Can you tell us a bit about Visions, Dreams and Rumours?
It’s a book celebrating the life and work of Stevie Nicks, frontwoman of Fleetwood Mac. It’s a biography but it’s also got a bit of a whimsical Stevie-style 'guide to life’ element about it, for those of you who have ever asked the question, ‘What would Stevie do?’ (Which is basically everyone, right? RIGHT!)
Were you a huge Stevie Nicks fan before penning the book?
Well, I always really loved Fleetwood Mac, Stevie’s songs in particular, I think they’re just utterly transcendent and she means it, every song is precious to her and you can feel that. I also relate to a lot of the things she’s into; the love of LA, old Hollywood, rock ’n’ roll and the kind of esoteric, witchy bent! She’s a real character, an individual, she works hard and she puts her creativity first - there’s a lot to admire.
I’m careful with the word ‘fan’, just because, to me, ‘fan’ means fanatical, maybe a bit worshipful, and I don’t think biographers can do their job properly if they’re in awe of the subject of the book they’re working on. You have to be objective, no matter how much you love the artist you’re writing about. That said, you do have to love the artist you’re writing about in order to spend more than a year with that person or that band living in your head! It’s quite an intense process so if you’re not into them or you don’t at least find them interesting, it’s going to be a drag and, more importantly, you won’t do them justice.
Your other books represent quite a broad cross-section of musical history, from Jesus and Mary Chain to Florence and the Machine – would you describe your taste as eclectic?
I’m musically greedy! But I also like people who just try things, people who go for it, who are driven and creative and passionate - occasionally there have been people I’ve written about whom I’ve, at least initially, felt relatively indifferent about in terms of the music they make, but there’s always something that appeals, often that person’s attitude and heart.
How did you get involved with Writing on the Wall?
My friend Gavin Martin was hosting a series of nights called ‘Talking Musical Revolutions’ which I was involved in, basically a night of rock ’n’ roll writers reading from their wares depending on the given theme. We came up and did a TMR as part of Writing On The Wall - a Beatles-themed evening during which I read from my book 'How’s Your Dad?' Living In The Shadow Of A Rock Star Parent (the excerpt I read was about the Beatle kids) and I just loved what WOW were doing. So we kept in touch!
What can audiences expect from the event on 21 May?
An evening of Stevie Nicks-themed chat, some readings from the book, some music, clips, vintage interviews… a Stevie cornucopia!
Can you tell us more about Rockanory and how you set that up?
I just love reading music books, always have. I love the fact that reading a (good) music book can bring out new colours and flavours in the music you love and give you a new understanding and a sense of context. (So I take a dim view of that ‘writing about music is like dancing about architecture’ quote!)
I set up a YouTube channel and just read from a selected book each time - just whatever I chose to pick from the shelf that day. I wanted to celebrate classic music writing, or share music writing that might not have been familiar. That was basically it!
I decided to revive the Rockanory concept and make it a more regular thing when I teamed up with a great gang of people known as Free Seed Films; Ben Gallagher, Anabel Barnston and Steve Harcourt. They broadcast a show every Wednesday morning on Soho Radio, and I now broadcast a Rockanory segment once a month on their show! It’s great fun and rather more sociable than just doing the videos at home. Writing in itself can be quite solitary and intense so it’s good to have a bit of contrast. The Free Seed team always put together a fantastic and very culturally diverse show, and they have great taste in music. What’s cool about that is that it’s a breakfast show, and I’m reading my rock ’n’ roll bedtime stories for all those people out there who are just staggering off to bed at about 11.30 in the morning (you know, rock stars, vampires, ne’er do wells, night-shifters). Very Soho, darling!
You’ve done an interview with Bay TV – what do you think of Liverpool’s local telly station?
I think it’s great and really important! Culturally Liverpool is so vibrant and strong, so it's brilliant that a community television station like this exists, it strengthens and supports the scene. I felt very privileged to be invited on, particularly as my family have very strong roots in Liverpool going right back.
What advice would you give to any aspiring musical critics?
Listen, be respectful, don’t interrupt (if you’re interviewing someone), keep your promises if someone tells you something ‘off the record’, be sensitive but don’t be a sap, do your research and if you’re ‘critiquing’ something, whatever it is, bear in mind that someone - a human being - has more often than not put a great deal of energy, time, heart and soul into the making of it.
Find out more about Zoë's work at zoehowe.com or follow her on Twitter @zoehowe
Book your place at the book launch on Thursday 21 May here.
Image credits: Photo courtesy Ian Treherne