Between producing and recording music with Fleetwood Mac and relentlessly touring her own albums, Stevie Nicks is pretty busy. So busy, in fact, that her bandmates publicly expressed their frustration when she told them she wasn't going to tour as Fleetwood Mac last year. She had other priorities, namely supporting her latest and "favorite solo album," "In Your Dreams."
But this is Stevie Nicks, so even prickly bandmate and former lover Lindsey Buckingham agreed to wait. Nicks has kept her word: After a three-year break, Fleetwood Mac is heading on a 34-city tour that starts April 4th (tickets go on sale Dec. 14).
HuffPost Entertainment called Nicks to speak to her about the tour, but the genial singer was eager to chat about pretty much anything, up to and including: her advice for Rihanna, her concerns about the future of the music industry and a special letter to Kanye West she wrote but never sent.
At what point did you decide to strike up the band again?
They wanted to go out last year and I still felt that my record "In Your Dreams," because of the state of the music business, needed another year. So I put my foot down and said no. And I said no not just because of how I felt about my favorite solo record, but because I felt that, in my opinion, Fleetwood Mac should be off the road for three years because then when we come together it's an event because you didn't just see us last year or just see us the year before. So you know there's all these big ticket bands that go out and who are you going to choose if you just saw us last year? Again, in my opinion, and what our managers have always felt was that staying out of the spotlight for three years is a good number. Three is a good number. So we finished in November 2009 and we are starting in January 2013. It's perfect. I think it's perfect, harmonic convergence of exactly when we should be doing this. I think that everybody was not really believing me last year. But I think that now that we're here, I think that everybody is going like 'right on Stevie, you were right.'
But you think at some point in the last year or so, they were doubting whether you would actually come back?
Oh no. I think they just wanted to do it last year. And I said no. I'm going to go out and tour all summer into the winter with "In Your Dreams" because I have to. I just feel that I have to. And if I didn't, if I'd put that to bed before I thought that I had finished it, I would be very unhappy and very unworkable. So you don't really want me to stop working on this album that I really really love so much and go out a year before I think we should go out. And you know, everybody, they listen. They hear me.
Is it a big transition for you to go from touring a solo album to 35 dates with the band?
It's very different. You know, my solo career is more like an intimate party at your house. And Fleetwood Mac is like a big huge party at the Staple Center. It's just different. It's bigger. It's grander. Like a seven-seater private jet and a 738, you know, it's just what it is and what it always has been. So for me, its been great because, you know, starting in 1981 with Bella Donna, I was able to go back and forth. And both worlds are so different that it really does feel like you're living two different lives. And it's a lot of fun. And I'm one of those persons that gets bored anyway, so doing it this way, it's never a boring moment in my life because I'm always involved in something that I love and then I'm getting ready to be involved with something else that I love when this thing that I love comes to an end.
So at this point there isn't any sort of tension or awkwardness. Everyone's all sort of on the same page?
Everybody is very good right now. I spent some time up at Lindsey's house two weeks ago and we worked on some music. Most of the time we just spent talking about our many stories that we have to tell since 1968, really '66 when we first met. So we spent like 80 percent of our time talking and 20 percent of our time working on some music. And it was really great and he's in a really good place. And he and I are in a really good place, so it's never about Mick and John being in a good place. They're always in a good place. They're happy guys. It's always the drama queens, me and Lindsey. So the drama queens have really calmed down and let a little bit of that drama go and tried to walk down the road of how lucky we are. And how lucky we are to still be friends and how lucky we are to still be able to sing great together. And that what we started as Buckingham Nicks in 1971, when we moved to Los Angeles, has brought us all the way to this place. And that we should drop the drama and try to really enjoy this because we worked very hard to get here.
It's interesting that you believe in space or limiting exposure, when, say, some artists like Rihanna put out an album every year and tour constantly. Do you think that may be because today's pop music is more disposable?
