In what seems like a sequel to Edge of Seventeen, Stevie sings about a "nightbird" again - but this time the nightbird refers to herself. The song begins talking about how Stevie was not ready for the hardships, but she was prepared for them - she "wears boots all summer long" and is always on her guard, always playing the game. Still, constantly being on one's guard takes a toll: she begins to wear down physically and also feels like she's not really being seen for who she is - no one can see "the real color of [her] skin" because they never see her eyes "without any shadow." So, she turns to her music in an almost mournful way - she's the nightbird who "cries", running away clutching that famous cape around her for protection. She wants to reveal her true self, though - she wants to "pull back the net of the face" and show her eyes to the world, to share "the touch" that everyone "want[s] so much."
This beautiful song was written after Stevie's best friend Robin passed away. Stevie was on the Mirage tour when she died, which must have been heartbreaking for her. To not be able to hold Robin in her last days and to not be able to be there for her must have crushed Stevie. I believe that this song is about Robin, and is dedicated to her spirit.
She begins by stating that the "summer became the fall". Robin got sick, and began to slowly slip away. She says that she "was not ready for the winter". She wasn't ready for Robin's death, but she was prepared for it because she "wears boots all summer long". Bad situations always happen, no matter how good things can get. Here she uses summer to represent the good times and winter the represent the bad ones. Fall seems to be what happens in between, moments leading up to those bad times.
In the next verse she says that her "eye make-up's dark and it's careless". She puts on "make-up" every day to hide who she really is. When her eyes are "without any shadow" you can see the "real colour of her skin". If you look beyond her stage persona, the boots and the glitter, you can find out who she really is.
The chorus is kind of hard to understand. I think she refers to Robin here. She asks if she calls for her, will she "walk gently through my shadow". When Stevie travelled to record and tour for Mirage, all she left was her shadow. She wasn't really there to comfort Robin. So then Robin walked through Stevie's shadow, and she passed on to the next world. Stevie and her backing vocalists are the "ones who sing at night". Robin is the one "who walks away", by dying. Stevie has her "cape pulled around her tight" so no one can know who she really is, so she can hide her pain.
"The winter's really here now", Robin has died. "And the blankets that she loves" are covering her. The blankets of depression that she loves. Stevie has said that sometimes she likes to be sad and depressed, because some of her best writing comes out at those times. But "sometimes she's surrounded by too much love". Sometimes she just wants to be alone and deal with her grief. The love that's around her is too much for her to take, she just wants Robin's love again.
Now Robin's "in the darkness" of death. It's "hard to see her face" now that she's gone. It's hard to remember her. She again mentions the "white-winged dove". Like in Edge of Seventeen, I believe the white-winged dove symbolizes the spirit of a person. It doesn't matter if the person have passed on, the spirit remains. Here, she refers to Robin again. She "feels the touch" of her spirit. It's Robin's touch, the "touch that she wanted so much" when she couldn't be there for her.
At the end of the song, Stevie finally gets to "see the eyes of a nightbird". She see's Robin in her memories and in her dreams. "Finally...the nightbird" is with her "tonight". She's the "one she dreams of". She will always be a part of Stevie, and Stevie will always see Robin as the "Nightbird" of her dreams.
My best friend is a piece of my very soul... I can't even imagine how much pain a loss like that would cause, how devastated she must have been. It is most admirable that Stevie was able to write about such grief and turn it into a beautiful song for the world to enjoy. I think she will always "cry for the nightbird", the best friend who passed away, for no one, nothing, could ever fill the void in your heart that such a loss would cause.