Stevie Nicks charmed a capacity audience at the Bay Street Theatre on Sunday, where she discussed “In Your Dreams — Stevie Nicks,” documenting the making of her 2011 album. The film premiered at the Sag Harbor Cinema following the talk as part of the Hamptons International Film Festival.
Ms. Nicks is best known for the stratospheric success of Fleetwood Mac and subsequent hits as a solo artist including “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” “Edge of Seventeen (Just Like the White Winged Dove),” and “Stand Back.”
She recorded “In Your Dreams” at her Los Angeles house, rather than in a studio. “When you make a record in your house, you are able to really be yourself because you’re in your place,” Ms. Nicks told the audience in describing how she, her co-producer Dave Stewart, and the other musicians, engineers, and assistants spent the 11 months that she calls the best year of her life.
Despite nearly four decades of collaboration with bandmates and other artists including Tom Petty, Don Henley, and Sheryl Crow, she had never composed music with another artist until Mr. Stewart agreed to co-produce “In Your Dreams.”
“When we started this record, Dave said, ‘I hope we can write some songs together,’ ” Ms. Nicks told the audience, quickly confessing that she had no such intention. Even with Lindsey Buckingham — with whom she had a long romantic relationship, released an album in 1973, and joined Fleetwood Mac in 1974 — she had never co-written music, fearful of the inevitable hurt feelings that would follow an unsuccessful collaboration. “The writing of a song was selfishly mine,” she said.
Mr. Stewart had traveled a similar path, as musical and romantic partner with Annie Lennox in their band, Eurythmics. Ms. Nicks chronicled that shared experience as “went together, lived together for five years, broke up, formed a band that got hugely famous. That’s the underlying thing that Dave and I had, that we both came from these strange and crazy duos where you’re in love, you’re living together, you’re doing music together, and you try not to let one get in the way of the other. That’s hard sometimes, because when you love somebody, you don’t really want to tell them that what they’re doing is stupid.”
Ms. Nicks’s resistance finally gave way, she said, after she gave Mr. Stewart a book of her poetry, which, to her surprise, he read in full. “I’m going to go with this, I’m going to give him a chance,” she recalled thinking. “I would never give Lindsey a chance, because Lindsey and I had way too much baggage. I didn’t have that kind of baggage with Dave Stewart, so I didn’t have all the reasons to hate him,” she said, to laughter and applause. “I was an open book with Dave.”
Mr. Stewart, she said, “never puts you in that place where you feel like you’ve hurt him. He has daughters, so he’s really good with women. He understands that we’re sensitive, and that sometimes we’re going to go along with stuff that we don’t really love because we don’t want to hurt your feelings, but he can read you. We would never get to that place where there would be a harsh word or argument.”
Ms. Nicks also discussed how a vastly changed popular music landscape, in which recordings are freely downloaded and shared online, discouraged her from releasing more music. The physical formats that reigned in the 1960s and ’70s — the LP, 8-track, and cassette — were more conducive to a closer relationship between artist and audience, she said, in part due to the formats’ limitations. Unlike the present-day prevalence of personal MP3 players and computer-based storage of music, in which anything from a vast collection of songs can be chosen on demand, or songs can simply be played in a random sequence, music fans tended to listen to an entire album. “The world used to give you more of a chance,” she lamented.
In a conversation on Friday at c/o the Maidstone, which served as festival headquarters, Ms. Nicks recalled that she met Mr. Stewart nearly 30 years ago at a Eurythmics concert in Los Angeles. A few years later, he wrote a song for her called “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” which was ultimately completed and recorded, to great acclaim, by Tom Petty. “We ended up writing seven songs together on this record,” Ms. Nicks said of her collaboration with Mr. Stewart.
On tour with Fleetwood Mac in 2009, Ms. Nicks wrote the song that became “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream),” featured on “In Your Dreams.” She had not recorded a solo album since 2001’s critically acclaimed but commercially disappointing “Trouble in Shangri-La,” but a voice within told her to call Mr. Stewart. “I was never going to make another record because I was so disappointed in what happened to ‘Trouble in Shangri-La,’ ” she said. “If it doesn’t sell a single copy,” she told Mr. Stewart, “I don’t care. Would you produce it?”
After one day together, Mr. Stewart suggested they film the proceedings. Again, Ms. Nicks was reluctant. “ ‘Oh Dave, do you know what filming this means? Look at me, I’m in my cozy, grubby clothes. Are you kidding?’ And he said, ‘If you don’t like it, we don’t use it. We’ll pay for it, you and me. It’s ours. If you don’t like it, we’ll put it in the Dumpster.’ ”
Having secured Mr. Stewart’s assurances, they began to record and film. The next 11 months, she said, were magical. “As the days went by, we all just so got into it. When we’d hit a snag, we’d run upstairs, I’d bring down hats and scarves and bracelets and rhinestones. We’d dress all the boys up. We looked like a circus! It was just hours and hours of fun every day.”
When the sessions concluded and everyone left, Ms. Nicks was disconsolate. “Me and my little dog were sitting on the stairs, and I put my head in my hands and cried. I thought, I never wanted this to end. I really would have been happy if we had kept recording for the rest of our lives.”