The singer-songwriter also discusses a possible memoir and biopic, her favorite era of Fleetwood Mac, and what it was like returning to the band after 15 years
WHEN CHRISTINE MCVIE joined Fleetwood Mac in 1970, she had no idea she was kicking off a five-decade odyssey that would produce not only some of the most beloved songs of the rock era, but also more heartache and anguish than perhaps any other band in history. But during that time, McVie stayed remarkably levelheaded and did her best to bring the group’s warring factions back together again and again. She acquired a lot of wisdom along the way, making her a perfect subject for our Last Word interview series. McVie spoke to Rolling Stone ahead of Songbird, a new collection of her solo work that’s out June 24.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Not to lie. To be honest. That came from my parents. I can’t imagine better advice coming from one’s parents. I try to stick by that rule and to be as good a person as I can.
What music still moves you the most?
I’m a big fan of Steely Dan; the Beach Boys; Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. I like quite a broad range of people, and my favorite … the Beatles, of course. Some of their songs move me to tears.
The Beach Boys must be extra special to you because of your relationship with Dennis Wilson.
Definitely. I related to them, and obviously to Dennis really well, although Dennis was a bit of a madman. But we got on really well. I just really loved their music. Carl Wilson in particular — loved his voice.
What did you learn from your time with Dennis?
Not really very much. I mean, he was an interesting guy, but he was a bit barking mad, honestly.
How do you relax these days?
I watch a lot of TV. Really, that’s about it. I don’t really write songs to relax. When I feel a bit of pressure coming on, I’ll get to the piano and see what I can come up with.
What’s the worst part of success?
Being noticed if you don’t want to be noticed. I’m not one of these people that’s an extrovert. That said, I try to really be kind to people when they talk to me, if they ask for autographs. One shouldn’t mind, because after all, they’re paying you a terrific compliment.
What’s the most indulgent purchase you ever made?
My Rolls-Royce. That was about when I was living in L.A., and I just went to the dealer and bought it off the lot. I just wanted to buy some beautiful car. I drove it home. It’s gone now, I’m afraid. I don’t drive anything very much anymore because you can get a cab everywhere in London.
I think I followed my map pretty well in the course of my life.… To be honest with you, I don’t think I gave myself any advice. I think I just kind of got on with what I was doing and thoroughly enjoyed it. Obviously, my best beautiful days were when we were the Buckingham-Nicks Fleetwood Mac version. That was the best to me.
You were seen by many as the calm and reasonable person in the eye of the hurricane that was Fleetwood Mac.
That is apparently true, but I didn’t realize that at the time. Yes, I was supposedly like the Mother Teresa who would hang out with everybody or just try and [keep] everything nice and cool and relaxed. But they were great people; they were great friends.
What sort of toll did that take on you emotionally, to be that Mother Teresa figure?
I don’t think I thought about it that much. I enjoyed the storm.… Even though I am quite a peaceful person, I did enjoy that storm. Although it’s said that we fought a lot, we actually did spend a lot of our time laughing. So, that must have been forgotten. Great sense of humor.
People spent so much time talking about the Lindsey-Stevie dynamic that they overlooked that you were in the band for nearly five decades with your ex-husband, John McVie. What’s that relationship like?
Well, we used to fight occasionally, but not that often. I think we sorted our differences out by then, and we actually got on really well.… It was never as melodramatic as Stevie and Lindsey. And right now, we don’t live in the same hemisphere. He lives in L.A.; I live in London. But we occasionally write to each other or phone each other.… He’s been suffering with a few health problems, but he’s OK. So we talk a fair bit. He’s a good man, John.
You took a 15-year break from the band in the early 2000s. How did you grow as a person in that time?
I just enjoyed having my dogs, living in the country, going for long walks. I just wasn’t interested in playing music at that point. Then the feeling came back. Mick and I have always been in touch, and he said, “Do you ever think you’ll come back?” I said, “I don’t know.” Suffice to say that I did decide to return and never regretted it.