Stevie talks to Hollywood.TV about the In Your Dreams documentary. But who’s the eavesdropping woman with the cat ears?
By Ann Powers
Sunday, March 17, 2013 9:54 a.m.
The true rock legends change the game. Stevie Nicks, as a member of Fleetwood Mac, and later in her solo career, changed the game not only for women, but for what you could do in rock as a songwriter and a singer. While living in the male-dominated world of the very peak of the music industry in the 1970s, she wrote indelible songs that tell real, true stories, often about the bond between women, and about the life of an adventurer.
Nicks has stayed busy. In April, she’ll join Fleetwood Mac for a world tour. In 2011, she released an album, In Your Dreams, produced by Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics, which was the basis for a new documentary that Nicks co-directed with Stewart. And at this year’s South by Southwest, Nicks joined Dave Grohl on stage to perform as part of his Sound City players, a group of musicians who have all recorded at Los Angeles’ famous Sound City Studios and later came together to make a soundtrack to Grohl’s documentary about the history of the studio.
Earlier that day, NPR Music’s Ann Powers spoke with Stevie Nicks in front of an audience at the Austin Convention Center. Over the course of a nearly hour-long conversation, Nicks talked about what it takes to sing harmonies, a recent movie that sparked both memories of her own complicated romantic history as well as creative inspiration, the three musicians who provided templates for her style on stage, which Fleetwood Mac rarity the band will perform on its upcoming tour and why, when she and Lindsey Buckingham were being courted by Fleetwood Mac, the band placed the ultimate decision in the hands of Christine McVie.
NPR: I want to start by talking about In Your Dreams, the new record. I feel that it’s a culmination of the best aspects of your solo work. I know you have said that it’s your favorite solo album, in many years at any rate, and it includes at least one song written in the ‘70s and some that you wrote it right there during the sessions. So for me it really is an apex. And it also shows, I think, the two sides of your songwriting process merged so beautifully. Many people talk about, “Oh Stevie Nicks, she writes about, you know, fairies and witches and all that.” But to me you are one of the most realistic songwriters about male/female relationships especially. And about what it’s like to be a woman in quote unquote man’s world, especially of rock ‘n’ roll. And I wonder how in your writing process you bring those two sides of you together. The wild dreamy Stevie and the Stevie with so much wisdom?
Stevie Nicks: What a question. You know, I think that the best way to start the answer to that question is to say that, when I first joined Fleetwood Mac and met Christine I was later to find out that it was all up to her whether or not they would accept me into the band or not. They needed a guitar player. Bob Welch had just quit. They did not need another girl. They already had a girl. And what a girl. So we all had dinner at a Mexican restaurant on like the second day of 1975. Mick [Fleetwood] had called us on New Year’s Eve night and said, ‘Would you like to have dinner with us? We really want to talk to you about joining our band.’ And you know, Lindsey wasn’t really — and he doesn’t get mad at me for telling this, ‘cause it’s really the truth. He wasn’t really all that excited about it. Because we had already started our second Buckingham Nicks record. And we were making it on spec, which means that the studio, Sound City, was giving us free time. So if somebody didn’t come in, you know, our producer Keith would call us and say, come down right now. There’s five hours of empty time that you can have for free. So he was really excited about this record that we were making. And also, the [first] Buckingham Nicks album was, in its own weird way, starting to simmer back in the South, you know.
NPR: You played Birmingham, Alabama.
SN: We played Birmingham for 5,000 people. So anyway, Lindsey wasn’t all that excited. And I went to Tower Records and spent our last dime on all the Fleetwood Mac records, of which there were many.
SN: And I sat by myself, because he knew he wasn’t going to sit with me and listen to this music. I sat by myself and I listened to — back to front — all six or seven albums. And I came away that night with an idea that there was something that we could add to this really great blues band. And yes, in fact, Lindsey in many ways was able very much to play like in the genre of Peter Green, if he so chose. Which he didn’t so choose that often. He was much more, he wanted to pick, you know.
SN: He really wanted to be, I don’t know, something like an Appalachian …
NPR: Bluegrassy kind of thing.
SN: You know, bluegrass crazy man. But he could do Peter Green very well. And also all the other guitar players in Fleetwood Mac that had come after Peter. So I went and I said to him, you know, “We need to go and meet these people. Because it’s a great band, Lindsey. They have a great rhythm section. Christine’s an amazing Hammond organ player. And you know what, we are starving to death and I have two waitress jobs and a cleaning lady job. And I’m really tired of being super, super poor. I am, I’m tired of it. So we need to go. We need to meet these people and then make a decision. And you need to, like, be nice.”
SN: So we did. And we’re standing out in front of this Mexican restaurant, right, in Los Angeles. And these two big white Cadillacs come like, glunk, glunk, and Lindsey and I are just like [pauses]. And they all, you know, all these people get out. ‘Cause they have like friends, you know. So the three main characters get out and Mick is like a 130 pounds and 6’ 9”, you know. And Christine is very pretty and very English. And John [McVie]’s very, very handsome. And he’s in like shorts, which is what he wore for 25 years, and tennies and a white hat and a little vest. And we go in and we have dinner. And we have a lot of fun. And we laugh and we talk about music. And so anyway, I found out later that they had to said to Christine, “If you like her, then we will ask them to join the band. If you don’t like her, then we won’t, even though we want Lindsey and we need Lindsey, we won’t.”
SN: So that’s our deal. And the fact is, is that Christine and I were like, got on like thieves, you know. We were at the end of the table just [makes noise]. And you know, they were just immediately going, “Oh no.”
NPR: What have we wrought?
SN: “Oh no, they’re the babbling gaggle of the geese down in here.” You know? So we joined the band. And Lindsey was like, “Okay, alright. I mean it’s obviously this is out of our hands now.” We went immediately into rehearsal for about six weeks. And we got paid $200 apiece, which was $400 in total. Which was … we were so rich. $400 a week.
NPR: When you washed your clothes you’d find hundred dollar bills.
