Stevie Nicks is 65 and back on tour with Fleetwood Mac. The iconic rock star talks to Craig McLean.
Sunday 15 September 2013
It’s a Thursday evening at Stevie Nicks’ oceanside condo in Santa Monica, Los
Angeles, and the talk has turned to Botox, dragons and snakes. She’s only
frightened of one of them.
“Oh my God, it’s getting worse!” the Fleetwood Mac singer exclaims of the
ever-increasing popularity of the cosmetic procedure. Nicks, who is 65,
tried it herself some years ago. Her conclusion?
“Botox makes everybody look like Satan’s children. You’d have to tie me down
to get me to do it again.”
“Now we’re getting used to seeing people with eyebrows that start up here,”
she snorts, jabbing at her hairline, the famous long and still-lustrous
blonde locks flowing.
Nicks turns her gaze away from the Pacific sunset we’ve been enjoying from our
“You have an 18-year-old daughter, right?” She raises a finger in my
direction. “You tell your daughter: if she ever even thinks about Botox, you
get me on the phone and I’ll talk to her.”
Nicks is as warm and empathetic in person as her endless hit songs (Dreams,
Rhiannon, Edge of Seventeen) suggest. She is relaxed in black, drapey
lounge-wear and dark, tinted glasses.
Her manner is a combination of floaty New Agey-ness and quick-witted humour.
Nicks with Fleetwood Mac in 1975 (second from right)
It is late July and Fleetwood Mac’s 2013 world tour is on a short summer break
before hitting Britain. Nicks and her assistant, Karen, have duly retreated to the
From her panoramic windows she can watch the cars twinkling down the Pacific
Coast Highway at night. “I call it the diamond snake when it’s coming toward
you, and when the traffic’s going away it’s the ruby snake.”
Nicks also owns a 1930s “English-style” mansion in the nearby hills, where she
lets her nearest and dearest retreat. Three years ago she recorded a solo
album there, “In Your Dreams”, with the producer and former
Eurythmic Dave Stewart.
But this apartment, with its 180-degree views up and down Santa Monica Beach,
is where Nicks comes to recharge.
Fleetwood Mac have sold upwards of 100 million albums. When 1976’s “Rumours”
(which has sold 40 million copies) was re-released this year, it went back
into the album charts at number three.
Forty years at the top have made the band very rich – rich enough for Mick
Fleetwood reportedly to have blown $8 million on cocaine over the years, and
for Nicks to own multiple properties.
This apartment used to be somebody’s bachelor pad, and the high-tech
entertainment system that the previous owner installed has been a bit of a
problem. Nicks, a self-confessed luddite, only recently bought her first
“I had to escape a fire in Malibu a couple of years ago. That’s when I
realised I had to have one. Now I do have a cellphone. It’s not charged, but
it’s over there somewhere. I did say to Karen, ‘Shouldn’t we plug this thing
in, just in case?’”
Nicks is even contemplating going online. “Just ’cause I don’t like the
internet doesn’t mean that everybody’s gonna stop using it.” She pouts with
a self-mocking air.
“So I’m starting to think: ‘You know what? Am I just punishing myself? I might
as well know how to do it.’”
Fleetwood Mac – Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham on guitar, John McVie on bass and
Mick Fleetwood on drums (all but Christine McVie from the “classic” line-up)
– have been on the road since spring.
“Two hours and 40 minutes, every night – for 47 nights!” says Nicks with a
gasp. Such is the ongoing love for the Anglo-American group that 15 extra
shows were added to the tour.
Nicks in 1975
Nicks is enjoying it now. “But in the beginning, before the shows, truly, I’d
look at Lindsey as we were going up to the stage in the lift and go, ‘This
is too much for me.’ And he’d go, ‘What do you want me to say?’”
“And I’d go, ‘Well, I don’t know, some sympathy would be good. Something
like, “I know you’re an old woman and this is hard on you – but you’ll get
Of course, Nicks knows Buckingham better than that. They met as teenagers in
northern California in 1965. He was the high-school swimming champ and a
prodigal guitarist; she was the girl from Arizona, relocated to the San
Francisco area thanks to her father’s corporate executive job.
They became friends, then bandmates, then, finally, a couple.
As part of a four-piece band called Fritz, they opened for acts including
Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, whom she remembers looking in her direction
before announcing: “I’m dedicating a song to that girl over there.”
“That was a moment of greatness,” she sighs. “I give him and Janis Joplin and
Grace Slick [of Jefferson Airplane] the three nods. From Grace, I got her
“Janis was just little with a big attitude with big hair and feathers,
and a drop-dead amazing voice. She was really tough but sang like a bird and
could really hold that audience in her hand.
“And Jimi Hendrix, on the other side of that, was completely and utterly
humble… So from those three people I got slinky, attitude and humility.”
Throw in the most directional deployment of scarves and chiffon in music
history, “and that was kinda my stage performance,” she says with a shrug. A
rock’n’roll icon was born.
Having moved to Los Angeles, in 1974 Nicks and Buckingham joined the British
blues band Fleetwood Mac, who were then living in the city. Famously, three
long-term relationships ended during the making of “Rumours”,
including Nicks and Buckingham’s.
