With V's next Music Issue on the horizon, we're revisiting V108 with Lana Del Rey in conversation with legend Stevie Nicks.
With V's next Music Issue on the horizon, we're revisiting V108 with Lana Del Rey in conversation with legend Stevie Nicks.
“It’s just time,” whispers Lana Del Rey on her end of the telephone. “Time has brought me here.”
When Del Rey returned with “Love” this year—the first song from her fifth album, Lust for Life, out July 21—a tonal shift was immediately apparent to anyone familiar with the singer’s notoriously dark discography. Beginning with her first record, Born to Die, Del Rey’s previous four releases have been rife with references to ill-fated romance, tragedy, and betrayal. This song, however, resonated with a new note: hope.
In the accompanying video, Del Rey serenades a generation of kids who are quite literally reaching for the stars, cooing lines like, “The world is yours and you can’t refuse it” and “Don’t worry baby” (the latter being a nod to the 1964 Beach Boys song) as she beams from ear to ear.
Time itself is an ever-present theme in her work, though how she interacts with it has changed on her new album. With Lust for Life, she revisits sounds and visuals from her early work with a mature perspective while bridging the past and the present both personally and politically. “Coachella—Woodstock in My Mind,” a song that draws parallels between two musical gatherings set against times of conflict, is a perfect example of this. It is only fitting, then, that the inquirer on the other end of the phone line is Stevie Nicks, fairy godmother to Del Rey’s genre of enchantingly romantic pop rock, who was on her way to becoming the voice of her own generation when Woodstock took place nearly five decades ago.
As it turns out, time—and a series of seemingly unrelated events throughout the courses of their lives—is also what brought these two kindred spirits together.
STEVIE NICKS Helloooo? Is this you?
LANA DEL REY It’s me!
SN How are you from your little perch in the “H” of the Hollywood sign?
LDR [laughs] Oh, I’m good. I’m sitting comfortably up here. It’s a clear evening, so I can see what everyone is getting up to down in the City of Angels. Thank you for asking.
SN I was wondering, do you think that maybe I could rent the “W”?
LDR You know it is so crazy that you’re asking me that because I was thinking you would actually love to move into the “O.”
SN Well, the reason I picked the “W” is so that I could have an A-frame place, with a big, high ceiling. So, now I’ve decided that if I’m going to live in the “W,” then we’re going to be like witchy sisters, so I have taken on a new name: Marina Del Rey. But wait, it gets better! You know the little Yorkie we brought to the studio? Her name is Mana. She’s gonna be our witchy Yorkie and her name is gonna be Mana Del Rey.
LDR [laughs] Oh my God. It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t have a little witchy guard dog.
SN So, let us start here on your new record. But let us first touch on the fact that your first record was called Born to Die. Now this [record] is Lust for Life. In between that, what is it that affected you enough to go from Born to Die to Lust for Life? Because Born to Die is pretty dark and Lust for Life is pretty light. If you have a lust for life, that’s a pretty strong statement.
LDR Yeah, they’re complete opposites, and it’s funny because when I chose the title, I didn’t think about it right away. It was the title of the first song I wrote for this record. But there are so many things that have gotten me to the point that I’m at now. One of them is just time. And because I do write everything myself, I just wanted to chronicle how I was feeling honestly, in the moment, for each record. So, I had a lot of stories that I wanted to tell that I hadn’t told yet up until this point. And now, through the last four records, I got out a lot of those stories and a lot of those feelings, and for the first time, I’ve caught myself up to real time. And now, I’m at this place where I feel like I’m really present, and when I’m reading the news, I’m really reading it, whereas before I was a little bit in my own head. So, there’s definitely been a feeling of freedom and lightness being in the present moment. That brings on that lust for life feeling, when you don’t have all of those feelings about the past weighing you down. I remember an interview that you did once where you said, “Around every corner there’s an adventure waiting to happen,” and I’m kind of in that zone right now. I just feel like whatever each day brings me is something that I need and I want. It’s just time. Time has brought me here.