SN: Yes, they were everywhere. Just hundred dollar bills were everywhere. And you know, for the first time in a long time we could actually go into a store and buy something. So it was totally cool. And then we actually went into recording. And then we got paid. At this point we were still hired hands. We didn’t really look at it that way, but actually were. My mom was like, “So what do you do when they give you the $400 apiece?” … And I’m going, “We just sign and initial.” And my very financially oriented mother is like, “Well you know there’s taxes and stuff. And you can’t just like take that money.” And I’m like, “I’m taking the money. Back off mom.” So anyway, we started, then we were making $800 a week, together, while we were recording. So we were really rolling in the dough at that point. And so we make this record in exactly three months. We were very, very focused and we were not indulgent. Because we, they weren’t indulgent ‘cause they needed this record. And we weren’t indulgent because we had nothing. So we made this record. It came out in May. We hit the road in like June, and by September or October Lindsey and I, together, were a millionaire.
SN: So it was: A) dream job. B) Extremely lucky. And there we were. Christine and I looked at each other one day, ‘cause there’s a lot famous men rockers around us. They knew all of the famous people. They knew Eric Clapton. We knew, you know, they knew like “Layla” which was Eric Clapton’s, you know, like…
NPR: George Harrison[‘s wife]. Yeah.
SN: It was Pattie Boyd, [who] was [the sister of] Jenny Boyd, who was Mick’s wife. We met Stevie Winwood and all these really famous people. And I said to Chris, you know, we can never be treated like second class citizens here. So when we walk into the room we have to walk in with a big attitude. Which does not mean a snotty conceited attitude. But it means like we have to float in like goddesses, because that is how we want to be treated. And we will never not be invited to the party, because we are women.
NPR: Good for you. All women out there listen to that.
SN: You know what, it works.
NPR: It’s still important. All men, listen to that about your female band mates.
SN: It worked. It always worked. So, our boys never went anywhere without us. And we were always invited to the party. But it was because we demanded that from the very beginning. ‘Cause you know you can’t just, like, be a wimp and then a year and a half or two years later decide to not be a wimp anymore. Because people will always treat you like a wimp once they have decided that’s what you are. So you can never, ever be that. You have to be strong and tough and intelligent and smart and kind of plan out what you’re going to say and know who you are. So that people will get that right away. Because then they’re always going to be great to you. And they’re always going to treat you with respect. And that’s what you want, because then they listen to you. And then they listen to your songs. And then they give you a chance. Otherwise, you get nowhere.
NPR: I did read an interview that you gave around the time that Bella Donna came out. Which by the way, is an essential album. There should be a 33 1/3 book about that album, Bella Donna. The band is amazing, the sound is amazing. So many great songs.
SN: And that was another record, that was the other record that was done in exactly three months.
SN: No one [was] self-indulgent at all. Because it was the first record of my solo career, so I was worried. I was focused. I was terrified that was going to tank. You know, so I was, so we wasted no time. Me and the girls practiced. We rented a house. We moved in and we practiced. Benmont Tench from The Heartbreakers came up and played the grand piano. We practiced every night. And so when we went into the studio with Jimmy Iovine we were so ready to make that record. Just like we were with Fleetwood Mac. So it just goes to show you what you can do if you want to do that.
NPR: Work ethic.
SN: And Bella Donna was great because of that. It was an extremely well planned and focused album.
NPR: But you were saying in interviews around that time that you felt that finally the men in the L.A. rock scene were seeing you for the songwriter that you were. So there must have been some conflicts.
SN: Well, when you’re in a band with three writers, three great writers, you only get one third of the writer thing. So that’s the whole reason that I did a solo career. And that’s, you know, when I told Fleetwood Mac I was going to do that, they were of course terrified that I would do that record and then that I would quit. And I said to them, “You guys.” I mean, I wanted to go around and hold each one of their hands and say, “Listen, my loves. I am never going to leave you. I just need a vehicle. I can’t, I have trunks of songs from 1973 that are never going to be heard. So all, the only reason I’m doing this solo thing is so that I can throw a few more songs out. So while you guys take your extended vacations: Lindsey while you lock yourself in the studio and make records that nobody’s ever going to hear; John, you’re going to go and get on your boat and sail, actually sail, from L.A. to Hawaii and back, and get lost out there, and we’re going to lose you and not know where you are; Christine is going to go back to London and hang out with her friends. While you guys are doing that, I’ll make a record, I’ll put it out. I’ll do a month of shows.”
SN: And I’ll be done, and I’ll come back. It’s never going to be in front. It’s never going to be Fleetwood Mac. I’m the Learjet and they’re the 738.
NPR: That’s right. And speaking of that, of that structure. I was pondering, listening to, you know, Tusk and Rumours and the first Fleetwood Mac record, especially, that you were a part of. There’s a way that that three-way songwriting partnership or collaboration really works. I can describe it in gender terms, which may seem strange. To me Christine is the very feminine almost maternal voice.
NPR: Lindsey is a strange version of an alpha male.
NPR: And you I think are the bridge. Because while yes, you are a quintessential, you know, archetype, a female archetype and you inhabit that in your songs, you also have a very kind of masculine side. And in the way you sing especially, and the rock side of you. And I wondered if that was something you guys recognized, how you balanced each other out.
SN: Christine wrote most of the singles. Most of the hit singles. She did. “Hold Me,” “Over My Head.” “Say You Love Me.” It’s like she is the, she was the pop writer. Lindsey would get into the production, which is what he does, he would try to pull that pop out of her, you know, so that what would be left would be the great pop song, but with a real rock ‘n’ roll – [singing] “Say that you love me.” — He would make it harder than she would have when she’s like, you know, playing her piano. So that was great. So we were able to have that pop side.
So the three of us as writers and very, very different people were great. Really we were. And I mean I’m in rehearsal with them now, and I see it. I, you know, we go from “Go Your Own Way” to “Sara” to “Never Going Back” to “Landslide.” This time we’re actually doing — and you guys are the only ones who could know this — we’re actually doing “Sisters Of The Moon,” which we haven’t done since like 1979, or 1980.
NPR: Wow, that’s awesome.