Nicks with Lindsey Buckingham, 1975
But the band soldiered on through the heartache, the romantic turbulence
helping to create some of the most emotional yet melodic and uplifting music
Stevie went on to have relationships with, among others, two members of The
Eagles (Don Henley and Joe Walsh) and even had a fling with Mick Fleetwood.
Buckingham is now married with three young children, but the spark between him
and Nicks never went away, in ways good and bad. During the making of
Fleetwood Mac’s 2003 album “Say You Will” they had a
falling-out from which they’d never fully recovered.
So, prior to this year’s tour, Nicks decided they needed to clear the air. She
duly invited her first love over for a pre-tour summit.
“We had a lot talk to about, he and I,” she says. “And I said to him: ‘I
believe that you and I need to remember who we were when we were 16 and 17
years old. We need to remember that we were really good friends before we
ever had a date.
“We need to remember how much we respected each other, how much fun we
had – and how much fun we can have when we’re both in good spirits. And we
need to take that power couple on to the stage. Or we need to not go on
Did Buckingham agree with that?
“He listened to me, and I’m just sorry we didn’t have this conversation 10 or
even 20 years ago.”
The heart-to-heart did its job. “We are having fun,” she says, clearly
delighted at the late-flowering harmony in this legendarily dysfunctional
As Buckingham recently put it, describing the American leg of the tour, “It’s
a little bit of a love-fest up there.”
Nicks has legendary status as one of the first female rock stars. She sang
with Taylor Swift at the 2010 Grammy Awards, an experience a besotted Swift
described as “a fairytale”.
Nicks also appeared in the video for Bootylicious by Destiny’s Child, a
song that samples her own 1981 composition Edge Of Seventeen.
“Beyoncé’s great. She’s got her alter ego [her stage persona, Sasha Fierce],
but Beyoncé the girl, the woman, is very sweet and nice and polite. She’s a
good role model. She’s not skanky. I’m glad we have her.”
Singing with Taylor Swift at the 2010 Grammys
The appeal of Fleetwood Mac’s music to a younger generation was underscored by
the 2011 Glee episode devoted to “Rumours”.
Nicks visited the television show’s Los Angeles set during filming, and grew
close to the cast. After Cory Monteith, who played Finn Hudson, died of a
heroin overdose in July, Nicks wrote the cast a letter.
“I said, ‘Forgive me if I’m stepping into your personal space. I lost my
godson to an overdose last year – he died at a fraternity party – so I do
understand how shocking that is.’
“When what happened to Cory happened, I just was sick for days. Honestly,
just sick. It’s just so prevalent. It’s everywhere. It’s worse than when we
That’s certainly saying something, given how notoriously hard-partying
Fleetwood Mac were throughout most of the 1970s and 1980s. Nicks recalls
that they were warned of the dangers of heroin.
“But I wish people had told us the same thing about cocaine. But in our day
everybody was going, ‘It’s not addictive, it’s just recreational fun, blah
The band’s cocaine habit led to Nicks becoming addicted to the drug for 10
years. Then, in 1986, after being prescribed the sedative clonazepam to wean
her off it, she became addicted to that. Nicks says that its effects were
even more ruinous. Her weight ballooned, her skin peeled, her hair fell out,
she became a quasi-recluse.
She lost eight years to clonazepam, and often wonders if she might have met
someone and started a family in that time if she hadn’t been so zonked out.
“That was stolen,” she says of the chance to find happiness in that period.
“And that’s not forgivable, ever.”
Yet for all her enmity towards the health professionals who prescribed
clonazepam to her, Nicks is content to be single now – and blessed with
“lots of little fairy goddaughters”. And, as she points out, “I didn’t die.”
Nicks managed to come back from her addictions. “I think that I’m stronger
than a lot of people,” she adds. “And I knew then, as I know now, that I
still have so much to do.”
As well as completing the second half of the Fleetwood Mac world tour (which
runs until the end of this year), Nicks is working on plans to release a
long-lost pre-Mac album that she and Buckingham made as Buckingham Nicks,
the duo they’d formed after Fritz.
Taking a bow with Fleetwood Mac in Philadelphia in April this year
She’s also an enthusiastic painter (of angels, mainly), a poet and a reader,
and is hoping to realise a long-cherished dream: to turn The Mabinogion
Tetralogy, four obscure books based on Welsh myths, into a mini-series.
She’s owned the rights to the novels for over 30 years and is hopeful that the
makers of her favourite television show, Game of Thrones, will be interested
in turning them into a screenplay.
“I lived in the Twilight world for, gosh, four or five years. But Game Of
Thrones is just… heavier,” she says, eyes a-flutter. “And season three – the
brutality is over the top!” she hoots, delighted.
“The dragons are growing, and the characters are all brilliant. I mean,” she
whispers, “I think of them like they’re real people.”
Nicks has duly done what she’s always done and put pen to paper. “I’ve written
a bunch of poetry for each of the characters in Game Of Thrones. I’m always
looking for that kind of inspiration.”
Fleetwood Mac are touring Britain from Saturday