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Stevie Nicks is still living her dreams

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I first met Stevie Nicks in 2013, when I was about to turn seventeen. At the time, I edited Beginneran online magazine for teenage girls, and I had recently given a efilexTeen talk criticizes a trend of superficially “strong” female characters in pop culture. I’m sure the video would embarrass me now, but I stand by its closing line: “Just be Stevie Nicks.” A few months later, I heard from Nicks’ management team. Her cousin had sent her the video of my lecture and she wanted to invite me to a Fleetwood Mac show. At the gig in Chicago, I bawled as I listened to Nicks sing his otherworldly songs, and was stunned when I heard the same voice dedicate his performance of “Landslide” to me. Backstage, Nicks presented me with a gold moon necklace, a token she bestows on those she takes under her wing. We kept a friendship, and in 2017 I interviewed her for the Rookie podcast. Then the show’s production company shut down mid-season and the conversation never aired.

In the years since, Nicks’ appeal to younger generations has only grown. On TikTok, his songs offer a soundtrack for viral videos and fans pay tribute to him aesthetic witch. Artists such as Harry StylesMiley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey asked her to lend her voice to their songs, and she became “fairy godmotherto a wide circle of young artists. For the listeners too, she has always acted as a kind of spiritual guide. In his music, loss is both heartbreaking and banal. Heartbreak is survivable, and perhaps a key to self-knowledge. Many of his songs take place at night, in dreams or visions,”somewhere deep in your mind.” Her narrator frequently asks questions about herself and a higher power, as if in constant conversation with her own intuition. When I said, “Just be Stevie Nicks,” I thought of how her work had taught me to see such sensitivity as a source of strength. Nicks music is what you listen to when you need help listening to yourself.

For two evenings last month, Nicks and I met on the phone. She was at home in Santa Monica, where she spent the pandemic keeping late night hours and working on a TV series based on the Welsh myth of Rhiannon. When she apologized for asking to speak at 10:30 a.m. PM AND, I assured him that I was on a similar schedule. “Good,” she said. “So we’re definitely friends of the night.” This interview was adapted from our first unpublished conversation and our recent ones.

I read that you kept a diary every day since you started Fleetwood Mac. Do you ever go back and re-read old entries?

When I keep my diary, it’s big, like a phone book, because I always feel like it’s never going to get lost. So what I do is I write on the right side of the page, and then on the left side I write poetry, which I usually take straight from my prose. So often, when I come back to them, it’s to look at the poetry of the songs. I’d rather spend time writing a new journal entry than going back and reading old journal entries because if you go back you won’t move forward. I’m just trying to keep moving forward.

It seems like the journal entries and your songwriting are sort of running side by side.

They are. Especially if what I’m writing has a… when I say the word “romantic,” I don’t necessarily mean romantic in terms of having a guy or someone in your life. I mean just sunny days or, just, remember the way the air felt on your skin, or the way your hair felt when the wind blew through, or the way the trees sounded, or that sort of thing. So if my journal entry has a romantic tinge to it, I might flip through it and say, “This entry would make a really good poem,” which could then be turned into a great song.

“When you keep music in your life, I think it changes you and pulls you out of a deep hole,” Nicks says.Photograph from the Michael Ochs Archives/Donaldson Collection/Getty

I saw your show “24 Karat Gold” and you told a lot of origin stories about where your songs came from.

Almost all of them were what I call “songs that went into the gothic vault of lost songs”. For some reason they didn’t make any records. It wasn’t because they weren’t good enough. It was because I didn’t like the way they were recorded, or there were too many songs, and when you put together twelve songs, sometimes you have to lose a song that you really like just because you have too many slow songs and you need faster songs. When you sequence your record, it’s work, it’s not about each song separately.

A lot of those songs were in a suitcase that was accidentally sold at a flea market after I went on the road in 1983. So the songs have been traveling the internet now. A lot of people in the audience knew the songs, but there are also the next two generations who probably didn’t. So I thought it was enough to tell them the story behind each of these really unknown songs: what it was about, who was involved and when it was written, and build a story around it.

How did the suitcase of cassettes come back to you?

Well, my best friend, [Robin]when she died [of leukemia, in 1982], she was pregnant. I decided, in my crazy state of mind, that I was just going to marry her husband so I could take care of the child. Well, that didn’t work out very well. So for three months, getting ready to go on a big tour, I tried to be a mom, and it was impossible. And then out of nowhere, I just said, “You know what? We have to divorce. I left, and he just decided to clean the whole house, and there was a suitcase of tapes – I’m not sure if he knew what was on all those tapes. It had, like, a garage sale, and I don’t think the people who bought it necessarily knew what was in there either. But someone [eventually] figured out what it was, and then all of a sudden all these demos were out there in the world. So some fans who found that bought them and sent them back to me. That’s how cool my fans are. And then I took a lot of great demos to Nashville and said I wanted to record those songs, but I want them exactly as they are. And they did. And that’s why I love this record so much, because the songs on it are really close to the way I wrote them.

I loved some of the stories you shared on social media about your songs. I was so happy and surprised to learn that the “white-winged dove” first reading on a menu . . .

On the plane.

It’s such an unlikely source of inspiration.

I know, coming from Phoenix so far. And who knew that the white-winged dove was that bird in Phoenix, or Arizona, that had taken up residence in the saguaro cactus, because it was protected there? I really didn’t know anything about doves or pigeons or whatever you want to call them. But they literally said, “That bird, when it makes a sound, it sounds like ‘Ooh, ooh, ooh’,” right? And then I immediately started writing this song, which ended up being about Tom Petty and John Lennon and a bunch of people.