SXSW interview: Stevie Nicks

2013-0314-sxsw-getty10
(Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

By Chad Swiatecki
Austin 360
Thursday, March 14, 2013, 7:06 p.m.

If you’re an interviewer you don’t keep famed rock singer Stevie Nicks on a short leash. The better move is to think of a question or topic like a stick thrown to a dog; she’ll chase after its general direction but the chances of the stick being retrieved are about 50/50. Thankfully, there aren’t many interview subjects who are as interesting to watch wander as Nicks, as National Public Radio journalist Ann Powers learned Thursday evening during a talk that saw the singer cover the early days of Fleetwood Mac, her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham, her songwriting partnership with Christine McVie and Buckingham, and how she came to work with Dave Stewart on her new album In Your Dreams.

On her and Buckingham joining Fleetwood Mac: Nicks (whose all black ensemble and sunglasses lent to her mystical reputation) said the band based its decision on bringing her and Buckingham on board on whether McVie approved of Nicks. Talking about the entire group’s introductory dinner at a Mexican restaurant, she recalled a pair of Cadillacs pulling up outside with the Fleetwood Mac members and entourage pouring out, contrasted against her and Buckingham being dirt poor. “Christine and I got on like thieves … babbling like a gaggle of geese.”

Soon after she and McVie started rehearsing for the group’s next album — 1975’s self-titled bestseller — with Nicks and Buckingham making the then-astronomical sum of $200 a week. “We hit the road in June and by October we each were millionaires.”

On fitting into the male-dominated world of rock: “I said we can’t be treated like second-class citizens. When we walk into a room … we have to float in there like goddesses. It worked. The boys never went anywhere without us and we were always invited to the party.”

Later, Nicks took her most serious tone of the hour-long talk when discussing the control many female artists have ceded to handlers and label directors after she and other female artist spent the ’70s and ’80s fighting to have their own say. Removing her sunglasses to make her point clear, she talked about her burgeoning desire to get actively involved in women’s equality on a political front.

On working with McVie and Buckingham as songwriting partners: Powers astutely described the three writers’ roles as McVie being the maternal one, Buckingham being the “weird alpha male” one and Nicks serving as the bridge between the two. The singer agreed, saying McVie was responsible for hits like “Hold Me” and “Say That You Love Me,” with Buckingham doing what he could to rough up those pure pop creations with his rocker proclivities. “I sequenced Rumours so that one side is creepy and eerie and the other side is more poppy, to have two different experiences.”

On drawing inspiration from literature and film: In one of the more interesting and revealing segments of the talk, Nicks talked about seeing her own life through the lens of works by Edgar Allen Poe (when she was a teenager), the classic tale of “Beauty and the Beast” and the recent film adaptation Anna Karenina, its lessons “about what obsessive love can do” about how after seeing it she was “ready to go to the grand piano with white candles. I’m not Anna. I’ve been there and I don’t want to be there again. It got me misery, unhappiness, two or three years to get over it and bad karma. You learn; don’t mess with a married man.” Later on she offered, “I’ve already written about that and I will write about it again.

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