"The true rock legends truly changed the game," said NPR's Ann Powers by way of introduction Thursday at SXSW Music. "Stevie Nicks definitely changed the game."
Powers conducted a Q&A with the very busy Fleetwood Mac singer – in addition to performing with Dave Grohl's Sound City Players at SXSW, she has a new tour and is set to release a new solo album. The talk ran down the story of Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joining Fleetwood Mac, her regimen for keeping her voice in shape even at the age of 64 and her myriad performing influences. But it opened and closed with a discussion about feminism – not only in the largely male-dominated world of rock & roll, but in society today.
"We fought very hard for feminism, for women's rights," Nicks said in response to a question from the crowd. "What I'm seeing today is a very opposite thing. I don't know why, but I see women being put back in their place. And I hate it. We're losing all we worked so hard for, and it really bums me out."
Nicks and bandmate Christine McVie were strong female figures in an industry where many male musicians were hero-worshipped by fans across the world, and Nicks said they worked to change the perception of women within the rock & roll circles of the Seventies. "I said to Chris, we can never be treated like second-class citizens," she explained. "When we walk into a room we have to float in like goddesses, because that's how we wanted to be treated. We demanded that from the beginning."
Nicks also recalled her days in San Francisco in the late Sixties and early Seventies, when she and Buckingham opened for headliners from Janis Joplin to Jimi Hendrix. "Flamboyance and attitude from Janis, humbleness and grace from Hendrix, and a little bit of slinky from Grace Slick," she said. "Those were the three people who I emulated when I was on stage."
And while it's been more than 30 years since she took up her place in Fleetwood Mac, her voice – bolstered by a vocal coach she has worked with since 1997 – isn't letting her down yet. "Opera singers sing into their 80s," she said. "I don't plan to be doing [hundreds] of shows when I'm 85, but I do plan to still be out there singing when I'm a seriously older woman."