Well, it's very different. And I think that all of the new artists would love it if it was the way it used to be. Let's use Rihanna as an example because I always say it is so wild that her name is Robyn and you know my best friend's name was Robin. So I saw her on David Letterman many years ago, and she did a live performance of "Shut Up And Drive" and I said to several different people that this girl could start a rock band. She really could be a rock singer. She could front a really great rock-n-roll band and she should. And of course that didn't happen, and she became a really big star, but she would probably be happier had she actually done something like that because then she could have had Rihanna with a great band. And then she could have been a rock star and she could have gone to her solo Rihanna and been a pop star. She could have done both like I do. And of course, since we're not friends and I don't know her, I wasn't able to say that to her but I did say it to a lot of other people. It's a heck of a lot more fun.
What other younger acts do you find interesting?
You know, I think of somebody like Beyonce and I think when she broke up Destiny's Child I thought, "that's not a good idea." Because you should never break up your band. Because your band may come in very handy to you down the road. Because if you don't verbally break it up, then you're not making a comeback. You are just going back with your band. It's like with Gwen Stefani and No Doubt, she never breaks up No Doubt, she just goes and does her crazy Gwen thing and then she comes back and becomes a real rock-n-roll singer with her real rock-n-roll band. So that was very very smart, I think. Because then you're being able to change all the time. And really, if you spend three years doing your thing and then, you know, two years doing your rock thing, and then you have a baby and then you do two years of your thing -- it's like you're always on the move doing something new which keeps you young, keeps you energized, keeps that youthful spark happening. And so in many ways I feel very, very sorry for this generation of kids because I think some of them are really really good. You know, I'm walking around and I can't stop singing "Call Me Maybe" even though it's actually like not even a single anymore. But I love it. And I'm hoping that that little girl, because she is really good and I think she wrote that song, she's really good. So maybe she should get a band. And she should practice, you know. And she should play gigs. She should work on it. But the problem is today, you know, even if you do that and you have a huge song like that. And even if you come up with two or three more huge songs. It' going to be very hard to follow that up. And you really do have to get out there and play. And if you don't, you're just going to be a recording artist and just recording artists never have staying power. You have to go do some shows at some point.
Is there something that was more difficult in the late '60s and '70s than it is now?
SN: Well I think now the problem is selling records. Internet piracy is taking it over. I mean it's taking over books, it's taking over movies, everybody is feeling everything. And the problem with that is, yes, it's great to share things, sure. But there comes a point where if you're a young artist, and you're 22 years old, and you've been playing for three years like Lindsey and I did and doing gigs making fairly good money, considering. And then you get a record deal and put a record out, it does OK. Well, you make money from that record and you can support yourself. You can pay your rent, you can pay for your car and in the old days you would be signed to a record company and if you made another record and it kind of tanked, if they believed in you, their artist development people would hang onto you and they would help you. They'd give you $10,000 to live on for a year. So it's wonderful to say go out there and play gigs and be determined. But if you're not getting paid very much money, how can you support yourself? So you're going to have to also, like I did, you're going to have to be a waitress and you're going to have to be a cleaning lady and you're going to have to do anything you have to do to make enough money to support you and your band. And so you really can't leave town then if you've got a job. Because when Lindsey and I were doing Buckingham Nicks,they dropped it a couple of months after it went out. And I had to go back to -- I got to stop being a waitress for a few months -- and then I had to go back to being a waitress because there was no money again. But, because we'd had that record, we had a little bit of clout. We were able to get a studio to get us some time for free and kind of like a spec album.
Do you think there has been or will be any turnaround?
It's a conundrum and I wish that somebody could figure out what to do. I wish that albums would be wanted again because I wish people would want 12 songs and not just two. I wish that people could have the fun that we had when we would go and buy an album and lay on the floor and listen to it 50 times. And sing along with the words and just be so touched. Like I would get a Joni Mitchell album and just be like, "Don't talk to me. Don't even call me for three days because I am totally busy, and it's a Godsend this record and I can't even think about anything else right now." And it would just be wonderful. It would be euphoric. And I'm sorry because I don't see that now.
