Stevie Nicks on Crafting a Setlist for 24 Karat Gold Tour, Possible Fleetwood Mac Album & Wishing She'd Performed With Prince
"Whenever I play ‘Stand Back’ from this day forward, Prince will be standing next to me."
“I'm hoping that this will be as much fun for the audience as it's gonna be for me,” Stevie Nicks tells Billboard about her just-announced 24 Karat Gold Tour. The two-month trek -- launching Oct. 25 in Phoenix, with the Pretenders opening -- supports her 2014 effort 24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault, which marked her sixth top 10 album on the Billboard 200 chart.
The album was comprised of tracks Nicks had written and made demo recordings for decades ago but had never been included on any of her previous albums. Then, in 2014, she and producer Dave Stewart headed to Nashville with the demos and recorded entirely new versions of the songs to produce 24 Karat Gold. “I think this [tour] is going to be great,” Nicks says. “I think that all the fans are gonna have a ball. And I hope that they totally just dress up -- as Wendy Williams would say, 'Dress to the nines.' And come to party, and sing.”
Nicks says the setlist for the tour is still being shaped (it’s “about at 30 songs right now”) but will feature songs from 24 Karat Gold and possibly title cuts from some of her older albums, like “Bella Donna,” “Wild Heart” and “Trouble in Shangri-La.” She wants the show to “have its little explosions of fun” from the various parts of her career. Nicks also gives a hint to fans: “You know what, you might want to come to two shows, because you never know: There might be an alternative [set]list.”
It’s likely that familiar favorites like “Edge of Seventeen” and “Stand Back” will both turn up in the setlist, and for Nicks, “Stand Back” has a new emotional weight. The track was “written to” Prince’s “Little Red Corvette,” and she’s “brokenhearted” that she was never able to have him share the stage with her on the song. “Had I ever in a million years thought that we would lose him,” Nicks says, “I would have made sure that that would have happened. And it didn't. So that's just one of those things in your life where you so say, 'I really missed out.' Because he should have. That should have happened. So whenever I play ‘Stand Back’ from this day forward, Prince will be standing next to me. That is always going to be a joy.”
Nicks, of course, has a second career with the band Fleetwood Mac, which completed its triumphant On With the Show Tour in November 2015. The global run saw the classic Rumours-era lineup of the band -- with a returning Christine McVie -- play 120 shows on three continents. Now that the tour has concluded, might there be a new studio album from the famous quintet?
“You know what, I never know what's going to happen,” Nicks says. “It's like, I didn't -- in my wildest dreams -- ever know that I was going to do the 24 Karat Gold record. And I certainly didn't ever, after 16 years, think that Christine McVie was going to call up and say, 'How would you feel if I came back to the band?' You know, it's like, are you serious? Is this a joke?"
With McVie back in the Fleetwood fold, fans are also holding out hope for a new album from the group. “I learned a long time ago to never say never. Right now, because of the fact that we know that people don't buy records… it's like, hard to sell records. So then you think, 'Well, why do you do records?' Well, the reason you do records is because it's like we're like kids again, and we can do anything we want. We have enough money. We don't really have to work if we don't want to. So we can do records for the reason that we actually did them in the very beginning -- just 'cause it's fun.
"Is it possible that Fleetwood Mac might do another record? I can never tell you yes or no, because I don't know. I honestly don't know. … It's like, do you want to take a chance of going in and setting up in a room for like a year [to record an album] and having a bunch of arguing people? And then not wanting to go on tour because you just spent a year arguing? Or do you just go on tour because you know that you have fun up there and you love doing shows? And Christine's only been back for [laughs] a year and a half.
“So you start to weigh your… 'Why would you do this, why would you do that?' And I honestly don't know. But I never say never… that really is in God's hands.”
Here are some excerpts from our conversation with Nicks:
Nicks recorded the 24 Karat Gold album just two months -- and it was her final album owed to her record label, Warner Bros. Records. But she had to essentially put 24 Karat Gold away and not listen to it for over a year as she was about to head out on the road with Fleetwood Mac:
We finished [24 Karat Gold] in, like, two months -- the whole record. And then, this is kind of what I did: It was like, metaphorically, I bought a gold box, I put the record in the box, I put tissue around it, I wrapped it, I put a red bow on it. I got in the car, we drove past Warner Bros., and I ran in, put it on the front desk and said, "Please give this to the president of Warner Bros.," and I ran back out. Got in the car and went straight to Culver City to be at rehearsals with Fleetwood Mac at 2 o'clock. That was it!
Needless to say, me doing a record wasn't exactly the most favorite topic of conversation at the Fleetwood Mac rehearsal. Christine had just come back in, you know, changed her life, moved to L.A. So that was it. I can honestly say, I never even listened to 24 Karat Gold again until we got home from the tour in January. Because why would I, you know what I mean? Why would I go and make myself feel bad by listening to my really beautiful, fun record of all my great old glory songs? [They] were the sex, rock & roll and drug songs that just almost made every single big record, but for whatever my reasons were, I pulled them. These weren't songs that were kicked off the record by anybody; these were songs that I pulled off records.