SN: And it’s like, it’s dark. It’s, you know… [singing]: “Intense silence as she walked in the room.” And people are like, what does that mean? What’s that song mean? And I’m going, “Well that’s me talking to me. That’s me talking to my alter ego. The person that’s really having a hard time being a rock star. And really kind of longs to just be that caretaker again and be home. And be just, have a life.” And when I’m singing to people, you know, Lindsey always says, “So what’s that about?” You know? Sometimes I tell him and sometimes I don’t tell him. You know, sometimes I go, “Well, I don’t think that’s a conversation we should get into right now.” Or I’ll actually just tell him the truth.
But what I wanted to say was I really did convince them I’m not going anywhere. I loved my band. I would never break up Fleetwood Mac ever.
NPR: Thank you for that.
SN: ‘Cause there’s, you know, there’s no reason to. I just take the time in between. [They] just take their vacations. That’s all.
NPR: But it’s another way you were a pioneer. Because now I think, you know, most bands people have side projects and it’s not considered a death threat as it was say, with The Beatles, for example. When they didn’t, when one went off, you know. On the subject of touring and your voice. I mean your voice sounds so good on In Your Dreams and you know, it’s really sounds like it’s in great shape. And I know, we all know you’ve gone through struggles with that in the past. I know you have a routine that you do. A particular set of exercises. And I’m sure there are a lot of, any vocalists out there in the, raise your hand, yeah. I think some of them would like to know. If you could share one bit of knowledge or wisdom about singing and keeping your voice in good shape, what would it be?
SN: Well, I’ll tell you. I have an amazing vocal coach that I’ve had since 1997. And I do, 30 minutes. If I’m playing at 8:00 at night, I have to be finished at 5:00. So at 3:00 to 3:30 I do the first half. And then at 4:30 to 5:00 I do the second half. So it’s like 27 minutes and then 11 minutes. And basically, you know, it’s just [makes humming noise] . And you just, and there’s [sings scale]. And there’s [sings another scale]. It’s a commitment. But you know what, it’s amazing. Your voice, it’s like being a ballerina. You would never see a ballet dancer go onstage and not go to a ballet class in the daytime, because you’ve got to work. You’ve got to work everything. You can’t just walk on stage and sing two hours. So I had a lot of bad nights up until 1997.
SN: And then I started working with guy. His name is Steve Real. And he’s just amazing. And really, it’s nothing. And you don’t have a bad night. And you can sing, I plan to sing, you know, opera singers sing until into their 80’s. I plan to not be doing, you know, like 190 shows when I’m 85. But I do plan to be out there singing when I really am a seriously older woman. Because I think my voice will still be really good. ‘Cause I’m not going to let it go. And it really is all about, you know, the people that can’t sing anymore that had great voices are the people that went away for five years and then just decided to come back. And you just can’t make a comeback. Comebacks are no good. You have to just keep singing. Or keep dancing.
NPR: Right. You studied ballet, right?
SN: I did a lot of ballet.
NPR: And what did you get from that? I know I’ve seen interviews, I remember seeing some documentary. Maybe it was the making of Tusk where you’re doing ballet. And what did that body discipline give you as an artist?
SN: I think that every girl — and boy, if you so choose — should take some ballet. Because ballet gives you grace. It gives you [the ability] to work with your hands. It’s all about your hands, you know. And I can captivate with my hands. And I do it onstage. It’s like, it’s magic. And I learned that all in ballet. And you know, I can go into a, I went into a ballet class probably 10 years ago. And I mean, God, I haven’t taken a ballet lesson since I was, you know, like in the 9th grade. And this dancer lady goes by and she goes, “See this woman has a really good technique.” Because I learned that. And so that’s what I take onstage. I don’t dance around that much onstage. I just do a little bit of kind of ballet, you know. And it’s fun, and it works. And all people should learn how to do that. Because it makes you graceful. And I think being, having grace and being graceful is very important.
NPR: Also in Fleetwood Mac I think of one of the essences of the group, and it applies to your solo work too, is harmony. You’ve had the same two women as your harmony singers — they’re your family, you know — essentially, forever. And in Fleetwood Mac that’s what really draws me. And your first band was kind of a Mamas & Papas type thing I’ve read. And of course, Lindsey toured with Phil Everly and I hear a lot of Everly Brothers in your work. What was your approach to harmony early on? And what have [you] learned about harmony in singing with other people over the years?
SN: Well, I’m a harmony singer. And that means that I will immediately go for the harmony. I just did a thing with Lady Antebellum and they do a three part harmony. And I had to really find my place in there. And lots of times they would want me to just go ahead and take the melody. And it was very hard for me to do that. Because I just instantly drop to the low part, or the higher part. So harmony is really fun. And I think that, you know, in the very beginning we were all very, very influenced by Crosby, Stills & Nash. And by Buffalo Springfield. And by Poco and by all those: by Joni Mitchell, by Judy Collins, by all of these people that did these amazing harmonies. Lindsey and I, we were the duo. So we were very influenced by the famous duos. So then when Christine came in we had to drop that duo thing overnight and become a trio. So then we were, then we got to be Crosby, Stills & Nash. And you know, if we said it one time, it was a million times. ‘I’m going to be Stephen Stills and you’re going to be the [Graham] Nash. And you’re going to be the David Crosby. Or, and people are like, no, no, I’m going to be, I want to be the Steven Stills. And, it’s like I want to be the Rhoda, I want to be Rhoda and you can be Mary.
We wanted that perfect harmony, you know. And we got it in Fleetwood Mac and then we turned around and I got it with Lori [Nicks] and Sharon [Celani] in my work. And it’s the most fun thing of all. It’s much more fun than singing by yourself.
NPR: And I think harmony, I don’t know, it creates a kind of like half a circle. And then the audience becomes the other half. You know, singing along, joining in.
SN: And they can really jump in and sing.
NPR: Right. And find their own place.
SN: And some people cannot sing harmony. Macy Gray came in to sing something, to sing on a song called “Bombay Sapphires” with me. And I wanted her to sing the harmony and she said, “Stevie, I can’t do it.” So I had to go out and sing the harmony without the melody, and then she went out and sang in unison with me, in order to get her to sing the higher harmony.
NPR: Was that just because she has a kind of a bent note approach to singing?
SN: I don’t know. Some people don’t hear it.
NPR: Her ear just doesn’t go there.
