By CLAIR WOODWARD
PUBLISHED: 00:01, Sun, May 28, 2017
FLEETWOOD Mac star Christine McVie reveals why she returned to the spotlight with her band… and a new duet album.
The new album from Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie feels like a big, warm hug.
The great melodies, intimate harmonies and terrific arrangements are instantly recognisable as coming from two of the band’s songwriters yet they’re new and intriguing enough to make it more than just another side project from an iconic group.
And for Christine, 73 – the understated genius behind the keyboards in Fleetwood Mac and writer of some of their most recognisable songs (Don’t Stop, Little Lies, Say You Love Me, Hold Me and Everywhere) – the sensation of reconnecting with old friends was the inspiration behind the new collaboration.
She officially retired from the band in 1998, after stepping away from touring a few years earlier, and it was her return to it for the 2015 reunion tour that sparked the collaboration with Lindsey.
“The whole band was just chemistry abounding but Lindsey and I, me being the piano player and him the guitar player, understand each other musically without saying anything.
“We’ve always worked well together over the years but never thought about doing an album together until recently and now we wonder why we didn’t think about doing it before.
“The moment I knew I was going back into the band I flew over to Santa Monica to start rehearsals but, before that, I’d sent Lindsey a few demos of stuff I’d recorded and he went into his studio to arrange them. He played them back to me and I said, ‘These sound really great.’ So we decided to go and record them properly. (Fittingly, fellow Mac members Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, on drums and bass, also perform on the album.)
“After we finished the world tour, Lindsey got in touch and said, ‘What are we going to do with these songs, they’re too good to just shelve?’ So we decided to go ahead with releasing a duet album.”
Christine’s return to Fleetwood Mac and her new burst of creativity comes at a time when many people thought that, after several years away from the hurly-burly of rock star life, she would never be seen on stage again.
In the intervening years she moved from California where she had lived for the best part of 30 years (she grew up in Birmingham and moved to London after attending art college), and bought a beautiful country home in the village of Wickhambreaux, Kent, which she spent several years restoring.
“I felt very at home in California but the place is prone to earthquakes and the one in 1994 scared the life out of me. For months afterwards I felt that every time I sat down I should have put on a seatbelt. It was really bad and I thought, ‘I’m going to get a house in England.’ I got to a point where I’d been in a band for 40 years and wanted to get back to real life.”
Yet being a lady of leisure eventually proved to be not enough for Christine.
“I started to say, ‘OK, now what?’ I had my two dogs there, they were my life. My marriage (to keyboardist Eddy Quintela) fell through, so I was living on my own and felt isolated. Most of my friends were in London or Los Angeles and worked nine-to-five for a living.
“I did have some friends living with me for a while but, eventually, I reached a point where it was time to start changing things.”
The catalyst for this change was Christine’s need to overcome her fear of flying and the intervention of Mick Fleetwood.
“I had a horrible terror that the next plane I got on would crash,” she remembers.
“So I had therapy to get over that, and other issues I’d developed through isolation, and sorted myself out. My therapist and I discussed the idea of me writing songs again and trying to reach out to the rest of the band as well.
“The therapist asked where I wanted most to fly if I could and I said Maui (one of the Hawaiian islands), as Mick lives there and I have a lot of friends there. So I just bought the ticket without knowing if I’d actually go. I’d always stayed in touch with Mick and soon after I bought the ticket he said he was coming to London, so we met up and I flew back to Maui with him. I didn’t even notice the wheels leave the ground. Since then, it’s been great. I’ve even flown in Africa in one of those prop jobs.”
While with Mick in Maui, he persuaded her to get on stage with his local band, gradually coaxing her back into the idea of returning to her musical career.
“Steven Tyler, from Aerosmith, was there. We belted out a few songs and I just thought, ‘This is good…’”
Christine admits that it was performing live that sustained her through her final years before she left Fleetwood Mac.
“When I first left, I didn’t miss it as I was tired of the travelling. The gigs were the only thing that really sustained me.”
And after her long break, being back with her bandmates has given her a new lease of life.
The closing track on the Lindsey Buckingham/ Christine McVie album is called Carnival Begin, written by Christine and with its lyrics of “I want it all… a new merry-go-round” it is clear that she has a strong appetite for change. Fleetwood Mac’s famously colourful previous life, where sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll made for a potent combination, is now a thing of the past and they are enjoying better personal relationships and new respect from audiences.
“Underlying the band now is a great sense of affection,” reflects Christine.
“We bind together my style, Lindsey’s style and Stevie’s (Nicks) style as songwriters, and it’s a democratic band in that we make sure everyone has the same amount of songs to sing both onstage and on record, although I have to say, it’s Lindsey that really directs the band.”
Next month, Christine and Lindsey are touring the States with the new album and she is looking forward to it after Fleetwood Mac’s triumphant world tour in 2015.
“We had such a great range of ages in the audience, from people who bought our albums the first time around to their children and grandchildren.
“I think we’ve become a hip band to the younger generation. After being seen as middle-of-the-road, we are now fashionable again.”
Christine is now living in London and when she gets back from touring in America she will decorate her new house, which is currently “an empty shell filled with cardboard boxes”.
Who looks after her beloved dogs when she’s away, I ask?
“They passed last year. They were very obliging,” she laughs.
“My other house was for sale. They were 16 and had had a good life. It was sad but things came together at the right time. Everything is for the good in the end.”
The single In My World is out now; the album Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie is released on June 9 on Rhino Records.