Lindsey Buckingham on his ‘mythology’ with Stevie Nicks, what is holding up a new album, and the latest on Christine McVie
Fleetwood Mac is having tremendous success on its current sold-out tour. The band is playing its classic hits with verve and enthusiasm, plus, since the recent release of 4-song EP, Extended Play, the quartet has new material to sink its teeth into. Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham spoke to HitFix about the current state of Fleetwood Mac, the delight he takes in his still dynamic connection to Stevie Nicks, the latest on a full album from the band, and if Christine McVie will join her former band mates when they play London in the fall.
I saw the band two weekends ago at Jazz Fest in New Orleans and it seemed like you were on fire. The band was playing in daylight without any of the bells and whistles of an indoor arena show and no one missed them at all.
There’s a lesson there. We’ve all come to feel that we need to rely on the constructions of quite elaborate set design and the backdrop that changes from song to song and, really, this band, because we are a band of musicians and a great singer, we could go up there and with a couple of spotlights prevail probably just as well. It should be about the music first and, of course, with us, it is.
“Extended Play,” a four-song EP with your first new music in 10 years, came out on April 30 and landed in iTunes top 10. How gratifying was it that people were so eager to hear new music?
I haven’t paid too much attention to how things are going with it because, really, Mick [Fleetwood] and John [McVie] and I got together last year and we cut a bunch of tracks and then Stevie came to the table later. Even early on, Mick and John and I felt that the songs that we were doing were some of the best stuff we’d done in quite a while.
I am also happy with what it represents with the subject matter. The dialogues to Stevie that are, miraculously, still going on back and forth between Stevie and myself after all these years, I find that to be quite touching and somewhat surprising— something that neither one of us would have predicted years and years ago that we’d still somehow be driving each other’s motivation from a distance, and so I’m very happy with the way the EP turned out and it’s great to be doing some new things on stage.
You wrote one of the new songs, “Sad Angel,” for Stevie. What was her reaction when she first heard it?
I was not there, but I believe she latched onto it immediately. [When] that song was written, I was trying to reach out to her a little bit… she had a very good experience making her solo album [2011’s “In Your Dreams”] and it took her awhile to kind of sort of ease into the mentality of being in Fleetwood Mac again this time… That was a song to help lure her in a little bit, not that there was an agenda to do that, but it just seemed appropriate to what was going on at the time… “Hello Sad Angel, have you come to fight the war” and “Here we are, we fall to earth together/the crowd calling out for more.” It’s really sort of sweet that all of this is still taking place.
With piano ballad “It Takes Time,” you’re pleading for patience to someone who wants to heal you. What’s that about?
I guess the reflection is that I’m actually looking at some of the actions that I’ve taken over the years and maybe judging them more objectively and maybe getting to a point in one’s life where you can look back and say, “Hmmm, maybe I could have done that differently” and acknowledging that much of the motivation that has driven certain creative actions and certain decisions has come from that dialogue that seems to have unfolded in slow motion over a period of many years. We are still somehow on a road of evolvement.
Is that one about Stevie?
I would think so.
It’s not the only relationship you’ve had, so I wasn’t sure.
But, you know, you can slip into these roles and it’s not that the feelings that you have aren’t… it doesn’t mean they are any less authentic. But at this point, to some degree, what Stevie and I have, we’ve played these characters for so long, you know, and it doesn’t threaten anything having to do with my home life, my wife completely understands the dynamic of it. There’s a certain aspect of professionalism to it.
Do you feel that in some way now it’s part of your role to keep playing into this mythology?
Well, it’s a mixed bag. There is the mythology and there is, you could call it, a role, but you know that doesn’t mean we haven’t lived it. If you backtrack all the way back to Rumours, when all of this mythology rose up, if you look at the appeal of that album, it went beyond the music. It was, whether people could identify it or not, this idea that under less than ideal circumstances, in fact, under quite emotionally challenging and painful circumstances, that we were able to somehow summon up the strength to rise above that and to sort of follow through on what we needed to do fulfill our destiny, if you want to call it that. And so the subtext of Rumours becomes not the soap opera part so much as that it was an act of will and that has continued. Where reality stops and where the role begins, it’s a little fuzzy in there, you know.
So not just for us, but for you two too?
For us too! Yeah, and I think that’s appropriate and I don’t know how it could really be any other way because of how it began, you know.