SN: And you cannot teach people to sing harmony, if they don’t hear it. So we got it and it was great. But she was like so, you know, so irritated with herself. You know, and I’m like, “It’s fine, it’s fine.” Because you look, you, it’s amazing and she sounded great. But we had to work really hard on it. Because that’s not what comes to her. She wants to sing straight melody.
NPR: Also, in that same Tusk documentary I think there’s a section where you are singing. And we hear your voice. I think the song is maybe “Angel,” with no backing track, just your voice. And listening to it, this is strange. But it made me think of Patti Smith. And there was a strength to it, and an androgynous quality to it. And a real edge to your voice. And I know in the movie you said, ‘I am a rock singer.’ And I wondered did you ever listen to punk in those days? Or who, did you, or conversely did you have maybe male classic rock artists who you were, I remember Ann Wilson telling me, you know, Robert Plant was her kind of blue chip. So what about that side, the rock, the rocker girl that you are?
SN: Well, I listened to Janis Joplin. People ask me, ‘Where do you get your stage thing?’ You know? And I really can tell you exactly where I got it. We, Fritz — the band that Lindsey and I were in — we opened for every big band in the whole San Francisco music scene. Which was 1968 to 1971.
NPR: That’s an amazing time.
SN: You could not have been there at a better time. So we were a good band. So we got on, I mean we opened for everybody. So we opened for Janis at Frost Amphitheater at Stanford. When you open for them you get the perk of being able to stand on the side of the stage. So I got to be very close to Janis and watch her do an entire hour-and-a-half show. She was a very little girl. She wasn’t especially pretty. But when she walked on that stage she was a knockout. And she was a hard rock singer. And she could hold that audience in her hands. So I got big attitude, big voice. And she didn’t take any shit from anybody. So I got that from her. On the other side of that, we opened for Jimi Hendrix at San Jose, no, Santa Clara Fairgrounds. 75,000 people.
SN: Now we were just little kids at this point. And what I got from him was, first of all, his amazing voice. But he was the opposite of Janis. He was super humble. And he was super graceful. And he would talk to the audience a lot. And he would talk in a really sweet voice. And he would really draw people in, you know.
NPR: He had that quiet voice, a speaking voice.
SN: He did. So I got got the flamboyancy and the attitude from Janis and then I got the humbleness and the grace from Jimi Hendrix. And then one other thing, I got a little bit of slinky from Grace Slick.
NPR: Who was so underrated. So underrated, seriously.
SN: I know. Well, and she was great. And she was beautiful with these blue black eyes. And this black hair. And she kind of wore kind of like cocktail-y dresses.
SN: And she actually wore high heels. Not boots, but like high heel shoes. Right. And I’m going like, what is that?
NPR: That was her debutante past.
SN: And that was her thing, you know. And she would slink back and forth, you know. And so I got a little bit of the slinky from Grace. Those were my three, you know, real people that I kind of emulated for who I was going to be onstage.
NPR: In an interview I was reading, you used the word “elegant” to describe your solo material. Elegant rock. And I think that’s really interesting, because a lot of people would look at rock and elegance as opposed. So talk to us about that idea. What is elegant rock?
SN: Well, I just like elegant. You know, I saw an apartment a couple of weeks ago that was, had got ebony black floors and it was all white and it had really high ceilings. And I walked in and I thought, oh if I bought this place I’d have to wear a long black dress and very high black heels all the time.
NPR: Stevie, everyone thinks you’re doing that already.
SN: No, but I’m not. But you know, just that place, I walked in and I went, I would have to go with this. And so I try to be as elegant as I can. But on the same, on the other side of that, that rock singer comes through and that masculine side comes through also. You know, you don’t want to be so masculine that you leave feminine and elegant behind. So you try to find a nice way to blend them all. And I think my greatest joy in that thing, is that I get to write my songs.
NPR: Ah, yes.
SN: So I get to translate my songs. And if I feel like being elegant with the song I can. And if I feel like being, you know, “Ghosts Are Gone” — really crazy rock ‘n’ roll, then I can go to that song. You know, “Edge Of Seventeen.” It’s not really elegant. It’s insane.
NPR: It is insane, but it’s awesome.
SN: It’s an awesome song. It is. And I do it every single time I end my set, you know. But that song is about Tom Petty, it’s about the death of John Lennon. It’s about a lot of strange things all mushed into one song.
NPR: How is it about Petty? And also your … was it about your grandfather dying or your father being in the hospital?
SN: No, my dad’s older brother died a week after John Lennon. And I was there with my cousin John when he died. I mean it was like everybody else was gone, which is crazy, and we were just the only people there. And he just, he died. John Lennon died when I was in Australia. And that was a very strange thing, because I was staying right on the ocean in this hotel that I can’t even remember the name of. But it’s where everybody used to stay in Sydney. And on that day all of these like, they have all these black submarines. And when he died, all the black submarines came up from the green water. It was so heavy, you know. So of course we as rock and roll stars — when John Lennon was killed it was like we were all afraid.
NPR: Oh yeah, I’m sure.
SN: Because it was like, why would anybody do that, you know? So back to Tom Petty. I asked his wife when she met him, his first wife Jane. And she said, in her very Florida swamp accent, “I met him at about the age of 17.” And I thought she said, “At the edge of 17.” And I just went like, … “Oh Jane. This is fantastic.” And I just wrote it right down. And I told her, I said, “I’m going to use that in a song.” I was really good friends with her, so she dug it, you know. So anyway, some of my songs end up really being [made of] pieces, you know: “And suddenly there was no one left standing in the hall.” That’s when my uncle died. Because there was nobody. And then “In a flood of tears that no one really ever heard fall at all. I went searching for an answer up the stairs and down the hall. And not to find an answer, but I did hear the call of the night bird.” So then that sort of summarized John Lennon and my uncle.
NPR: You’re very bookish. You read a lot. You love movies. You’ve talked a lot about how old movies, Garbo movies, influenced you. And even contemporary movies. You have the song that was inspired by Twilight on this new record. On the new record, there’s a song inspired by “Annabel Lee.” And I feel that, you know, you should be taught in schools, as the example of someone who reads and gets a lot from it. Are you ever daunted by taking, borrowing from a great writer like Edgar Allan Poe for example? Like can I live up to this source?