So why would I want to sit around and make myself miserable? So I never listened to it once until we got home from the Fleetwood Mac tour. And then I said to my manager, "Well, I'm gonna think about this very carefully." And the fact was… my little life-partner puppy dog that was almost 18 years old was seriously dying. And she died between December and July 5. So I didn't go anywhere, I didn't take any vacations, I didn't really do anything except be with her and kind of deal with that whole situation. But all through that, I was thinking, "You know, if I don't do this now, we'll miss the window that will make it possible." If we go out for 24 Karat Gold right now, we're actually going out with some product -- not that I am going to necessarily sell records, because I don't believe that people buy records, so that's not why I'm going out. I'm going out to promote this record just because I want people to hear what's on it. And I figured the only way I can let them hear what's on it is to actually go out and play some of the stuff that's on it.
Her manager asked if perhaps Nicks would just rather stay home this year after the passing of her beloved pet and spending so much time on the road with Fleetwood Mac:
I don't want to miss the window. If I don't go out until next year, we won't go out until the spring, and then by the time we get out there, it'll be the summer, and by the time I get home, it'll be too late to do the 24 Karat Gold Tour. And it'll just end up being Stevie going out to do another Stevie Nicks tour that has all the exact same songs that every other Stevie Nicks tour for the last 20 years has had. And that's not what I want to do.
Nicks discusses what the 24 Karat Gold Tour setlist might include:
This will make you laugh, but it's the truth. When I sat down a couple weeks ago to start figuring out what would be in here, I had decided that I also wanted to do "Wild Heart," maybe do "Bella Donna," maybe do "Trouble in Shangri-La." So I wanted to do some title songs [from Nicks' albums]. I mean, I thought, you know, this is laying open a whole new world for me… So my list is like about at 30 songs right now. And so Waddy [Wachtel, Nicks' guitarist and music director for the tour], he said to me, "Just call me when [the setlist is] over." Like, "Stevie, have you cut out any songs yet?" And I said, "Well, maybe two, so I'm working on it."
So what I've done is, I've sent out all 30 songs [Laughs] to everybody in the band, saying, like, "We're not going to do all of these 30, but we have to try some of these." Because sometimes you don't know. You might hear the song that you think is going to be the best ever, and it's not. And then there's the song that you think is going to be totally terrible and it's great. So I said, "You don't have to learn them for real, but just be aware." So that we can spend a few days just playing bits and pieces of everything. So, yes, is [the setlist] going to be songs from 24 Karat Gold? Absolutely. But it's also going to be some things from some of the other records also, because I'll never get a chance to do this again. Until I actually do, like, the full-on acoustic set that will actually be three hours, where I can actually start with "Bella Donna" and go all the way up through… until I get to that tour.
So this tour, I want it to have its acoustic parts, I want it to have its little explosions of fun from all different parts. I want it to have the 24 Karat Gold demos, there's two or three songs off In Your Dreams. I'd like to do the "New Orleans" song, I want to do "Soldier's Angel" because that's important to me right now -- just, once again, with the whole political thing that's going on, I think "Soldier's Angel" is an important song to do. So it's like, it's gonna be a lot of cool stuff, and I'll have about two hours and 15 minutes. So, I may -- maybe -- cut a couple songs down a little bit. Maybe I won't do all six verses, you know? … Maybe if I do "Bella Donna," maybe I'll only do half of "Bella Donna." I want to do "Wild Heart," and that has never been done onstage, ever. Because that is a hard song to do. So I'll give it a try, and if I can pull it off, I'll do it.
On how so many of her old demo recordings ended up on the Internet and eventually back to the 24 Karat Gold album, and then to the 24 Karat Gold Tour:
At some point a suitcase of demos was sold, and out went all the demos to all these songs. … They all got sold. I mean, they just got lost. And in those days, we were so free with our music. It was like, "Sure I just wrote a new song." And some of your friends are like, "Can I have a tape of it?" And you're going, "Sure I'll make you a cassette right now." And then of course that cassette goes to their house and then somebody else says, "Gee, that's so great can I have a cassette of that?" And they're like, "Sure!" And nobody was ever selfish with music, one bit. But in the long run, unfortunately, it did release just about everything I'd ever done. Everything, probably, I've never done is out in the cosmos, somewhere.
But the thing is, [the fans] haven't seen it done. They haven't seen it played in concert. So that's what I'm hoping, is that this can be the suitcase of demos that they didn't ever see performed. And that this will be really fun for people. Because they are familiar with these songs. They're familiar with all the songs on 24 Karat Gold. They're familiar with almost every demo I ever made. So this is bringing them to life. And that's what I wanted to do, you know? And I'm hoping that this will be as much fun for the audience as it's gonna be for me, because I'm so tired of doing the same thing over and over and over again. I'm not that kind of person, really. I'm the off-the-top-of-your-head kind of person and always have been. And it's very hard for me to just do the same thing every single night.
Nicks has performed “Edge of Seventeen” and “Stand Back” more than 400 times each in her shows. Are there songs she's tired of performing live?
Because I have two careers -- the great thing is, is that I got three years off from doing "Edge of Seventeen" or "Stand Back," because Fleetwood Mac actually used to do "Stand Back" and took it out [on the last tour]. So I haven't done "Edge of Seventeen" or "Stand Back" in closing in on four years. … All those songs, if they actually were in almost all the sets, then you know I really like those songs. I didn't do them because I had to do them. Because I could always put something else in instead.