Stevie Nicks takes care of herself

First she gave up sunbathing, then drugs

By Brenda Bouw
National Post (Canada)
May 9, 2001

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 look 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.”

Stevie Nicks: Biography

WEA Records International
March 5, 2001

“My music often unfolds like the book of my life,” declares legendary rock poet Stevie Nicks. And that’s precisely the way she wants it to be. “I believe in telling the truth…actually, it’s only way that I can exist as a writer.”

It’s to that end that Nicks created the sterling, often confessional Trouble in Shangri-La, her first solo collection since 1994’s Street Angel. She says the project has been slowly evolving for several years, “taking different shapes and forms. But it never seemed quite right until recently. I needed to live my life. I need to replenish my well of life experiences.”

And she certainly has. Easily one of her most powerful recordings to date, Trouble in Shangri-La is brimming with the rich prose and vibrant imagery that has inspired a veritable army of disciples. “Every step along the path of my life, I’ve been writing it all down, taking incredibly detailed notes,” Stevie explains. “Instead of partying, I run back to my room, open my journal, and pour out my heart onto paper. It can take minutes, or it can take all night. But it’s always deep. And it’s always real.”

For Stevie, getting back in touch with the part of her self that was confident about her song writing skills was a crucial element in the creation of Trouble in Shangri-La.

“I’d been hearing about how I should write with this person, or record that person’s material, and it started to wear me down,” the artist reveals, adding that it took longtime pal Tom Petty to remind her that she’s a top-flight songwriter in her own right. “I remember asking [him] to work with me on some songs. I wasn’t feeling my best; I was unsure about a lot of things. And he said, ‘No…you don’t need anyone to help you with your songs. Do it yourself.’“

At first, Stevie was crushed. “But it was the jolt I needed,” she shares, adding that the album gem “That Made Me Stronger” was borne out of their fateful conversation. “It was a pivotal moment for me. The clouds cleared, and things started to naturally flow again.”

‘Naturally flow’ is an understatement. The songs started to come on like a tidal wave. And while Stevie notes that her songs rae “sometimes a continuation of one another,” with common lyrical threads and theme, the songs that comprise Trouble in Shangri-La also show the artist at her most experimental and varied. Classic Stevie tunes like the acoustic-based “Candlebright” and the gentle “I Miss You” are tempered by refreshingly inventive compositions like “Bombay Sapphires,” with it’s delicate undertow of Caribbean rhythms and its atmospheric keyboards, and “Love Changes,” which is seasoned with a splash of funk percussion.

“To not grow is to die,” Stevie asserts. “Of course, you want to work within a framework that best suits your talent and style. But you also want to continually shake things up.”

For Stevie, shaking things up included inviting an array of new friends and musicians to participate in Trouble of Shangri-La. Macy Gray vamps with seductive soul on “Bombay Sapphires,” while Sarah McLachlan harmonizes on the stately, piano-driven ballad “Love Is.” Also, Dixie Chick Natalie Maines is a complementary presence on the country-spiced rocker “Too Far From Texas.” Stevie recalls that every collaborator came to the project at times when “the songs seemed to be calling out their names. These are strong, wonderful women with incredible musical talent. To have them on this album is a such a special gift.”

Stevie recalls her first meeting with Gray as being particularly memorable. “Her vibe is so wild, so intense. She walks into the room and it’s like everything starts to move.” She’s like a walking tornado. She’s a total blast. We had a great time working on the song. Our voices blended so well together.”

Ultimately, the greatest gift to Trouble in Shangri-La is the kinetic creative union forged by Stevie with Sheryl Crow. “We’d been circling the idea of working on this album for quite a while,” Stevie says. “But we could never quite make it happen because of scheduling conflicts. So, we just went forward with our respective business, but we stayed in close touch. Suddenly, things cleared up and we wound up in the studio together.”

Nicks and Crow eventually worked on five of the set’s thirteen tunes. As Stevie explains “Our connection is deep…deeper than I can even put into mere words.”

Crow, who has long cited Nicks as a primary musical influence, wholeheartedly returns Stevie’s ardor. “To even be in the same room as Stevie was a dream come true for me. To work with her was beyond description. It was extraordinary.”

Both agree that the key to their successful collaboration was mutual trust and respect. “From the moment in the studio, it was clearly a safe environment,” Stevie says. “And that opened up the lines of communication and allowed us to try new ideas out.”

Among the more satisfying results of their experimentation is “Sorcerer,” on which Nicks scales to a rich falsetto during the song’s verses. “She was completely open and in-the-moment while we were working,” Crow notes. “She never stops working or striving to be a better artist.”

Stevie also never stops fighting for the lyrical integrity of her songs. She recalls being the studio with co-producer John Shanks (The Corrs, BB Mak), who helmed a number of songs on Trouble in Shangri-La, and playfully tangling with him while cutting the anthemic “Fall from Grace.”

“The original version of the song had all of these verses…too many, in John’s opinion,” Stevie recalls. “So, we set out to edit the song to fit a workable structure, and it was just breaking my heart to let some of the words slip away.”

Nicks remembers one particular session when pals Laura Dern and Rosanna Arquette were hanging out in the studio, and they caught a glimpse of the original draft of the song. “And they were like, you can’t cut all these words,” she remembers. “Poor, John, they were yelling at him and giving him a hard time. It was all done in fun and good spirit, but it convinced me that I had to fight for my words. Before the night was done, we got every syllable in. And it’s become one of my favorite songs on the album.”

In fact, “Fall from Grace” is among the songs that Stevie plans to add to her concert set when she hits the road for a tour this summer. “It’s the perfect balance to ‘Edge of Seventeen,’” in terms of energy. It’s great a song to rock out to. I love just cutting loose to that one.”

Actually, Stevie says there isn’t a song on Trouble in Shangri-La that she wouldn’t love performing onstage. “I’m so incredibly proud of this album,” she adds. “These songs have been such a big part of my life. I’m so pleased and excited to get them out there for the world to hear. There’s usually a period when an artist is nervous about how people will react to their new material. I’ve been there. But there’s something about this set of songs. I have such a great, positive feeling about it. I’m more itchy for people to finally hear them than anything else. That’s a pretty good sign, isn’t it?”