BAM: Who worked out the arrangements for the songs? I know that in Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey would do almost all the arranging for you, putting on layers of different guitars and, in a sense, orchestrating your tunes.
Stevie Nicks: That's one of the reasons I wanted to see if I could do it myself. When you work with somebody who is that much in control, and who has always been that much in control--from, like, 1970 on--you forget that you're even capable of doing something yourself. I'd write my song and then Lindsey would take it, fix it, change it around, chop it up and then put it back together. Doing that is second nature to Lindsey, especially on my songs. He does better work on my songs than on anybody's because he knows that I always give them to him freely. It's a matter of trust.
So it was interesting to work without him, because my songs pretty much stayed the same; the only difference was what happened after I'd written them. When I write a song I sit down at the piano and play it front to back. For Bella Donna I would do that, or have a demo like that, and the other musicians would just listen to it, getting their own ideas of how to fill in the rest. Usually, by a couple of times through the song they had a good idea of what they could do with it. My songs aren't complicated, to say the least. The sessions went very quickly, really.
BAM: You said you'd felt dependent on Lindsey in Fleetwood Mac. Was it difficult for you to think for yourself during the sessions for Bella Donna?
Stevie Nicks: No, it was exhilarating! Instead of just sitting around hour after hour, I got to be a part of it. Working with Lindsey, it's so easy to just let him take it. On this album I didn't have to fight to do my songs the way I wanted to. The other players just did them they way I wrote them and they came out great. We didn't do a ton of overdubs. We didn't put on 50,000 guitars because we didn't have Waddy around long enough to do 50,000 guitar overdubs. We were lucky to get him to do one guitar part.
BAM: Stylistically the album seems very eclectic to me. There's a little country, some gospel feel, rock and roll....
Stevie Nicks: Well, it represents ten years worth of songs. In Fleetwood Mac I usually get two or three songs on an album, but here I got to do ten. The album is sort of a chronology of my life. "After the Glitter Fades" was written in '72, making it the oldest song on the record. "Highway Man," "Leather and Lace" and "Think About It" were written in '75. The most recent is "Edge of Seventeen," which is also my favorite song on the record.
BAM: Did you change the lyrics to "After the Glitter Fades"? It seems moderately prophetic.
Stevie Nicks: Moderately? It's very prophetic! [Laughs] No, the lyrics are the same. Believe me, I'd seen a lot of glitter fade by the time I wrote that song, which was two years before Lindsey and I joined Fleetwood mac. That was a tough period for us professionally, because we were very serious about wanting to be professional musicians. And we'd done well in the Bay Area with Fritz, but moving to Los Angeles was a big step and it seemed that we were suddenly back at point "A" again. Also, our lives were so different from each other then. I didn't have friends in LA and he made lots of musician friends--Warren Zevon, Waddy, Jorge Calderon. And while he was making friends and playing music, I had to work.
BAM: You sound a little bitter.
Stevie Nicks: No, I'm not really. It was the only way we could do it. Lindsey couldn't be a waitress. He didn't know how to do anything but play the guitar and I did, so it was obvious I was going to be the one to do the work if we were going to live. And he didn't want us to play at places like Chuck's Steak House or Charlie Brown's. I would have gone for that in a big way, personally, because singing in horrible places like those four hours a night is a helluva lot better than being a cleaning lady. That was the only real rift we had then. He won. But I loved him. I loved our music, and I was willing to do anything I could to get us to point B from point A. It's hard to keep the sparkely going when you face so many closed doors. But somewhere in my heart I knew that it would work out and that if I kept making enough money to pay the rent, that Lindsey would hang in there and get better and better on guitar and keep learning about the business.
BAM: In fairness to Fleetwood Mac, Stevie, even though you know what a long process recording is, the group's records don't sound cold or detached. There's plenty of feeling on every record Fleetwood Mac has done.