SN: The Edgar Allan Poe thing came from when I was 17. I just really [was] a child, you know. And I just, I had just learned to play. And I wrote it, and I just kept it in my head. I never even recorded it. I never even made a demo of it. But I will tell you I just saw a movie that I’m going to write a song about. I was inspired in a very strange way by it. Called Anna Karenina. And it was with Keira Knightley. And I’m watching this movie and I’m really riveted by the fact that she was happy in her marriage. And it was fun, it was a good marriage. She had a little boy, everything was going fine. They had a beautiful house. He’s a big politician, everything’s good. And then she meets this mom who says to her, you know, “Well have you ever really been in love?” And she’s like, “What a question.” And then she’s like, “What is love really, you know?” And then she goes away and she thinks about it. And then she meets [this woman’s] son and it happens. And the killer part to me is when [Anna is] with her husband and they’re laying on their bed and he’s getting ready to turn off the light and he goes, you know, you can never see him again. And the camera comes in on her. And she says, “Too late.” And I’m thinking, well this has happened to me before. And I’m like, it’s too late.
NPR: Hopefully not what happens to her in the end.
SN: No. I never jumped off in front of the train. But it’s too late. And what obsessive love can do to people. And I’ve seen it in my own life. And I saw it in that movie. And it really affected me. I keep thinking about what she was willing to give up to be with Alexei. She was willing to give up her little boy. She was willing to live in a complete shamed life. She was willing to give up all her friends. She was willing to never be accepted in society again. She was willing to have to go out and live in the country and never see anybody or have any friends. Also, ruin Alexei’s life. For that moment of love that was so intense and beautiful. She goes, “You are my happiness, my joy.” And so now I’m just walking around with this in my head. I’m so ready to go to the grand piano with white candles.
NPR: There’s a line in a song that you wrote a while ago. A song called “Blue Lamp.” And the line is, “Don’t listen to her, listen through her.” This seems to me like a good description of what you get and want to give from music and art, like movies, like the one you just described. You know, it’s the gift of identification and of empathy. And I wonder if that’s sometimes strange for you how deeply your fans connect with stories that are your stories that you’ve lived. That’s your gift though. So maybe that feels very natural to you to share yourself that way.
SN: Well, I, you know, I live for those moments. I’m really glad that I’m not Anna because I don’t want to be there again. I’ve been there. But when something does happen to me, whether it’s that movie or whether it’s actually happened to me, I feel that it’s my duty to actually share that with all of you guys. I want to immediately go to my desk and start writing about it. Because I want to be a teacher. I would love to teach a class anywhere.
NPR: If Questlove can teach a class at NYU, I think Stevie can teach a class at UCLA or USC.
SN: I want to share these experiences with you. Because you know what, I want to, I have done exactly what [Anna] did. And do you know what it got me? Nothing. It got me misery and unhappiness. And two or three years to get over it. And bad karma. And I walked away going, you do not mess with a married man. Don’t do it. There’s lots of men in the world. You don’t have to go after another woman’s husband. Because it will only come back and destroy you. So, be very careful. And so this is something that I will write about. I’ve already written about it. And I will write about it again.
NPR: In the song on the new record you write about it so beautifully. The one about, that you talk about being just out of rehab and you met this man and it was a road romance.
SN: “For What It’s Worth.”
NPR: Is it about someone that that phrase is connected with?
SN: It is. I was just out of rehab and it was horrible. Forty-seven days of rehab coming off of a pill called Klonopin. And three months later I’m on the road, you know, and I am on it. And I decided I would for the first time and only time in my life, I would actually go on a bus. And by the, on the third night I cracked. I cracked, and I was like totally sober. And I was used to, you know, at least having a, you know, a couple of shots of tequila and maybe a puff off a joint. And you know, I [was] sober as a judge. And we’re traveling across the country [and on] the third night I just cracked. And when I got back on my bus two of the people in my band were sitting there with their bags and they said, we will stay with you through the next three months. And I, it was like joy. Because I was ready to call the tour, to cancel the tour.
SN: And so that’s just the goodness of love. You know, these two people really came to my aid. And I did have sort of a relationship with one of the guys. And he, at the end of it all, when I said, “Are we going to continue this at all?” He said, “It’s not what you want, Stevie. If I packed up my bags and came to your house tomorrow, that’s not what you want. This happened on the road. It was beautiful. We got you through it. And you did great and you’re sober. But this isn’t what you want.” And it was sad.
NPR: But it made for a beautiful song.
SN: It did.
NPR: I remember there’s this famous Timothy White profile of you as a cover story in Rolling Stone.
SN: I know.
NPR: And full fairies and witches and all sorts of things. And one thing you talk about in there is Beauty And The Beast, which is my favorite fairy tale as well. But not because it’s such a fairy tale, but because I think it has a very powerful story about how love can transform. And also how a woman, sometimes “in a man’s world,” is taking risk by entering into that world. And I wondered if part of the reason and you wrote a song, “Beauty And The Beast,” as well, that that fairy tale appeals so much is because at times you felt surrounded by beasts. The man’s world of the rock band. And I mean obviously Christine was there. But the rock scene: everyone, the music industry in the ‘70s.
SN: But what I really wrote that song about was, in the story of Beauty And The Beast he has to have somebody come and fall in love with him in the guise of the beast. And this is the only thing that will break the curse. So I was touched by how sweet he was. And how loving and elegant he was. And what a nasty mean chick that girl was, the beauty.
NPR: Yeah, she was entitled.
SN: So my story was about [singing]: “Who is the beauty and who is the beast.” Because in much of that story she was the beast and he was absolutely the beauty. So that’s where that — you know, from the Jean Cocteau movie — that’s where that song came from.
NPR: I think you’d be a good Jungian analyst too, Stevie, if you ever want another career. Because you seem very in touch with archetypes. Like with those essential stories that would work in any moment in history that we keep coming back to. Speaking of amazing or interesting characters. You know, you spent a lot of time in interviews talking about your relationship with Lindsey Buckingham, both you know, romantic relationship and obviously the ups and downs of the working relationship. When you worked with Dave Stewart, here’s a man who had such a similar situation. How much did that draw you to each other? That you’ve gone through these parallel experiences in the rock world?
SN: It really made it very easy for us to start it up. Because we knew each other from a long time ago. We met in like 1984.
