When Stevie Nicks Came Back Strong With ‘Trouble in Shangri-La’
Stevie Nicks took her time releasing 2001's Trouble in Shangri-La. More precisely, the record arrived seven years after her previous solo album, 1994's Street Angel. The latter collection arrived when Nicks was in a low period: She was in the throes of a Klonopin addiction (and stints in rehab), and had gone on record as hating how the LP had turned out.
In between, she had reunited with Fleetwood Mac, and toured solo behind the career-spanning Enchanted boxed set. Yet the negative Street Angel experience lingered even as she started contemplating Trouble in Shangri-La. In fact, it took a dinner with her old pal and creative foil Tom Petty to bolster her confidence and set the album in motion.
"Basically, he said, 'You know that you're a good songwriter, Stevie, and I don't know what's getting in the way right now, but you just need to go home and go straight to your piano,'" she told Time Out New York. "I was having a hard time getting over the Street Angel experience. I was just really sad. That dinner made all the difference. I give Tom all the credit in the world for this record."
It helped that Nicks had some songs in her pocket from the post-Street Angel days. The piano-driven "Love Is" was written in January 1995, while the title track coalesced in late 1994. The mandolin- and string-adorned "Candlebright" and the mystical, folk-tinged "Sorcerer" were even older: Both dated from her days in Buckingham Nicks.
Plus, the experience of reuniting with Fleetwood Mac for an extensive 1997 world tour also "ended up being a great thing for me as a writer," Nicks told Wall of Sound. "When I was on the tour, I wrote about four or five of the songs — not the music but the poetry. So when I got home from that tour and went to really start writing for this record, I was able to go back through my journals and pick up some really wonderful songs."
In some cases, this influence was direct. "Planets of the Universe" was a Rumours-era demo Nicks updated with subtle, lush keyboards, while Lindsey Buckingham added backing vocals and guitar to the ornate midtempo ballad "I Miss You." Nicks also revealed the uptempo, electric rocker "Fall From Grace" is "really about Fleetwood Mac onstage — that's always mostly going to be about me and Lindsey, just about our energy and what a trip it is to be in Fleetwood Mac and walk up there onstage."
Still, Nicks' refusal to become imprisoned by her past personal and musical narrative made Trouble in Shangri-La a fine addition to her catalog. More than anything, her versatility shone through: "Planets of the Universe" ended up hitting No. 1 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart, while the Natalie Maines duet "Too Far From Texas" hewed toward country-folk music. The Sheryl Crow-penned "It's Only Love," meanwhile, was a tender, stripped-down affair that shows the influence Nicks has had rock musicians and songwriters.
Trouble in Shangri-La went gold within weeks and peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. And it would also be Nicks' last solo album for a decade, as the rejuvenated Fleetwood Mac, a solo greatest hits album and then touring kept her busy until 2011's In Your Dreams.