Stevie Nicks: That's true. Don't misunderstand me. I love the way Fleetwood Mac sounds. I wouldn't be in it if I didn't. I'm just saying that on Bella Donna we managed to make a really good record a different way. We went in and we just did it. Tusk took us thirteen months to make, which is ridiculous. I was there in the studio every day--or almost every day--but I probably only worked for two months. The other eleven months, I did nothing, and you start to lose it after a while if you're inactive. You see, Lindsey, Chris, John and Mick all play, and I don't. So most of the time I'd be looking at them through the window in the control room. After four or five hours, they'd forget I was even there, they'd be so wrapped up in little details. It was very frustrating.
BAM: There seems to be a bit of revisionism about Tusk going around. When the record came out, all of you said you were delighted with it. When it didn't do so well commercially as it was expected to, the opinions within the band about the project seemed to turn more negative.
Stevie Nicks: I never felt any differently about it. I was always up-front about it. I loved the songs for the most part. I even liked almost all of Lindsey's tunes, which were the most heavily criticized. I did not love sitting around for thirteen months and I never said I did. If Tusk had been terribly successful I wouldn't have taken the credit for it because I was not that much a part of it. It was out of my hands. I didn't want it to be called Tusk. I didn't like the artwork. I'm being totally truthful--I had very little to do with that record.
BAM: How does it sound to you now?
Stevie Nicks: I love individual songs. Of my songs, I like "Sara" and "Angel" the best. I liked most of Chris' stuff. Of Lindsey's songs, I guess I like "Save Me A Place" and "Walk a Thin Line" the most. Those are beautiful songs.
I love Lindsey's work. I didn't hang around with him for seven years for nothing, listening to him play guitar every single night, watching him fall asleep with his electric guitar across his chest. There were nights I had to pry the guitar off of him so he could sleep in a normal position.
My main complaint with Tusk isn't musical. It just went on too long. I think it could have been done in half the time. But again, I'm not a player. I'm the dancer and singer. I just want to get up there and dance and twirl my baton.
BAM: There definitely is an overriding optimism in most of your songs.
Stevie Nicks: People don't mind a little misery, but they also like happy endings. It's nice to leave some hope at the end that things will work out. See, Lindsey won't do that. He'll say, "Go your own way," I wouldn't, most likely.
Lindsey hates to write lyrics, though. Maybe that's why some of his songs are so negative. [Laughs] He'll have all these beautiful songs that are instrumentals for months. They have gorgeous melodies, layer upon layer of guitars. I exercise to his tapes, practice ballet to them. Then he'll write lyrics for this beautiful song and it'll have a different feeling than the music.
BAM: I'm surprised the two of you haven't collaborated on songs since you've been in Fleetwood Mac. You love to write words and he's a nut for melodies.
Stevie Nicks: I'm surprised, too. I always wanted to. It's strange. You would think he would ask me, but I think he really doesn't like my lyrics very much. They're too spacey for him. We think differently, I guess.
BAM: You and Petty obviously have a good rapport. Can you see yourself writing with him?
Stevie Nicks: I think we will write together eventually. You see, Tom and I aren't going out. Tom and I aren't in love with each other, or haven't been in love and out of love. We're really just good friends so we probably could write together. Lindsey and I have so much behind us that it would be difficult to sit down and intensely get into lyrics. As it is he asks me, "Who's that one about? What are you talking about in that line? What does that mean?" [Laughs]
BAM: What did you contribute to the next Fleetwood Mac album?
Stevie Nicks: I have three songs as it stands now, but I think we may replace one of them with another song. I wrote one of the songs a long, long time ago, even before Lindsey and I moved to LA. It's called "It's Alright." It's very simple: Lindsey just plays some really nice guitar behind me. There's another song called "If You Were My Love" that I wrote about a year ago after I'd recorded "Outside the Rain" with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. I spent a week recording with them and I had so much fun that I was really bummed out when it was over. That's when I wrote that song.
There was also a song called "Smile at You" that I don't think we'll put on. I think Lindsey wants me to record another one and so do I. It's kind of a bitter song and that's really not where any of us are at right now, even though it's a wonderful song. My songs don't take long to record, so it shouldn't be a problem.