NPR: Right. There was that picture where he looks so young.
SN: And where we look like sister and brother almost. I’m familiar with English people, you know. And I know how funny they are, how quirky and funny they are. And I really like English people. Because they make me laugh. And there is that bit of Fawlty Towers, that Life Of Brian crazy thing. And so I knew that we, if nothing else, we would have a great time. So on the other hand, I also knew that he was an amazing musician. And I knew that he was really so responsible for a lot of the whole video thing that he and Annie [Lennox] did. I think that he, he’s the one who told her to cut her hair off. And make it all really super short, you know. And I’m going, “That’s a big one.”
NPR: Sure, especially for a boyfriend.
SN: That’s like, “I don’t think so.” You know? When she’s out in the boat and he’s in the water filming her. And then there must have been somebody else filming them both. These all these crazy video ideas were Dave.
NPR: Yeah, and that’s what happened with the movie, right?
SN: Exactly. And so I really trusted his amazing, filmatography and his amazing ideas, you know. And he is one, don’t suggest something to Dave. Like don’t say, Dave, I think there should be a white horse out in the backyard tomorrow. And then you wake up and you look out your window and there’s a beautiful white horse in the trees in your backyard. And there’s a fog machine and the sun is coming down in, I swear to God, in beams. And this beautiful horse is just standing there you know. And I’m like, “Oh my God.” And I run downstairs and it’s like, and Dave’s like, “You said you wanted a white horse. There he is,” you know. And the trainer is out there. And she goes, “Well just don’t get him too close to the pool.”
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Stevie talks to Hollywood.TV about the In Your Dreams doc. But who is the eavesdropping woman with the cat ears?
The only thing that there might be more of than actual music at SXSW in Austin, Texas, – where more than 1,000 bands perform over five days – is coverage of that music (and associated music-related events, such as panel discussions, live performer interviews, industry mentoring and networking sessions, and an artist-delivered keynote, which Thursday morning came from the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl). Here’s a small sampling of what’s been written so far:
The ever-more-impressive profile of the festival, once pretty much solely the province of unsigned or less-known bands, has begun to draw performers with impressive profiles of their own. Lil Wayne and Bruce Springsteen were last year’s biggest names; this year, Justin Timberlake and Prince play Austin. The Village Voice ran a thoughtful piece titled “Why We’ll All Try To See Justin Timberlake at SXSW, and Why That’s Completely Wrong,” in which the writer called him “one pop star too far” for an event whose spotlight is supposed to be on the underground and the overlooked.
Thursday morning, Grohl stepped into the spotlight that Springsteen, Neil Young and Bob Geldof have occupied in recent years and gave the keynote speech for SXSW 2013. (The complete text is available on Rolling Stone’s website; you can watch NPR’s video recording in full on NOLA.com.)
Grohl waxed rhapsodic about the creative role of the musician, in a feel-good talk that chronicled his personal experience in the business – though “business” might not be the most apt word to use there, as Grohl’s emphasis was on creativity, and the idea that “the musician comes first.” USA Today applauded his affable, self-deprecating wit; the Austin Chronicle, comparing him to elder statesman Springsteen, deemed Grohl “not your father’s rock star.”
The second must-see talk at the Austin Convention Center Thursday was NPR critic Ann Powers’ one-on-one interview with Stevie Nicks. Unfortunately, it took place at exactly the same time as one of the New Orleans panels I attended and was far too crowded to comfortably pop in and out of. (Also, my husband was on the NOLA panel, and though choosing between Stevie Nicks and your own spouse is a tough call, I opted for harmony at home.)
The Dallas Morning News and the Austin Chronicle both enjoyed the chat, which they agreed was a peek behind the glittery, diaphanous curtain of the witchy Nicks’ many years in rock ‘n’ roll. Rolling Stone’s review focused on Nicks’ thoughts on her role as a powerful woman in a pre-feminist music industry – which reminded me, not for nothing, that SXSW has not had a female keynote speaker since Lucinda Williams gave the address in 2009.
I wish very much that Powers and Nicks might reprise their conversation on the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage during Jazz Fest 2013, which Fleetwood Mac is scheduled to headline. (Quint, are you reading this?)
And rather neatly, what’s turned out to be the runaway success of SXSW’s 2013 music weekend thus far featured Grohl and Nicks together, along with many others, Thursday night at Stubb’s barbecue. Grohl’s new film, “Sound City“ (which screens a few times in Austin this week), is a loving biography of the venerable Los Angeles studio of that name, and the Thursday night show was an all-star reunion of its many alumni.
The group performance united John Fogerty, Rick Nielsen, Fear’s Lee Ving, Rick Springfield and a host of others for a set list that would have made for an awfully unlikely mix tape – Nicks’ “Landslide” was played in the same hour as Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” – but the reviews were uniformly adoring. Yes (like many SXSW attendees) I was on the list and no (also like many others) I didn’t, in the end, make it in. But here’s what Billboard (“a glorious noise”) the Los Angeles Times (“they went big”) the New York Times (“thrilling”) and Fuse TV (“epic”) had to say about the 3 1/2-hour monster show, which looks like it’s one for the record books.
By Gary Graff
Friday, March 15, 2013 2:32 PM EDT
Stevie Nicks was on hand at South By Southwest to screen In Your Dreams, the Dave Stewart-directed documentary about the making of her latest album of the same name, and to play a killer set with Dave Grohl’s Sound City Players. But you can never limit the always-engaged Nicks to just one or two things, so when she sat for one of SXSW’s celebrity interviews on Thursday at the Austin Convention Center, she had plenty to say. Here’s five things we learned during the nearly one-hour session:
She’s Still Devoted to Her Band: Nicks recalled that while she was making her first solo album, Bella Donna, the other members of Fleetwood Mac “were terrified that I would do that record and then quit. And I said to them, ‘You guys…’ I wanted to go around and hold each one of their hands and say, ‘Listen, loves, I am never going to leave you. I just need another vehicle. I have trunks of songs…that are never going to be heard. But it’s never going to beat Fleetwood Mac.’ What I do is the Lear Jet; they’re the 738. I really did convince them I’m not going anywhere. ‘I love you guys and I love my band. I would never break up Fleetwood Mac, ever. I just take their vacations, that’s all.’“
The Mac Is Ready to Get Back (On The Road): “I’m in rehearsals with them now. We go from ‘Go Your Own Way’ to ‘Sara’ to ‘Never Going Back…’ to ‘Landslide.’ This time we’re actually doing ‘Sister of the Moon,’ which we haven’t done since 1979 or 1980. And it’s dark; (sings) ‘Intense silence as you walk in the room,’ and people are like, ‘What does that mean?’ That’s me talking to me, talking to my alter ego and the person that’s having a hard time being a rock star…Twenty-four songs is what we’re doing. I’m sitting there looking at the board going, ‘Oh my God, we’re only halfway through. We have 12 songs to go and we’ve been playing for six hours!’”
