you have for new artists?
SN: Well, if I had kids that were fifteen, sixteen, seventeen years old and I could see that they were so talented—Dave has a daughter that’s twelve and she’s super talented and she sings like Janis Joplin for real—it’s like what do you tell these kids? I would say, you have to do what you have to do, and if you really want to be a singer and you really want to be a songwriter, put a band together and you’re just going to have to live at your parents’ house and play everywhere in your city that you can, every night. And if you have to go to school at the same time like I did, that’s what I did. I practiced from five to ten with the band every night, and I studied from ten thirty to three every night and I went to college. I went to five years of college when I was in that band up in San Francisco before we moved to Los Angeles. So I did both—I went to school and I was in a band that was actually playing two to three gigs a week. You just can’t give up. I think it depends on how strong your spirit is to actually make it in the music business. If your spirit is super strong and you’ve really got the goods, then you’re going to take on that attitude that you’re not going to fail and you’re going to give it a try. You’re going to go after it in every place you can possibly play, from any mall that will accept you to a coffee shop to steakhouse to any place you can possibly get in. That’s what you do. That’s what you did then and that’s what you do now, except that, hopefully, you have a supportive family that let you stay at home for a couple extra years.
MR: Yeah, or pay for you wherever you’re going to live.
SN: Well that’s asking a lot, right there.
MR: I know, who has money.
SN: With this kind of financial crisis that’s been going on for eight years, you’re asking a lot. So you’re going to have to have a very supportive backup team besides being super-talented. You’re going to have to have a super support team. But you know what? Nobody would be able to tell me, if I moved to Los Angeles right now and I knew how good I was, because I did know how good I was, if I moved there and everybody said, “The record companies are screwed and you’re never going to get a record deal,” I would go, “Just watch me.” That’s how I would go into it. I would pack my bag and I’d be off to Los Angeles or New York in ten minutes. If I had to be a cleaning lady and have five waitress jobs and be a temp somewhere and substitute for dental assistants, whatever you have to do, you do it if you love it that much and then, five years later, you make a decision on what you’re going to do.
MR: You, personally, have a very spiritual side that also keeps you driven, right?
SN: Oh yeah—spiritual backed up by extremely hard work. I psychically knew in the sixth grade when I did a lip-syncing tap dance to Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” I was going to be famous. I flat out told my parents that. “I’m going to be famous. You do know that, don’t you?” They were like, “Well, okay, we get it, but you’re also going to go to school because you’re going to back up your fame with a good education.” My mother would say to me, “You know what Stevie? I totally believe that you’re going to be famous but you’re going to be able to stand in a room with all of the famous people that you’re going meet—and there are going to be politicians and movie stars and famous scientists—and you’re going to be able to totally be on their level because you’re going to have a five-year college education. You’re never going to feel like you’re not as smart as all these people are. You’re going to be able to sing and dance and do your thing, but you are going to be really educated.”
MR: Stevie, your song “Landslide” has embedded itself in this culture to the point where it keeps getting re-recorded and sung during countless open mic nights. And it wasn’t a top ten Fleetwood Mac song. How do you explain that?
SN: You know what, it’s just that little song. That’s what I tell people on stage when I do it. I wrote it in 1973 in Colorado in Aspen, and I knew when I was sitting on the floor looking out at the snow-covered hills and I wrote this little song, I knew. I got up from the floor and I said, “This is going to be that little song. This is going to be it.” That’s what I tell everybody in the audience. So when you’re writing songs—any of you out there that are songwriters—understand that when you write a song that’s really special, it could be the song that makes your whole life.
MR: Yeah, there’s something about “Landslide.”
SN: That is the one. That’s the one that can never go out of the set.
MR: Stevie, any more reflections on the documentary?
SN: I tell people that Dave created a magical sandbox for me and my singers to play in and that he became The Mad Hatter and this walk through ten months in my house is like going into Alice In Wonderland’s world. You really get to experience making this record. Anybody who loves music, wants to be in music, is a singer, is a writer, used to be a singer or a writer, is ninety years old and wishes they were still young enough to be a singer and a writer, it’s like you come into my world and it’s very, very special. I’m so proud of this that my real prayer for this film is that when people see this—because they get to see a little bit and hear a little bit of the finished product of each song, not a lot—but what I’m hoping is that in this world of “We don’t need to buy a whole concept record,” that they see this film and they go, “I really need to hear this record!”
MR: Nice. And again, it’s debuting at the Hamptons International Film Festival on October 7th.
SN: Right. Dave and I are going to be there and it’s going to be so fun.
MR: I also want to congratulate you on your song “Soldier’s Angel.” It’s still very touching and I love that you are still with the Band Of Soldiers charity. You’ve contributed to our soldiers’ lives as well as the culture in beautiful ways.
SN: Well, thank you. I think that “Soldier’s Angel” is probably the song off of this record that will live on forever because it does sort of capture a moment in time through Iraq and Afghanistan and everything that’s going on now. These wars aren’t over and these kids are coming back and they’re so wounded and they’re never going to be the same and people should try to remember that and try to take care of these guys because once they leave the hospitals, they’re on their own. When you actually sit on the bed of one of these injured soldiers, you’re like, “Oh my God, what can I do to help?” and I tell everybody every night, you need to send in five bucks a month. Do whatever you can.
MR: All right, Stevie, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
SN: You too, and hopefully I’ll see you soon.
MR: Yes, I’ll see you soon.