Stevie Nicks doesn't have much sympathy for peers who are ageing less gracefully than her. "I see lots of people my age, and lots of people who are younger than me, and I think, 'Wow, those people look really old,'" she tells Rolling Stone. "I think it's because they didn't try."
At 68, the legendary singer-songwriter is staying as busy as ever. In December, Nicks wrapped an extensive solo tour, and in July, she and her Fleetwood Mac bandmates will co-headline a pair of high-profile classic-rock fests in L.A. and New York. Nicks took some time recently to share her own Words of Wisdom on drugs, relationships, ageing and why her solo career was vital to Fleetwood Mac's success.
What's the hardest part of success?
I work very, very hard. I have a piece of typewritten paper here that says, "You keep going and you don't stop." You do your vocal lesson. I have a lot of friends from high school and college who want to hang out when I play in their city. I have to rest for my show. It breaks my heart, but what comes first? Don't endanger my show. That's been my mantra my whole life: Don't endanger my show.
Who is your hero?
Michelle Obama, because she has such an optimistic outlook and she was able to move into the White House with kids and do such a beautiful, graceful job. That had to be really hard. After spending two weeks with my family for the holidays, which was long and emotionally difficult, I know that's super hard. I think she's wisdom personified.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
How about my early-forties self? That's when I walked out of Betty Ford after beating coke. I spent two months doing so well. But all my business managers and everyone were urging me to go to this guy who was supposedly the darling of the psychiatrists. That was the guy who put me on Klonopin. This is the man who made me go from 123 pounds to almost 170 pounds at five feet two. He stole eight years of my life.
Maybe I would have gotten married, maybe I would have had a baby, maybe I would have made three or four more great albums with Fleetwood Mac. That was the prime of my life, and he stole it. And you know why? Because I went along with what everybody else thought. So what I would tell my 40-year-old self: "Don't listen to other people. In your heart of hearts, you know what's best for you."
What do you understand about men that you didn't understand in your twenties?
I understood men pretty well in my twenties. Lindsey [Buckingham] and I lived together like married people. I had one girlfriend in Los Angeles in those years, so I really had a lot of different types of men in my life that I really got to know and respect.
I made a choice to not get married. After eight years of Klonopin, I was just gonna follow my muse, and if somebody came into my life, they would always end up being second. I wanted so badly to do what I'm doing right now.
"In my solo career, I get to be the boss."
What have 42 years as a member of Fleetwood Mac taught you about compromise?
A lot, because when you're in a band you have to be part of the team. There's something comforting about that. But in my solo career, I get to be the boss. Having both, for a Gemini like myself, is perfect. And I knew that in 1981: that me having a solo career would only make Fleetwood Mac better.
Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie are about to release an album as a duo. It seems like it started as a Fleetwood Mac album, but you chose not to participate.
I've been on the road [solo] since last September, so I don't understand their premise. Christine was gone [from Fleetwood Mac] for 16 years and came back, did a massive tour, and then it's like, "Now I'm just gonna go back to London and sit in my castle for two years"? She wanted to keep working. I will be back with them at the end of the year for, I think, another tour. I just needed my two years off. Until then, I wish them the best in whatever they do.
Do you want to make a new record with them?
I don't think we'll do another record. If the music business were different, I might feel different. I don't think there's any reason to spend a year and an amazing amount of money on a record that, even if it has great things, isn't going to sell. What we do is go on the road, do a ton of shows and make lots of money. We have a lot of fun. Making a record isn't all that much fun.
How do you feel about turning 70 in two years?
I don't like that number. I see lots of people my age, and lots of people who are younger than me, and I think, "Wow, those people look really old." I think it's because they didn't try. If you want to stay young, you have to make an effort. If I wanna walk onstage in a short chiffon skirt and not look completely age-inappropriate, I have to make that happen. Or you just throw in the towel and let your hair turn white and look like a frumpy old woman. I'm never gonna go there.
Do you ever see yourself retiring?
I'll never retire. My friend Doug Morris, who's been president of, like, every record company, said to me once, "When you retire, you just get small." Stand up straight, put on your heels, and get out there and do stuff. I want to do a miniseries for the stories of Rhiannon and the gods of Wales, which I think would be this fantastic thing, but I don't have to retire from being a rock star to go and do that. I can fit it all in.
Illustration by Mark Summers.