Tom Petty’s Ex-Wife Gets an Assist on “Edge Of 17:” “I asked his wife when she met him – his first wife, Jane – and she said in her very Florida, swamp accent, ‘I met him about the age of 17,’ and I thought she said ‘the edge of 17,’ but she said it’s the age of 17. And I went like, ‘Oh Jane, that’s fantastic,’ and I just wrote it right down. And I told her I was going to use that in a song and she said, ’Oh, that’s fantastic. Go write a hit.’ I was really good friends with her, so she dug it.”
She Has a New Song in the Works: “I just saw a movie I was going to write a song about that I was inspired by in a very strange way – Anna Karenina. I’m watching this movie and I’m really riveted by the fact that she was happy in her marriage and it was fun…and then she meets this mom who asks her, ‘Have you ever really been in love?’ What a question! And she’s like, ‘What is love, really?’ and thinks about it. Then she meets her son and it happens. I never jumped in front of a train, but what obsessive love can do to people, I’ve seen it in my own life and I saw it in that movie and it really affected me. I’ve been there and I don’t want to be there again. So now I’m just walking around with this in my head, and I’m so ready to go to the grand piano with white candles and (write).”
We’ll Have Her to Kick Around for Many Years to Come: Since finding a vocal coach in 1997, Nicks said she’s in good enough shape to last a lifetime. “Opera singers plan to sing into their 80s. I plan to not be doing 190 shows when I’m 85, but I do plan to be out there singing when I am a seriously older woman, ‘cause I think my voice will still be pretty good because I’m not gonna let it go. The people that can’t sing anymore that had great voices are people that went away for five years and just decided to come back. You can’t just come back. You have to keep singing – or dancing.”
At SXSW talk, she addresses feminist gains and losses, heroes from Janis to Jimi
By Dan Rys
Friday, March 15, 2013 10:55 AM ET
“The true rock legends truly changed the game,” said NPR’s Ann Powers by way of introduction Thursday at SXSW Music. “Stevie Nicks definitely changed the game.”
Powers conducted a Q&A with the very busy Fleetwood Mac singer – in addition to performing with Dave Grohl’s Sound City Players at SXSW, she has a new tour and is set to release a new solo album. The talk ran down the story of Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joining Fleetwood Mac, her regimen for keeping her voice in shape even at the age of 64 and her myriad performing influences. But it opened and closed with a discussion about feminism – not only in the largely male-dominated world of rock & roll, but in society today.
“We fought very hard for feminism, for women’s rights,” Nicks said in response to a question from the crowd. “What I’m seeing today is a very opposite thing. I don’t know why, but I see women being put back in their place. And I hate it. We’re losing all we worked so hard for, and it really bums me out.”
Nicks and bandmate Christine McVie were strong female figures in an industry where many male musicians were hero-worshipped by fans across the world, and Nicks said they worked to change the perception of women within the rock & roll circles of the Seventies. “I said to Chris, we can never be treated like second-class citizens,” she explained. “When we walk into a room we have to float in like goddesses, because that’s how we wanted to be treated. We demanded that from the beginning.”
Nicks also recalled her days in San Francisco in the late Sixties and early Seventies, when she and Buckingham opened for headliners from Janis Joplin to Jimi Hendrix. “Flamboyance and attitude from Janis, humbleness and grace from Hendrix, and a little bit of slinky from Grace Slick,” she said. “Those were the three people who I emulated when I was on stage.”
And while it’s been more than 30 years since she took up her place in Fleetwood Mac, her voice – bolstered by a vocal coach she has worked with since 1997 – isn’t letting her down yet. “Opera singers sing into their 80s,” she said. “I don’t plan to be doing [hundreds] of shows when I’m 85, but I do plan to still be out there singing when I’m a seriously older woman.
NPR’s Ann Powers interviews Stevie at the Austin Convention Center (courtesy of SA Current).
Short clip of “Dreams” (courtesy of modsquad7)
This is a short clip of Stevie explaining the meaning of “You Can’t Fix This,” her new song from the Sound City: Real to Reel soundtrack (courtesy of anitx79).
Stevie and the Sound City Players perform “Landslide” at Stubb’s (courtesy of Taylor W.).
Stevie and the Sound City Players perform “Gold Dust Woman” at Stubb’s (courtesy of Cortney Carothers).
Dave Grohl’s keynote speech at the Austin Convention Center. He briefly mentions Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham at 30:02 (courtesy of OfficialFFL).
Friday, March 15, 2013 10:28 AM
The span of South by Southwest is so huge that sometimes the festival can be about the bands you miss as much as the ones you see. After the hectic Thursday on the streets, bars and venues of Austin, Texas, the All Songs Considered crew regrouped to recount the long walks, long lines, tough decisions, missed opportunities and happy accidents of day three.
Robin Hilton traded seeing a large number of shows for a rare opportunity: seeing The Flaming Lips set aside their confetti cannons for an intimate and stripped-down performance of their 2002 album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. The show was so packed that there was still a line when it ended. (If you missed it, hopefully we’ll be able to share it with you soon.)
Stephen Thompson’s “walking to rocking ratio” was off for much of the day, leaving him repeatedly catching only the last glimpses of many sets. Skinny Lister’s performance in a hotel lobby was a short but sweet highlight, and visions of future Grammys filled Stephen’s head during Lianne La Havas’s performance. One unadulterated highlight was finally catching beloved Detroit proto-punk band Death, who dropped out of the music scene for decades before re-emerging in 2009.