This is the first tour since 2009. Every time you guys come back together for a tour, you must discover something new about Mick, John and Stevie. What have you discovered about each one of them this time that you didn’t know?
(laughs) Wow… As far as Stevie goes, again, if you go back to that song “It Takes Time” and thinking maybe about times in the past when maybe I could have shown her a little more love or shown her a way to make her process a bit easier. From the first day of rehearsal, I had that in mind to try to do.
I think that difference between Stevie and me right now on this tour: If you go back two tours to 2003, we had just finished doing our last album, Say You Will, and I had produced that. And there was a certain, I wouldn’t call it an animosity, but there was a lot of tension between Stevie and me. Some of that polarity clearly played out on stage and, in a way, it made for a very interesting show. When you cut to 2009, that had been kind of neutralized, but there was nothing so tangible between us. And now, it’s sort of swung the other way where there’s more of a connection. There’s more of a mutual acknowledgement of what we’ve been through, an openness to acknowledge it on stage.
With John and Mick, the only thing I’d say about John and Mick on this tour is that they are both personally in, I think, the best places I’ve seen them in a long time and possibly because of that, I have never heard the two of them play better as a rhythm section and, of course, they are one of the great rhythm sections in rock. Consequently, as a band, we are playing about the best I can ever remember us ever playing.
You brought up that there may be a new album, but given the difficulty of getting these four songs together, should the fans not be holding their breath?
What needs to happen now if we are to do a complete album— because I think my portion of the material is not only written and recorded, but probably mostly finished— Stevie needs to come with some new material… She’s not like me, I work alone a lot when I do my solo stuff. It’s like going down to the studio and painting. I’m kind of self sufficient… With Stevie, she will write lyrics and keep them in a file and a lot of times she doesn’t even come up with melodies until later, until someone says, ‘well, you’ve got to come up with something.”
There are two scenarios that could lead to new material for Stevie, some of it would be her coming up with new songs. I have a lot of very raw stuff that has no lyrics yet…and if she wanted to sort of co-write on that level, I would love to look into [that] because we’ve never really done that. That’s an intriguing possibility. But that’s what it’s going to take: for her to bring, in one way or another, some stuff to the table so we have a balanced representation between the two writers.
I’m not overly worried about what we do. Hey, if we don’t do an album, we could always do another EP. That would be another option, so I don’t really know what’s going to happen.
Extended Play also features “Miss Fantasy,” a new track with very classic Fleetwood Mac harmonies. How did that come about?
That was sort of in a moment when I’d had some interaction with Stevie where I felt like I was tapping into the whole lexicon of memories and of emotional connections going all the way back to before she and I were a couple. She was really much caught up in the world of her solo effort. It was right at the end of that and I felt like it was hard to kind of find her in all of that or that perhaps more accurately, it was harder for her to find me, and the person that she knew and trusted and so you know, “Miss Fantasy,” it may be “you don’t remember me/but I remember you” and that’s really what that’s about.
Any truth to the rumors that Christine McVie, who left after 1997’s “The Dance,” might get on stage with Fleetwood Mac in London?
We did see Christine. She was in LA [on her way back from Maui]. Mick got her to come over to Maui for awhile… When she was living in LA and finally left the band, it was for a number of reasons. I think she really needed to burn as many bridges as she could. She got a divorce, she sold her house, she sold her publishing, she quit the band, she moved back to England. It was a radical set of things that she did all at once. Some of the reasons for that, I don’t exactly grasp, but, you know, what are you going to do?
She is very welcome to come up and do “Don’t Stop,” or whatever she wants to do. We’ll have to wait and see if she’s comfortable. I think it would be wonderful.
When the five of you had dinner in LA recently, how long had it been since you had all been together?
The last couple of times we were on tour and we played in London, she came to the shows, but it was very, very fleeting. Probably [not] since she left the band had we actually sat down for several hours and been able to just kind of interact in a more leisurely way.
What comes next for you after the tour is over later this year?
If it were up to me, what I would do is go into the studio with Fleetwood Mac and actually finish an album and put out a whole album. Maybe look at stringing not a whole year, but a big chunk of time behind that [to tour] and do something that we have not done in years and years, which is string a few experiences together without these long breaks.
My guess is even if we didn’t do that, there are more places in the States that we have not played yet that we’d probably want to get to after the first of the year after we come back from Australia.
Melinda Newman / HitFix / Monday, May 13, 2013