SN The way that we write is like we’re writing a diary as our songs go. If I listen to all the songs from Bella Donna, and then I listen to all the songs from Wild Heart, all the songs from Rock a Little, and then I get to The Other Side of the Mirror…I was just thinking about this one song I called “Doing the Best I Can (Escape from Berlin).” It goes, [begins to sing] “It’s all right, baby, I’m doing the best that I can.” I named it that because of this idea of escape. Something horrible was going on in Berlin, and I was also finding my way. I was in a drug-filled fog at that point, fighting for survival. I look back on it and go, You were really trying to survive in 1989. And then I actually went to rehab in 1994 to get off that horrible tranquilizer, Klonopin—from there, I start watching my life come back around, starting with a record I did called Sweet Angel, which was about the aftermath of rehab and coming back into the real world. And from then on, my path started to go up. And if I had not written all those songs, even reading all my journals from that time, they wouldn’t have really told the story, but the songs really told me the story of how bad that whole thing was. And I could watch, through the songs, my life start to come back to me. I think that we put out this running commentary on not just what’s going on in our lives, but what’s going on in the world at the same time. It’s a parallel thing. So, I see you doing the same things as I did.
LDR It’s a delicate balance because you’re chronicling your own story and then you’re also reflecting back what you see. It can take work not to let your world get too small, so that you’re still in both worlds. You’ve got your world with your own inner dialogue and your own narrative and the way that you write, and then there’s everything else. It’s funny, it’s been a minute since I’ve gone through my records, but I did do it recently and I hear so much of my own self and my own stories, but I don’t get as much of the outside world as I thought [I would]. This record is really different. When there were the women’s marches, I was writing about that. There was enough space in my mind to really absorb everything. I think I was very much in the mix of culture in California over the last five years, but it feels good to feel more connected to a wider world.
SN I think we’re all much more connected with what’s going on right now.
LDR That’s true. Regardless of where someone is at personally, the current landscape jolts you into being present, if you’re not crazy. If you’re a normal person, you’re suddenly aware and watching everything.
SN And you are getting up every day and waiting to find out what new thing has happened. I have never been that way before, ever, until the last two and a half years.
LDR It’s a very different time for everybody. Because there is something new every day that you read and you’re like, Oh my God, is that real?
SN My mom used to always say to me, “You’re on a mission here. People out there who are hurting or are sad or have something horrible going on in their lives, when they walk into your house of love or your house of music, you are going to take them on your own little adventure that’s going to pull them out of their life for a minute. And hopefully, when they leave you, they’re going to take a little bit of you with them and they’re going to feel better the next day.”
LDR I love that.
SN I think as songwriters right now, there’s a lot of songs I’d like to write that wouldn’t be very nice songs, but I’m not going to do it because we’re not going to help anybody by doing that. Then we’re just going to be in with the masses and we’re not going to be above the fray. Write your songs, but remember that we’re the ones that are here to lighten, to lighten life, to light the lanterns and the little fairy lights, and try to keep people going. We have to have hope. We have to believe that this will all end up okay and that we’ll all end up okay. Because if we don’t do it, then who the hell is gonna do it?
LDR You’re right, there’s no other way. As far as I’m concerned, there’s really not another way to sensibly think about it. I was never a huge self-editor—I wrote songs and then I felt like, Okay, well that’s that. And now, I’ve found in the last two years that I’ve really been editing some of the language of some of the songs in light of the political landscape, [because] I don’t want to be a part of anything that adds to that negativity.
SN And your record, do you have favorite songs? Do you have ones that have your biggest messages or ones that you think are the most helpful to all the people that love your music? All the old women like me and the little girls that are listening?
LDR I knew that the first song I wanted to put out was “Love” because of everything you and I have been talking about so far. It’s just the age-old thing: love is all there is. And I really was feeling that way. I made a lot of records for myself, chronicling my own stories, and I’ve played so many shows now, I’ve seen all the same kind of kids and grown-ups coming to the shows, and I really wanted to make a record for them. And then, I’ve been friends with Abel [Tesfaye] from The Weeknd for a long time, and I knew I wanted to put the title track, “Lust for Life,” out second because we have so many mutual fans and I knew they would love it. And then “Coachella—Woodstock in My Mind” I wrote on my way home from Coachella when things were getting hostile between North Korea and the U.S., and all those failed missile launches, which happened the day after the first night of the festival. I feel lucky to be able to speak my mind through music right in the present moment. I think one of my favorite tracks on the record is called “Yosemite.” The chorus is [begins to sing] “We did it for fun, we did it for free, I did it for you, you did it for me, we did it for the right reasons.”
SN I love it.
LDR And that’s been the theme of my record: being in touch with what it takes to do things for the right reasons. All the actions that you need to take beyond just the words and all the decisions that I knew I wanted to make this year. And that song is special because it’s really a song about surrounding yourself with people who put their art and love first, who do it for the right reasons, not just for the money. And I have a couple of songs, like “God Bless America,” and another song called, “When the World Was at War We Just Kept Dancing,” which is about what we’ve been talking about: trying to stay positive, and just believing that things are going to be okay. And if it feels like they’re not going to be okay, we’ll try and make them okay individually and then together.