If Stephen’s day was dominated by walking, Ann Powers’s tipped toward talking. She caught Dave Grohl’s keynote address and interviewed Stevie Nicks, then in the evening caught the two speakers playing together in a concert by Grohl’s Sound City Players. Mississippi based gospel trio Como Mamas ‘sanctified’ her night with their African-tinged a cappella, while The Skatalites brought some skilled and spirited inter-generational ska to the mix.
Bob Boilen also took some time to watch Grohl’s keynote, which he recommends to anyone who is searching for their own place in life. His other highlights included the hypnotic sounds of Mali’s Terakaft, the ‘unbelievable’ goth-meets-LCD Soundsystem sound of K-X-P. Icky Blossoms’ powerful stage presence won them the title of the best rock band he saw all day.
By Mikael Wood
Los Angeles Times
Friday, March 15, 2013, 10:01 a.m.
AUSTIN, Texas — By many accounts the South by Southwest music festival is about discovering new talent: the fresh-faced indie-pop outfit, for instance, or the precocious laptop wizard just stepping beyond the walls of his bedroom.
Dave Grohl doesn’t share that view.
On Thursday night, hours after delivering SXSW’s keynote speech at the Austin Convention Center, Grohl and a handful of his famous friends took over Stubb’s for what he described as the final performance by the Sound City Players. It’s the band he put together in connection with his documentary Sound City, which recounts the tale of the grungy Van Nuys recording studio where Grohl’s old band Nirvana, among many other acts, made some of its most well-known music. And on Thursday it spent nearly 3 1/2 hours reanimating a number of rock’s biggest hits.
“It’s my life’s greatest gift that I get to call up these people who I consider heroes and have them come onstage and jam with me,” Grohl said.
Among those heroes was Stevie Nicks, who sang tunes including “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” “Landslide” and (a very dreamy) “Dreams.” She also did “You Can’t Fix This,” a strong new song from the Sound City soundtrack. But Nicks was best in a muscular rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman,” for which she went into her signature whirling-dervish mode, arms outstretched, long blond hair whipping around her.
In an onstage interview earlier Thursday with NPR music critic Ann Powers, Nicks said she’d taken ballet classes early in her career to learn how to use her body while performing. “I can captivate with my hands,” she’d said, and she was right.
John Fogerty also turned up at Stubb’s, leading the Sound City Players through rollicking versions of “Travelin’ Band,” “Born on the Bayou,” “Bad Moon Rising” and more. For “Fortunate Son” he and Grohl traded lead vocals as the band (which included members of Nirvana, Foo Fighters and Rage Against the Machine) bore down on the song’s bitter groove.
Rick Springfield sang compact early-1980s pop-rock hits such as “Jessie’s Girl” and “I’ve Done Everything for You,” while Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick played guitar for that band’s “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender.” And Lee Ving of the great L.A. punk group Fear did “I Love Livin’ in the City,” which he introduced as “an old-fashioned singalong.” The capacity crowd knew fewer of the words to that one than to “Landslide.” But neither Ving nor Grohl seemed to care.
By James C. McKinley, Jr.
New York Times
Friday, March 15, 2013, 3:31 a.m.
AUSTIN, Tex. — Dave Grohl brought his super-group the Sound City Players to Austin’s South by Southwest Music Festival on Thursday for a final concert, thrilling several thousand people in a yard behind Stubbs BBQ.
Mr. Grohl’s boyish glee at having assembled the musicians on the bill was evident as the concert progressed. Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty and Rick Springfield all arrived onstage to play a few of their best-known songs, while Mr. Grohl beamed like a fanboy.
“You can only imagine that it’s my life’s greatest gift that I get to call up these people who I consider heroes and have them come on stage and jam with me,” said Mr. Grohl, who earlier in the day gave the keynote address for the festival.
Others on the bill included Lee Ving of Fear, Corey Taylor of Slipknot, Chris Goss of Masters of Reality, the guitarist Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, the drummer Brad Wilk from Rage Against the Machine and the Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. They were backed up by the keyboardist Rami Jaffee and several members of Mr. Grohl’s band, Foo Fighters.
The group was formed to make Mr. Grohl’s recently released documentary about the Sound City recording studio in Los Angeles, a storied but decrepit building where Nirvana recorded their breakout album “Nevermind” in 1991. Various lineups of the Sound City Players have done shows in New York, London and Los Angeles to promote the film and its soundtrack since January.
Like the other shows, the Austin concert was largely a celebration of oldies, though there were songs from the film’s original soundtrack sprinkled into the set list. Mr. Grohl, playing master of ceremonies, called his rock ‘n’ roll heroes to the stage one after another, while Foo Fighters proved they could have been a classic rock cover band.
Ms. Nicks did an inspired rendition of “Dreams” early in the show. Mr. Springfield got the crowd singing along his hits, like “Jesse’s Girl” and “I’ve Done Everything for You.”
Mr. Ving played the aging punk troublemaker and iconoclast to the hilt as he powered through a string of Fear songs, including “I Love Living in the City” and “I Don’t Care About You.”
Corey Taylor and Taylor Hawkins, the Foo Fighters drummer, provided the vocals for Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender,” as Mr. Grohl played drums and Mr. Nielsen provided the riffs and took a couple solos.
Mr. Fogerty, the songwriter and lead singer for Creedence Clearwater Revival, closed the show with several of that band’s greatest hits, among them “Travelin’ Band,” “Born on the Bayou,” “Proud Mary” and “Bad Moon Rising.” He and Mr. Grohl finished the two-and-half hour concert by trading verses on the protest song, “Fortunate Son.”
The documentary “Sound City” is a love-letter from Mr. Grohl to the analog studio and its custom-made Neve console, on which a number of great albums by acts like Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Neil Young were recorded.
When the studio closed in 2011, Mr. Grohl bought the console and used it to record several original tracks with Ms. Nicks, Mr. Fogerty, Mr. Springfield, Mr. Ving, Mr. Taylor, Trent Reznor and Paul McCartney. The first half of the film tracks the history of the Sound City, while the second focuses on the sessions that produced the soundtrack. Mr. Grohl has said the film is meant to celebrate “the human element in music.”