With more than 40 years of solid recording experience under her belt, Stevie Nicks is clearly a legend in her own right. She has paved the way for many singer-songwriters to succeed in today’s fickle music business and provided a few valuable lessons for aspiring artists in a similar quest for stardom. Here are five good ones:
1. Write your own songs. It pays off in the end, literally.
Sure, not everyone can write a classic like “Landslide.” But it took years before the mainstream took notice of this masterpiece. “Landslide” was always a favorite among fans, but it was never a single, so it languished in Fleetwood Mac’s back catalogue for years. But gradually a new generation of artists, such as the Smashing Pumpkins and Tori Amos, picked up on the reflective ballad, introducing the song to new audiences everywhere. When the Dixie Chicks covered the song in 2002, it became the most successful Adult Contemporary song of all-time. Since Stevie was the sole songwriter, she reaped huge dividends, and it filled her coffers—for a lifetime.
2. Less is more, really.
Stevie has racked up a ton of accolades for her songwriting, but you may be surprised to learn that she knows only a few basic chords, many of which she uses over and over again. Her endless poetry may hang on just three chords, but they are the right three chords. Maximize the skills you have, no matter how limited they are.
3. Keep a journal, and make it fabulous.
To quote the great songwriter herself, “memories fade like the wind” (from Rock a Little outtake “Mirror Mirror”), so it’s essential to jot down every important and not-so-important event that happens in your life. Your unique life experiences will be the greatest inspiration for your songs. Like Stevie’s fans, your future admirers will be dying to find out whom you wrote your breakup songs about. So be sure to include all the scandalous details in your notes. If you noticed Stevie’s journals in her recent documentary In Your Dreams, they are bound works of art, filled with poems, drawings, and illustrations. Inject your interests and personality onto the pages. It will inspire you to keep writing in them.
4. Learn how to harmonize
Despite pop music’s rich legacy of accomplished harmony singers (think The Everly Brothers, The Beatles, and Motown), few singers today even bother to work that hard. But this vocal technique will make you a more versatile singer and set you apart from the others. Take Stevie’s lead, she’s the harmony queen.
5. Don’t burn your bridges
Stevie’s fired people, broken up with countless boyfriends, and nearly split up Fleetwood Mac, among other dramas. For many, any of these incidents would be the bitter end to a great band or relationship. But in Stevie’s case, somehow the embattled parties (Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Don Henley, to name just a few) remain her strongest allies today. How can that be possible? The reason is probably not too far from why most people love her in general. Stevie has a way of connecting with people, whether it’s in her enthralling stage presence, her inspiring songwriting, or her empathy for others less fortunate. I hear she writes the nicest letters (real ones, not email) to people too. The point is, keep your relationships intact because, as Stevie has demonstrated, they will last a lifetime and help you in unexpected moments.