A really cohesive album seems like something that is almost erased from pop, though there is still a strong demand for classic-sounding albums in some areas of rap.
And it kind of erases rock all together. And so that's a downward spiral.
Do you ever hear something on the radio and hear a little bit of yourself in that song? Taylor Swift and Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine cite you as influences.
I do. There's this song that Taylor wrote called "Today Was A Fairy Tale." And I hear that and I absolutely worked with her on the Grammys a couple of years ago and that song, I was actually going to sing a little of it with her, so I learned it. And then we ended up not doing it because she started out with that. But it stayed in my heart forever. And it just reminds me of me in a lot of ways. And with Florence Welch, I don't really know much about her or her music but with that "Shake It Out" song I really like because I felt that song. I was feeling what she was saying when she wrote that. So yes, I do, I do hear the influence.
One of our editors spent some time with Courtney Love, who spent the day showering her Fleetwood Mac videos and talking about how amazing you guys are. And I was recently speaking with somebody who writes songs with Kanye West and he said that Kanye and all their whole group is obsessed with your solo stuff and Fleetwood Mac. And I was just wondering, what do you think explains the cross genre appeal of your work?
I pretty much started out as a songwriter. And I pretty much, from the day I was 15 and a half and my parents let me sign up for a month of classical guitar lessons and the guy decided to go to Spain so he sold my mom and dad his classic Goya guitar and they gave it to me for my sixteenth birthday which is May 26, like 1964, and that is all the lessons I took because he split. And I wrote a song a week later, and I went and said to my mom and dad, "You have to come into my bedroom and sit on my bed, and I'm going to sit and I'm going to play you this song." And they did because my dad's dad was a country singer and he worked his whole life to make it in the country business and never did, but tried. And so they're sitting there and I played this song, and at the end of it I'm totally crying. My whole guitar is wet. And my mom and dad have little tears in their eyes and they said well, "You know what, that's a good song." And I said, "Well, I'm glad you like it, because I'm going to be a songwriter and that's it. That's what I'm doing." And my mom said my dad and she would will support you in that completely as long as you go to school. So you know, if you go up to five years of college, we will support you all the way through that, your college, and we will support you to do your music. Because they saw it in my eyes. They never doubted me for a second. So I said to them, "I'm going to spend my life writing poems, turing them into music that will affect people and touch their hearts. I'm going to write the songs that people can't write for themselves." I'm going to write, "Thunder only happens when it's raining, players only love you when they're playing." Isn't that a weird line for a white girl from San Francisco to write? And I'm writing about "players only love you when they're playing" because basically you're only going to have your relationships with music people when you're with them and as soon as you come off the road, they're gone. It's like I almost just had premonition after premonition about what was coming.
But what do you think gives your work a cross-genre appeal?
Why does my music touch artists like Kanye West? I would say, a) I didn't know that but I like him very much and, b) I actually wrote him a letter once after his mom died. I wrote him a three-page letter that was about how I felt about losing his mother and what she must have meant to him and the way that he lost her in such a crazy way. And I never sent it to him because I thought "Oh, be'll just think this is stupid and what does this girl want with me and what is she writing about my mother for.?" And so I never sent it. So I'm very interested and touched by the fact that you say that there is some love from him towards my music and I might just have to type that letter up and send it off now.
But that's what I said at 15 and a half. That I would affect people. And it was going to be universal for me. I was going to reach out to all different kinds of music and I think that's, when you write a poem and you make sure that poem is really what you want to say, then and only then do yo walk to the piano. And then you sit there and you stare at those words and you start to play. And what comes out has got nothing to do with Stevie's solo career or Stevie's Fleetwood Mac. It has everything to do with the feeling I get when my fingers touch those keys and I sing that first sentence. And when you hit that first line that just knocks you back, you know, where you actually go [singing] "women they will come and they will go." You're like, "I got it. And this is it." And then you know. And it may not save the world but people are gonna love it. Because I love it.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that tickets for the tour would go on sale on Dec. 7. The tour will also run 34 cities.