Gold Dust Woman: A Q&A With Stevie Nicks

Have you ever talked to Lindsey about that?

Well, he’s very aware. And the words to “Everybody Loves You” came from a poem that’s pretty old, like maybe 12 years old, that was definitely written about him. Where it says, “No one else can play that part. No voice of a stranger could play that part/It broke my heart,” that’s pretty much all about Lindsey. I took Dave’s lead on that because I knew that this was about being in a duo, because being in a duo’s very different than being in a band, especially a man and woman. There haven’t been many famous duos, not that many men-and-women duos, that really lasted.

True, and the ones there are, generally they are romantically linked.

Lindsey and I were broken up at the end of 1976, so we were no longer a “duo” even within Fleetwood Mac, because we were no longer romantically linked. So you can be romantically linked and be a duo, or be in a band and that falls apart, and you can still stay in the band if you make the choice that you’re not gonna quit. And your reaction to that is like, “You quit, I’m not quitting. I’m not leaving Fleetwood Mac because we’re not getting along. You leave.” So nobody’s leaving.

Was it stubbornness or resiliency?

I think it was both, definitely. And it was all of us knowing that we had a good thing. And that none of us were gonna break that up over a personal relationship.

That’s part of what’s amazing about your story—you all understood that the strength of the band outweighed all of the drama that was going on. Looking back on it with 20/20 hindsight, would you have changed any of it?

No. I think it was fated. It was totally destiny that the guy who found Lindsey and I in San Francisco and who produced Buckingham-Nicks and the first Fleetwood Mac record would play “Frozen Love” for Mick Fleetwood. He knew that Mick was looking for a studio; he wasn’t that schooled in the fact that Mick was also looking for a guitar player because Bob Welch was getting ready to leave. Mick [was] searching for somebody to replace him if he did, so when Keith Olsen played “Frozen Love” for him, he definitely heard strains of Peter Green and all the other famous guitar players who had been in Fleetwood Mac for the five years before that. So the fact that that happened out of nowhere—that this big tall guy would come in and Keith Olsen would play him a song off a Buckingham-Nicks record that never really went anywhere, that two years before had opened to critical acclaim and then was dropped like a rock by Polydor—what are the chances of that? One in 20 million?

I wanted to ask you a little bit about how you restored your voice, because there was a period of time when it went away or faltered, and now you sound so great. Can you give me a little bit on that?

Sure. Well, I study with a vocal coach, a really great vocal coach who goes on the road with me. If I’m going on at 8 o’clock, I have to be done with my vocal lesson at 5, three hours before I sing. So at, like, 2:30 to 3, I work with Steve—his name is Steve Real—I work with him from 2:30 to 3 and then I work with him from 4 to 4:30 so that I’m done by 5. I do that absolutely rigidly before every single show. And if for some reason he’s not there—and he’s almost always there—if he’s not there, then I have a tape that is exactly what we do. It’s not as good as having him in person because he’s like the voice doctor, he can hear things in your voice that you don’t really hear, and he’ll be able to say, “You’re having a little trouble.” Like where I’m talking right now, sometimes that’s where the problem is, because I talk so much. So that’s what I’ve been doing since 1997, and he’s amazing, and he said to me, “If you want to sing into your 70s like opera singers do, then this is what we have to do.” And of course, in the beginning I was really reticent. I’m thinking, “That’s like going to the gym, that’s a big commitment,” or let’s put it this way: “I could be going to the gym.” That’s an hour commitment and I won’t be able to, because I’ll be spending an hour with you every single day before I go onstage. “how I realized that it worked was in 1997, for The Dance, we were in rehearsal and we were doing a dress rehearsal, and we’d invited like 500 people, and I was sick and I was this close to canceling it on that day, and my friend Liza said, “I have a great vocal coach. Can he come over and spend a half-hour with you?” And I said, “Oh, I’m so sure that this guy isn’t going to be able to do anything that’s going to be able to make me sing tonight. I am sick.” And she said, “Just give it a chance, Stevie.” So he came over about 3 in the afternoon and I hobbled downstairs to the living room and we sat at the piano, and for 30 minutes, he just ran me through some very interesting little scales. And he was very sweet and I liked him very much, and then he went home and I thought, “I’m going back to bed for two hours, so I won’t cancel it yet.” And I walked on that stage and sang pretty damn great considering how sick I was, and at that moment I said, “I will never go onstage without doing that workout again—ever—because I will never have another bad night if I do this, and I commit to this. I will never have another bad night no matter what—if I’m sick or if I’m having allergies or whatever happens to people that sing—sinus infection, whatever. I will still be able to sing and be able to sing pretty damn good no matter what if I do my 40 minutes with Steve.” And I have done it absolutely, determinedly, ever since.

