Stevie Nicks says writing and recording her seventh studio album, In Your Dreams, was probably the most fun she’s had making music since Fleetwood Mac put out its self-titled album in 1975. The thirteen tracks came together at Nicks’s Pacific Palisades home in early 2010, with producer-songwriter-guitarist Dave Stewart (Eurythmics), hit-maker Glen Ballard (Alanis Morissette, Michael Jackson, Aerosmith), and Fleetwood Mac alums Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood. Vulture spoke with Nicks about her “magical” communal writing process and how it compared to her contentious collaborations with Buckingham.
Why was making this album so much fun for you?
We worked four or five days a week, and we’d break at seven for dinner — we had dinners for ten to twelve people every night — and we’d discuss politics and music and the world, and then went back to work for two or three hours. It was an experience. It was like Magical Mystery Tour. It was so much fun that when it was over and all of the people started packing to go and taking the recording equipment, I just sat down on the couch and started to cry. It was like, “I don’t want this to be over.”
It sounds like the video for “Cheaper Than Free,” where you’re all having fun, wearing hats, and there’s a big sparkler on a birthday cake.
It was joyful, and there was no anger, no harsh words, no arguments. We did a lot of songs that were angst-ridden and full of pain and crazy, but there was no ego going on in this record. And I think that’s what I loved most about it. When Dave and I were writing our seven songs together, he could read my face. If we were going in a direction that I didn’t like, he could see it, and so he just said, “Stop, let’s change that part.” So I never had to go, “I hate that.” I was never put on the spot.
And that was very different from your experience with Fleetwood Mac.
The difference in working with somebody like that and working with somebody like Lindsey — and Lindsey already knows this, so I don’t mean this with any animosity, this is just who Lindsey and I are … I always use this one crazy example: In “Say You Will,” I had given him this song and we were talking about it and he said, “You know you’re singing in the first person and then you flip over to the third person, and I think that you should not do that.” And I just looked at him and said, “And would you really say that to Bob Dylan?” The fact is, when Fleetwood Mac makes records, we are constantly at each other’s throats, and that’s not to say that we haven’t come up with amazing music. Because we have, and the Fleetwood Mac record was actually the most fun record that we ever made, because nobody was sure if it was going to work or not, so everybody was in a really good mood. Of course, by the time we got to Rumours, we were spoiled and indulgent and all very ego-ed out.
The great thing about In Your Dreams is we came up with amazing music — I actually wrote songs with someone, which I’ve never done before in my whole life — but we didn’t have to do it in a mean-spirited way. And for me, at my age, life is too short. I flat out told Lindsey, “I am never making another record that isn’t as much fun as the record that I just made with Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, so understand that. I am not locking myself up in a house with you guys, to yell and scream at each other for a year, ever again.”
Lindsey duets with you on this album, on what is arguably the most intense song you’ve ever recorded, “Soldier’s Angel.”
I had done a really good demo of it and we had tried to cut it as a band, and we just couldn’t do it. And I finally said, “We need to call Lindsey. Lindsey is the only person who is going to be able to make this.” It was written at the beginning of 2006, right after my second visit to Walter Reed and Bethesda Hospitals in D.C., and I wrote the poem and then I printed it up on my stationery and I started giving it out to all the soldiers and all their family members, from 2006 on. And I kept telling everybody, “Someday this will be a song and you guys will hear it and you’ll know that this is your song.” And then when we were in London in November 2009, doing our Fleetwood Mac shows, a really horrific thing happened: Seven English soldiers were massacred in Iraq. It was not a good day for London. The whole city went crazy. And I went crazy, too, and I ranted in my journal for four pages and out of that rant came, “I am a soldiers’ angel … in a war of words between worlds, about what is wrong and about what is righteous … I am a soldier’s girl” — the chorus was written. Almost a year later, when I called Lindsey, I sent him the demo and I said to him, “You know, this is probably my most revered song ever and I would really appreciate it if you would come up here and see if you could help us with this.” And he did. I think that Lindsey and I are more Buckingham/Nicks than we have been since 1973.