The Mac Daddy
Lindsey Buckingham talks of going back to basics, Fleetwood Mac, and showing off.
By Paul Elliott
“I have a genuine need to get all this music out,” says Lindsey Buckingham. Fifty-seven and a father of three, he could be talking it easy these days. It’s not as if he needs to work: his on-off tenure as guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer for Fleetwood Mac has seen to that. But Buckingham is as busily creative now as he’s ever been, having recently released his fourth solo album. Written, recorded and mixed in hotel rooms during the last Fleetwood tour, Under The Skin was both critically lauded and in harmony with neo-folkers like Vetiver or Devendra Banhart. He has its follow-up already written, and admits he’d like to make another Fleetwood Mac album too. But with the Mac on indefinite hiatus, Buckingham the free-standing artist is flourishing. “I love that innocent idea of presentation on those great old ‘70s records,” he muses.
How did you find time to make an album during that Mac tour?
Simple. We’re lucky if we do three shows in a week, because Stevie [Nicks] needs time to rest her voice. So we had a lot of days off, and there are only so many movies you can watch on the hotel TV.
Under The Skin is very much a solo album, just your voice and guitar.
I’m very happy with it, because in one sense it’s a departure, but in another sense it’s going back to an approach I was more in touch with before I was in Fleetwood Mac. On the last tour, I’d played simpler versions of some old songs like Big Love, and I wanted to translate that style to this record. It’s like Blue by Joni Mitchell. There’s so little on that record. There’s a real purity about it, a very intimate feel.
It’s markedly different to your previous solo records.
I went back and listened to them recently. I’m not crazy about the first one [Law And Order] but Go Insane is better, even though Roy Thomas Baker [producer] spent most of the time just barking orders. I’d have to smoke a big joint to be able to listen to all of it, and I haven’t done that in a long time. I hope nobody is listening in to this conversation… I’m clean, look in my bag!
Three solo albums in 25 years – and now, perhaps, two inside a year? And the next one a rock album?
Yeah, let’s rock! Well, that’s what some people are saying, haha. There’s maybe more interest in the idea of a conventional rock album, and it would certainly make the marketing strategy easier. But those things come second to doing something that’s true to myself.
Was that the thinking behind the autobiographical lyrics on Under The Skin, like when you speak of being a “visionary” on Cast Away Dreams.
That was inspired by a review in Rolling Stone of the first Fleetwood Mac albums that myself and Stevie were on. It referred to me as the misunderstood visionary. I don’t think of myself as that so much as someone who learned to be his own biggest fan.
In the same song you also reflect upon the impact your musician’s ego has on your family life.
That’s an overstatement for the drama of the song. But, I’ve seen my kids look disappointed and even now, they don’t always understand my work. They were with me on the Fleetwood Mac tour, and my youngest son said something about daddy showing off in front of all these people. I guess he had a point. I was playing a lot more rock guitar, and there was definitely more testosterone going on – well, what little I have left.
Have you seen the rest of the band since that tour ended?
I speak to Mick [Fleetwood] a few times a year. I saw Stevie a few months ago. She gave me a setlist of what we should play the next time we’re on the road. It’ll happen. But when, I’m not sure. We may make another record, but it’s difficult to tell.
Nothing is ever simple with Fleetwood Mac.
That’s true. But hey, that’s what makes it so interesting. We’ve never all been on the same page, taste-wise. We really have no business being in a band together.