Do you use any potions or anything like that on top of it?

No. Potions don’t work.

I meant like tea, honey …

No. Honey is acidic, for me.  You can drink all the tea in the world, and I drink all the tea in the world, you can sip on olive oil, you can do tons of things that really don’t actually have one thing to do with the actual studying with a voice coach. Because when you study with a voice coach, what you’ll do is [demonstrates vocal exercise] and what you’re doing is, you’re vibrating the gunk off of your cords, because literally, you create a vibration. So anything that is on your vocal cords will vibrate right off. You can’t do that with tea. So it is worth it for any singer—and you don’t have to have your vocal coach come with you everywhere you go—what you do is, you go in and you do like two or three lessons with them and they’ll make you a tape. If it’s a good person, they’ll make you a tape, and then you use that. If you’re just playing in a little band and you do three gigs a week, you do your little tape a few hours before you go on and you’ll never have vocal problems; you’ll never get nodes, you’ll never get the nodule things, you’ll never have to have surgery. It’s like a gift. And if somebody had told me that in the first 15 years of Fleetwood Mac, man.

Is there was anything you want to mention about the new album, any song in particular you want to talk about? You have some of the great usual suspects that you’ve hung around with for years on there; did you ever at any point have them all together at the same time?

We did … we had Waddy, we had Mike … mostly it was me and Dave and the girls, Lori and [backup singer] Sharon [Celani], at my house. We did the record at my house, which was just fantastic. It was like a happening in San Francisco in 1968 or ’69. We only went into a big studio for two weeks to do the drum track. We started in January and we finished it Dec. 1. It was the best year of my life. I am probably more proud of this record than anything I’ve ever done. I am more proud of these songs than anything I’ve ever done—seven of them were written with Dave—and I think that caused the record to be diversified in a way that I could’ve never done by myself. Because you’re bringing another spirit in, and his spirit is great, and it’s all-knowing, and he has such a command of music, that to be working and writing with somebody like him was an adventure for me every second of every day.

He would come Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and then on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Saturdays and Sundays, the girls and I would work on our harmonies and on all our parts so that when Dave would come back, we’d have all the singing parts worked out to the song that we had just written two days before.

We were moving fast and because of that, it was never a dull moment. It was just a lot of laughter. We made dinners for 10 or 12 every night in my dining room and we sat and talked about music and politics and the world, and it was the dream album to make.

Every day when I would get up, I would just be going, “Today is going to be another amazing new song.” And whether it became “Moonlight” or “New Orleans” or “Cheaper Than Free,” which I personally think —I look at Dave sometimes and say, “This song, ‘Cheaper Than Free,’ may be the best song either of us ever writes,” because it’s such a precious song—I’m just very proud of it. This has been a big thing for me, to make a record that I think is this good at my age.

And out of that—the diversification of “Secret Love” to “Soldier’s Angel” to “New Orleans” to “Ghosts Are Gone” to “Wide Sargasso Sea” to “You May Be The One”—I think of these songs and they’re all so different, and that’s what I love. My guitar player and musical director, Waddie Wachtel, always says, “In a way, since you only know six chords, you kind of just write one song.” And just after I kick him for saying that I say, “Well you’re right, actually.” So this allowed me to go places with my voice and with my creativity that I couldn’t go because I don’t know a thousand chords. I really do only know six or seven guitar chords and I never took piano lessons, so what I do on the piano is very much, the right hand never moves and the bottom hand moves bass notes, and that’s how I play. Which totally works for me, don’t get me wrong, it’s worked very well for me my whole life, but I’m really flying by the seat of my pants a lot of the time. And to have somebody like Dave, who just enjoys my life, enjoys my friends, enjoys the way I live, enjoys my hippie flowy things on the lamps and the candles and all that, he enjoys all that, he embraced all that, it really was like going back in time to when, like, Led Zeppelin made records at the Grange or that kind of situation. Every day when I would get up, I would just be going, “Today is going to be another amazing new song.” And whether it became “Moonlight” or “New Orleans” or “Cheaper Than Free,” which I personally think—I look at Dave sometimes and say, “This song, ‘Cheaper Than Free,’ may be the best song either of us ever writes,” because it’s such a precious song —I’m just very proud of it. This has been a big thing for me, to make a record that I think is this good at my age.

 

 

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