June 2nd, 2017
It’s a Monday after noon on the Sony Pictures Lot when I drive on to meet Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie as the two iconic singer/songwriters rehearse for their upcoming tour in celebration of Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie, their first album as the duo of Buckingham and McVie.
When I tell the guard who I am there to see, he replies, “Really? I love them both.” In hindsight, it is no surprise. Maybe more than any other band, Fleetwood Mac defined the marriage of pop and rock, crafting some of the most beloved and iconic songs of the rock era. Between the two of them, Buckingham and McVie wrote or played a part in “Go Your Own Way,” “Never Going Back Again,” “Over My Head” and the sublime “Songbird,” among countless more rock era standards.
Given the beauty, majesty and universality they have conveyed so many times before it’s not surprising that in rediscovering their musical connection after almost two decades apart the pair of Buckingham and McVie have crafted arguably the perfect album for 2017. While most of music understandably tries to make sense of and protest the current administration and the continued global atrocities happening on a daily basis, Buckingham and McVie have delivered an album of hope and optimism, one that brings a much-needed sweetness back to the world of music for a sublime 45 minutes of near perfect pop.
I was fortunate to speak with the two greats about the superb new album.
Steve Baltin: This is day six of rehearsals?
Lindsey Buckingham: Yes, we came in and basically did a lot of prep, which we thought was only gonna take a couple of days and someone had given us a lot of stuff that was not usable and we had to start over. Took most of the first week, so there wasn’t a lot of getting up and playing the first week.
Baltin: Was there a track early on where you knew this would become this album?
Buckingham: I don’t think there was any track in particular. And it’s funny cause there is kind of the illusion that the whole thing didn’t take too long and if you add it up, the time in the studio, it didn’t. But it was done in fits and starts. You actually have to predate Christine’s return because some of the stuff of mine had gotten started with John [McVie] and Mick [Fleetwood] before she came back. So that was sitting on the shelf and that did make the process go quicker. But [then] Christine called Mick, and then she and I had a conversation about it, and I think the only thing I said to you was, “Well, if you come back, you can’t leave again, you gotta commit, you can’t leave us.” But the idea of us going in and revisiting that aspect as opposed to just keeping it about touring and it was such a thrill to have her tell me that she had all these ideas. I think the moment of it seeming like something of substance and something that was gonna be profound and something that was a duet album happened very quickly because we got in the studio and there was just this chemistry and this ease and perhaps even this enhanced ability to have a dynamic and a shared sensibility that had been somehow improved upon by the time apart.
McVie: But we didn’t really go in there with a plan. It was just when I was over here to rehearse for the upcoming shows.
Baltin: Duets don’t really exist anymore, now you have features. You don’t get the Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell type albums anymore. Was there a template or inspiration for the idea of a duets album?
Buckingham: There was just something about the symmetry of the two and how in the context of just the two writers something more coherent and a little bit larger, and like I say, a common heart seemed to rise up out of that.
McVie: That’s been going on for ad infinitum.
Baltin: You left the band in ’98, so by the time you rejoined it was 16 or 17 years later.
McVie: Yeah, it was a hell of a retirement.
Baltin: Both of you evolve and change as songwriters and you grow as musicians. So when you started working on this together talk about how you had each seen the other grow as a songwriter.
Buckingham: That’s quite an apt observation because, at least for me, during that time I took this radical turn in my personal life. After years of living out that musical soap opera or whatever the anti-version of that was, and met someone and started having kids at a relatively late age. So on a personal level there was this whole other thing that got tapped into and this grounding that finally had happened and it answered a lot of questions that had been maybe out there. So coming back in with Christine, again it was so profound I was able to take all of that forward motion and reapply it to a dynamic that had already existed between us. There was already such a shared sense of respect and sense of common ground and being soulmates in a strange way…
McVie: Yeah, very musical, absolutely.
Buckingham: So it was just a nice moment to get back to.
McVie: Yeah, 15 years, I just felt that the time had come for to hang up my boots I think at that point. But I didn’t realize that wasn’t the time. For me, it was time to move back to England and I lived in this sort of semi-retired world and I really very rarely looked at my piano for years. What I really wanted to do was get back to my musical family, but I didn’t know that until that time.
Baltin: When was this material written?
Buckingham: Pretty much all of it was written maybe a year and a half before Christine came back. What was good about that was John and Mick had been in town, we were getting ready to rehearse the last four-piece tour before she came back. And the three of us went in the studio because I had this stuff I wanted to try with them and I hadn’t really worked with them for a while. Then we went out on tour. So I didn’t even have a chance to think about what I was gonna do with that cause we got done with the tour and really you were already working your way into the fabric at the end of that tour. We played in Ireland and Christine came up and sang “Don’t Stop” and clearly that was on the radar already. It had been a long time since we did two tours that close together and that was why, because you came back and we segued out of that. Otherwise I might have thought about doing another solo album and working that material with John and Mick into that. But suddenly here was Christine sending me stuff and I’m thinking, “Okay, this is cool, this works with the stuff we cut with John and Mick.”
McVie: Then after we finished, which ended up being a world tour, then, cause they were so good those songs, I remember thinking, “We’ve got do something.”
Buckingham: We knew we were gonna do it by then. We spent six weeks or so in the studio tracking these things and putting rough parts on them and then we started rehearsing to go on the road. So you talk about shelf time you talk about these things of mine that have been on the shelf for three years. The stuff we cut with you ended up being on the shelf a year and a half and then we finally got back to it.
Baltin: Funny how the timing worked out because so much music this year is so dark in lieu of the impending world apocalypse, but there is a sweetness and innocence to this record.
Buckingham Yes, a song like “In My World,” I think about that a lot, I think someone thought I wrote that after Trump because I guess everything is a bit of a Rorschach, so it just seems to fit. But again we tend to show our optimistic sides much of the time and you get out your sense of optimism and possibility and hope.
McVie: Well, I write about unrequited love in a very optimistic way (laughs).
Buckingham: The cool thing is, especially because John and Mick are on it, there are these things that are quite familiar, even old school. Then there’s the freshness that’s on top of that that is everything we’ve been talking about — the distance, the personal growth of the individuals coming back together and remaking the equation.