SN I have not heard all these songs.
LDR I want to play them for you the next time I see you! And I’m so proud of the song that we did, “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems.” I just love your performance on it. The people reading probably don’t know that you know my longtime producer Rick Nowels from high school, basically.
SN I’ve known your producer since he was 13 years old.
LDR He loves you so much, you know.
SN I do. It’s because we’ve been through so much together. My friend Robin [Anderson] died of leukemia and her brother got this terrible brain tumor, so Rick, Lindsey [Buckingham], and I are the survivors of those five people. And then, Rick went on to be this totally famous producer and songwriter. He started with me in 1985 on “Rock a Little,” when Jimmy Iovine dumped me and the record into Rick’s lap and said, “Goodbye, good luck.”
LDR Which is so full circle because he ended up being the head of Interscope, which I’m signed to. There are so many full circle moments.
SN I think all of these little things, in a really fairy tale way, lead me to you and lead you to me in a strange witchy way. It’s set up, like all of these things that happened with my friend Robin, and her brother, and Rick, and everyone moving down here, me being Jimmy Iovine’s girlfriend from 1980 to 1984, then him giving the record and me to Rick, basically saying, “Here, take them both and go.” All of this led to me meeting you and singing on your record. The butterfly’s wings flap in Africa and something is achieved by that butterfly across the world. That’s how this story started, I think.
LDR I don’t know if you said it in the same interview I mentioned earlier, but at some point you said that sometimes you wonder, Does anyone even notice? Sometimes you wonder when you put something out, Does anyone even notice? But it all matters. Every little thing that each person does in their individual life, even when it feels like it’s not a big decision or not a big move, matters. Just being open to beautiful things happening creates them.
SN That sentence was about how sometimes over the last 10 years I would say, “Does anybody really notice that I’m a really good singer now? How much better my voice is than it was 20 years ago?” You have a beautiful voice and I’ve already learned things to add to how I sing from you. Working on your song has changed me forever because I’ve learned from you. We are witchy sisters and that’s it. That’s where “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems” comes from, because we are trying to ride above all the problems and have hope in everything else, but it’s still a world filled with problems no matter how hard we try to change it.
LDR That’s what that song is about. It was such a special moment. It just goes back to my favorite song on the record, “Yosemite,” and doing it for the right reasons. Here we were in the studio, and when Rick and I were talking about who the other singers should be on the record, you were the only person we could both think of because of your intention and [how] that always comes through in all the music. That really closed the door on the record in the right way. It was the perfect last moment, so thank you for that.
SN Well, I am so happy that the butterfly wings flapped at the perfect time and it made it happen because I think that, in our lives to come, we’ll be able to work on many more songs together, because you know I don’t just want to sing with anybody. I just want to sing with the people that I think can make me better and make something that’s better than both of us singing by ourselves. That’s the only reason for solo artists to sing together.
LDR Amen to that.
SN You know, I think I told you this, but as I travel around the country [touring], I do get to sit down in between [shows] with my friends and hold their hands and laugh about the past, and my one friend that I wrote my first song about—the “I’ve loved and I’ve lost” song I told you about—his name is Steve. I always dedicate the song to him because I was so crazy about him when I was 15 and a half; my parents gave me this guitar and I wrote this little song about him. And I can honestly say that I was as in love with him as I have ever been in love with anybody.
LDR That’s such a beautiful thing to say. I feel the same way. Obviously when you’re at different stages in your life, things hit you harder, or just in different ways, but the way I love has always been the same. I don’t know if that’s just wholeheartedly or maybe you’re only attracted to a certain kind of person, so when that type of person comes around, you really feel it, but when these 15- and 16-year-olds are going through heartbreak, I really feel for them, because it’s real.
SN Lana Del Rey, I think we’ve filled up their entire magazine by now.
LDR You’re amazing and I can’t wait to see you. Maybe it’ll be when you move into the “W.”
SN That’s definitely going to happen soon, like next week.
LDR That’s the dream.
SN That is our dream and we make dreams come true, so it’s going to happen. I can’t wait to see you, too. I hope when people read this interview they know that kindred spirits find each other along the way and that love never dies.
This story has been shortened for web. To read the full interview, order the issue here or pick up your copy on stands July 6.