Stevie Nicks Is Looking Back, Charging Forward on New Album
Rock ’n’ Roll’s Reigning Queen Plans Santa Barbara Concert for a Cause
I’m a firm believer that every girl born this side of 1969 has had their Stevie Moment. It’s that time in a young lady’s life when, barring any and all scholastic goals and career aspirations, she realizes that she just kind of wants to be Stevie Nicks. Even for a day. I’d like to think my brush with the phenomenon came on post-high school, when I started driving and slowly realized that I missed the never-ending Nicks tributes that once poured from my friend’s mom’s car speakers during our daily trips to school. (She’d been having her Stevie Moment since Rumours came out, I later realized.) Suddenly void of my Fleetwood fix, I caught the bug—and came to realize that there’s just something far too cool about Stevie. It’s the flowing skirts, the mile-high boots, the fact that she could make dressing like a hippie witch look chic. It’s the way her voice, no matter what she’s saying, can send chills up the spine. Needless to say, when the opportunity to chat up Nicks arose, I had more than a moment—I had a full-on freak-out.
At 62, Nicks is a not-so-far cry from the chanteuse I envisioned during those drives. In conversation, she’s giddy, passionate, and assertive in a way that forces you to pay attention. She is her own hype machine. This Wednesday, Nicks returns to the Santa Barbara Bowl as part of a short six-city tour. The jaunt also doubles a reprieve from Nicks’s current project, her first album of new material in almost 10 years. I recently spoke with Nicks from her home outside of Los Angeles about the tour, the record, and why her S.B. stop is much more than “just another concert.”
How did these concert dates come about?
This was very unplanned. I’m in the middle of doing a record, so I really wasn’t planning on touring this year, but I got some offers to do five or six shows. My manager said, “Well, if you stop doing your record for one month, you can go out and do five or six shows, and it will be like you worked all year!” [Laughs.] But I decided to add the show in Santa Barbara because I have a little friend named Cecilia who’s eight years old, who I’ve known for almost five years, and she was diagnosed a couple months ago with a very, very rare cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma. It’s a rare soft tissue cancer. … She has one more week of radiation, and she’s looking down the road of almost a year of chemotherapy. Needless to say, this has been extremely devastating to her family. So when I found out this was all happening, I called my manager and said, “So, what can we do?” And he said, “We’ll figure it out.”
So the proceeds from the show are going to her?
She’s getting my salary for the night, basically. I lost my best friend to leukemia in 1981. Robin was 33, so when I saw the picture of Cecilia, I’d already seen it. When you spend a year at a cancer ward, you kind of understand. I’ve been drawing since Robin died; I think that was her gift to me. I never took an art class in my life, and when she was sick, I started drawing these little things—pyramids, stick people, just these funny little drawings that she could hang on her wall and look at when I wasn’t there. … So I’ve picked one, a really sweet little drawing, and I’m going to have it made into a T-shirt for Cecilia. It’s a two-fold thing. It’ll be nice for my fans to have a piece of my art, and it will be nice to be able to have a piece of art that is drawn from a situation like this, which makes it so much more special.
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After these shows, what comes next? Can you tell me anything about the album?
I think it will go down in history as my greatest work. I have written nine songs with [The Eurythmics’] Dave [Stewart], and I feel like I’m part of a writing team—like Lennon and McCartney or something. I have always been so closed to the idea of writing with anybody, and my eyes have been so opened now.
Stylistically, how would you describe the stuff you’ve done so far?
It’s very diverse. There’s really, really rock ’n’ roll things, then there’s a song called “Italian Summer” that’s just a beautiful, beautiful love song I wrote when I was in Italy last year. It wasn’t even about anybody. It’s just the feeling you get when you go to Italy is just so romantic, so I wrote this song about this country that I just so fell in love with. Then there are the suffering Stevie songs. [Laughs.]
How did you and Dave team up?
I had met Dave a long time ago, and a couple years ago, he did a pilot for an interview show with Jimmy Iovine. So he kind of interviewed me, then we went to the piano. We sat down and I played “Rhiannon,” and he got his guitar out—because he’s never without it—and he sat down next to me and started playing along, and we did like a 15-minute rendition of “Rhiannon,” and it was so spectacular that I said to myself, “Okay, the next time I do a record, I’m going to ask Dave Stewart to produce it.” He’s very similar in a lot of ways to Lindsey [Buckingham] in the way he plays. He’s like a peer of Lindsey’s; he’s one of those great guitarists. … The girl always gets all the attention—Annie Lennox got all the attention—but the fact is, after spending four months writing with him, I know how important Dave was to all those Eurythmics records. They wrote those songs together, and that’s why they were so fantastic.
If you had to compare this to a past record, which would it be?
Well, probably Bella Donna, because that was my first solo album. I could go back to Rumours, but we didn’t know how great Rumours was. That was just a record that we made that we thought was good, but we had no idea Rumours was going to become one of the biggest records of all time. We had no idea. We made the record, and then we went on the road. The second we came off the road, we went straight in to make Tusk. There wasn’t really much celebration time there. I think I was sitting in my apartment, and I heard one of the songs come on the radio, and it was played, like, after a Beatles song, or after a Who song, or a Led Zeppelin song, and I thought, “Oh my God. One of our songs has just been played right after Led Zeppelin. We’ve made it. We’ve hit the big time.” That moment is forever in my mind—and that’s kind of how I feel about this. I feel an intense kind of slow-burning excitement about this that I have not felt in a long time.
Stevie Nicks plays the Santa Barbara Bowl (1122 N. Milpas St.) on Wednesday, August 4, at 7 p.m. Call 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com for tickets and info.
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