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Stevie Nicks Breaks Her Songwriting Routine

Jul. 25, 2012
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When Stevie Nicks decided to record her first solo album in 10 years, she called her old pal, Eurythmics veteran Dave Stewart. Not only did he prove to be a particularly well-suited writing partner and producer, he shared a unique historical circumstance that bonded them in a special sort of kinship. Like Nicks, Stewart had been part of a duo that was both musical and romantic. And like Nicks, his romance ended before the musical connection did.

Stewart, of course, was with Annie Lennox when the pair gained fame. Nicks had joined forces with Lindsey Buckingham when they were still high-school students, and when Buckingham was invited to join Fleetwood Mac, he said the Buckingham-Nicks duo, which had released one dead-in-the-water album, was a package deal. By the time they split, they had put their indelible stamp on what would become one of the best-selling albums of all time, 1977's Rumours, a chronicle of two band couples coming apart (John and Christine McVie were the other) and Nicks' affair with the band's co-founder, drummer Mick Fleetwood.

The members of Fleetwood Mac have since splintered and come together again more than once, in between their own solo forays. Nicks has notched the most successful solo career of any Fleetwood Mac veteran. Her string of hits, with and without Fleetwood Mac, represents one of pop music's most beloved canons: the list includes "Rhiannon," "Landslide," "Dreams" (a favorite topic), "Edge of Seventeen," "Leather and Lace" (a duet with one-time lover Don Henley), "Stand Back" and, with Tom Petty, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around." Her gypsy/witchy-woman look—Victorian-inspired gowns, high-heeled boots, leather and lace, silk and satin, romantic hats over long, blond hair, all shown off with frequent stage twirls—set a tone in the '70s from which she hasn't wavered. Nicks hasn't changed her songwriting style much, either—or at least, she hadn't, until she began working with Stewart on In Your Dreams, which was released in May 2011.

Until Stewart sat across from Nicks in her Los Angeles living room, expecting her to sing along as he played, she'd never written a song with another person while sharing the same breathing space, face to face.

"I sent him 40 pages of poetry, never really expecting him to read all of it, but he did," Nicks recalls, speaking over the phone in her deep alto. "He puts his guitar on and he takes one of the poems out of the binder that I had sent him, and he said, 'I like this poem. Let's do this one.'"

Startled, she wanted to tell him she doesn't write with other people. But she kept her mouth shut, likely a rare moment for a person who hardly breaks for another question once she gets going during an interview.

"Something in me said, 'Don't say that. Just sit there and see what he is gonna do,'" she confesses. And he played. Then he told her to sing. And she did.

"That's actually the third-to-the-last song on the record; it's called 'You May Be the One,'" she says. "That's how it started, and 20 minutes later, we had a really good song."

The only song on which they actually shared lyric-writing duties was "Everybody Loves You"; he gave her the chorus and asked her to write verses. The words he provided were "Everybody loves you, but you're so alone; no one really knows you, but I'm the only one."

"I immediately took it like he was writing that about Annie Lennox, because that sounded like a person from a duo writing a song about the other person in the duo," Nicks says. "And what Dave and I had that was great was that we'd both been in really famous duos, so the whole time we were making this record, I felt like Lindsey and Annie were floating around in the room."

In Your Dreams
also contains contributions by frequent collaborator Mike Campbell, along with Buckingham, Waddy Wachtel, Fleetwood and other players she's worked with in the past. Except for drum overdubs, they recorded the entire album in her home, starting in January 2010 and finishing in December.

"It was the best year of my life," Nicks says. "I am probably more proud of this record than anything I've ever done."

Stevie Nicks plays the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Monday, July 30, with Rod Stewart.


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