At 64 years old, Stevie Nicks is a steadfast embodiment of the rock goddess persona that developed almost overnight in 1975, a living example that female empowerment still has a leg to stand on.
Preparing for a spring tour with Fleetwood Mac and releasing documentary In Your Dreams (which chronicles the creation of her 2011 album of the same title), Nicks sat down for an intimate interview with NPR’s Ann Powers as part of the SXSW Music programming.
What began as the linear talk of an unparalleled career manifested into a magical hour where stardom wasn’t the theme. She spoke candidly about her rise to fame, but it was Nicks’ balance of elegance and empowerment that took center stage.
After explaining how she and partner Lindsey Buckingham rose to fame with Fleetwood Mac (the two joined in January 1975 and “together were a millionaire” by October), Nicks spoke of the gender equality she fought for early in her career. From the onset, Nicks insisted that she and Christine McVie, her Fleetwood Mac counterpart, be treated as equals, not dismissed due to frail figures or softer voices.
“We have to walk in with a big attitude,” Nicks recalled. “We have to flow in like goddesses.”
This dichotomy of attitude and goddess is a continuous theme in Nicks’ career, the physical manifestation of which can be seen each time she performs. Nicks called her onstage persona an amalgamation of three rock and roll greats: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane).
From Joplin, she adopted the rock and roll attitude. “When she walked on that stage, she was a knockout and she was a hard rock singer and she could hold that audience in her hand.” From Hendrix, it was softness. “He was the opposite of Janis.” He was “super humble” and “super graceful.”
“I got a little bit of slinky from Grace Slick,” she continued. “I try to be as elegant as I can," she said, noting that the "masculine side comes through also.” “You try to find a nice way to blend them all.”
That blend translates to the celebrated solo career that Nicks has balanced since the release of 1981’s Bella Donna. The process of creating solo work has been a necessary “vehicle,” for Nicks, a way to produce the “trunk full of songs” she’s carried around since 1973, without leaving Fleetwood Mac behind.
“I love my band. I would never break up Fleetwood Mac ever,” she said. “I just take the time in between — I just take their vacations [to do solo albums].”
As a solo artist and member of one of the most influential bands of all time, Nicks has written and performed some of rock’s most identifiable songs (“Landslide,” “Rhiannon,” “Edge of Seventeen”). “I live for those moments,” she said of fans identifying with her stories.
“It’s something that I feel it’s my job, it’s my duty to actually share that with all of you guys,” she said. “I want to be a teacher.”
Perhaps Nicks’ most poignant teaching moment at SXSW came at the end of her scheduled appearance when a young audience member asked for the singer’s opinion about the current role of women in society.
“I see women being put really back in their place. And I hate it,” Nicks said. “We’re losing what we fought so hard for.”
“I feel that women aren’t getting much support now,” Nicks continued, questioning what’s causing modern women to “back off."
Her final thought on the matter was delivered in terse, empowering rock goddess form. "All I can say to that question is don’t.”