When you listen to Stevie Nicks’ new album, In Your Dreams, sit on a couch with two huge speakers at your side - hopefully in front of a fireplace - pour yourself a glass of port, and take it in from start to finish.
That’s the request Nicks made after the screening of her self-produced documentary Friday night during the 35th Mill Valley Film Festival. The film chronicles the year she spent recording her first solo alum in more than a decade, with Eurythmics' Dave Stewart, who joined Nicks on stage at the sold-out Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.
Nicks' ties to the Bay Area run deep. She lived in San Francisco from 1968 to 1971, and recorded the renowned Fleetwood Mac album Rumours at the former Record Plant in Sausalito during a stretch that had the group regularly piling into the studio's outdoor hot tub.
For this latest album, the magic happened at Nicks’ own mansion in Pacific Palisades – although the 64-year-old rock 'n' roll icon actually lives with her dog in a one-bedroom condo a few minutes away. With people like Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham, Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and 'her girls,' backup singers Sharon Celani and Lori Nicks, all together under one roof, for Nicks it became “the moments that I live for.”
“I really wanted it to go on forever,” she said. Documenting the experience has been a way for her to relive it, and she also hopes it influences up and coming musicians about how much fun the process of creating an album can be.
“We are the teachers,” she said. “And it’s important in this day and age that all the kids who are following us need to know how to do it – and do it right.”
The documentary captures moments that unveil the spirit of the album, and of Nicks herself. From lighthearted disagreements over changing the tense of a pronoun mid-song – “I just snapped and said, ‘would you say that to Bob Dylan?’” Nicks said – to the heavy emotions she experienced after Hurricane Katrina and when she volunteered helping wounded veternas at Walter Reed Hospital, her inspiration shines behind each and every song, and paints an intimate portrait of what's behind the music.
In a touching moment, a girl in the audience, Amber, told Nicks how her music gave her and her friends something to believe in during a difficult time when they were about 13 or 14-years-old.
"That's all I ever wanted to do with my songs," Nicks said. "I just want to affect people." Whenever she receives notes and mail from people, it gets tucked away into one of her journals.
Nicks also talked candidly about her struggles with addiction - "I loved both my rehabs," she said - the importance of parents supporting their kids' dreams even if it means letting them discover they really can't sing on their own, and her difficulty dealing with the death of her mother in December 2011.
She highlighted some choice words, which she later apologized for, against American Idol judge Nicki Minaj in response to the hip-hop star's altercation with fellow judge Mariah Carey.
"That was the first time something happened when I couldn't call my mom and ask what to do," Nicks said.
She also talked about how difficult it is to make it in the music industry today. The advice she gave was to form a band, have a place like your parent's garage to rehearse in, and play as much as you can in one city and then grow from there.
"It's a different world out there," Stewart said, and Nicks had a nostalgic moment for 1975.
"It was such a romantic time," she said. "It doesn't mean we were all having affairs - we were - but it was romantic overall."
The documentary In Your Dreams captures both the old and the new, and proves that good music never dies.
"My hope is when people see this, they're going to want to hear this record," Nicks said. "Because this record is magnificent."