Going his own way with solo album, tour
By Jonathan Perry
Boston Globe Correspondent
October 11, 2006
At age 59, Fleetwood Mac singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham has been many things: long-haired singer-songwriter from Palo Alto, Calif.; worshiped rock star; introspective solo artist; and, most famously, a principal architect behind Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 dysfunctional masterpiece, “Rumours,” one of the best-selling albums of all time, and still the soundtrack to countless breakups and makeups.
Buckingham has just released “Under the Skin,” a luminously intimate, reflective work and his first solo album in 14 years. Friday night he’ll bring a three-piece band with him to the Orpheum Theatre to play the new songs, and probably a few older ones too. We caught up with Buckingham by phone from a tour stop in Washington, D.C., where he chatted about the bad old days and the good new ones, and promised a reissue of 1973’s pre-Mac debut, “Buckingham Nicks” (now long out of print). Who knows, he says. He may even tour with his past and future songwriting foil, Stevie Nicks.
Q. Even though you have another little band that you occasionally play with, how does it feel to be back on the road for a solo tour after 14 years, and how different is the experience when it’s your name on the marquee?
A. Well, you’re playing for less people. (Laughs) By far! It’s a whole other exercise from being out with Fleetwood Mac.
Q. What inspired this collection of songs, which sound as personal as anything you’ve done?
A. One idea was to make an album that was very scaled down instrumentally. The other thing is, since the last time I recorded a solo album [1992’s “Out of the Cradle”], I had gotten married and had three children. And for someone like me who has maybe defined himself to a fault through his work and has taken any number of years to get to a point where he was ready to be a father and a husband, and then to be lucky enough to have that actually happen, it puts everything else that your world has been about into a completely different context. It allows you to look at what you’re writing about with a certain wisdom that maybe you didn’t have before.
Q. You’ve said that working on this album enabled you, finally, to put your past in a context that you could understand. Was part of the difficulty in finding that context a product of how mythologized your history with Fleetwood Mac has been?
A. I think it’s partly that. I think with people who are, to some degree, defined by the outside world, there can be difficulty [figuring out] who you are or what’s important. But beyond that, with all of those years in Fleetwood Mac, I don’t think any of the four people that were part of the two couples at the beginning of the “Rumours” album ever really worked any of that [strife] through in a way that was particularly healthy. We all rose to the occasion in order to be successful, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have clarity about the path you’ve taken. And to some degree for Stevie, I think she still does not have the luxury of that. I was lucky enough to be ready to find someone who could help me get to the next point in my life.
Q. You’ve put your solo work on hold to record and tour with Fleetwood Mac. Is that frustrating as an artist, to know that at some point you’re going to have to sing “Go Your Own Way” again?
A. You could look at it as a burden, but you can also look at it as a blessing. At some point, you just have to realize that a certain body of work has become part of the fabric and you should be happy about that. It doesn’t necessarily have to threaten anything in the present. But if there was a problem with Fleetwood Mac, it was that we didn’t always want things for the same reason. When you look at the “Tusk” album, in my mind it was an opportunity not to run something into the ground as the record company would have wanted, or to just get trapped into a formula, but to take the freedom and exposure that we had and be a little bold and take chances. If everyone had wanted that same thing, who knows what we could have built upon that idea?
Q. Was the emotional fallout over that album between band members ever resolved?
A. It was and it wasn’t. At the time, I had to go in and say, “Let’s try this,” and there was a certain amount of resistance or skepticism, and it was only after the fact that everyone was quite happy with the album. I’m not sure [Mac’s record label] Warner was. I always have this vision of them sitting in the boardroom listening to it and everyone’s seeing their Christmas bonuses flying out the window. But I’ve never regretted it. And now, I do have Mick [Fleetwood] saying to me, “I couldn’t hear it then, but `Tusk’ is now my favorite album.”
Q. The word “visionary” gets used a lot when people talk about you. It even comes up in a lyric on the new album’s first track, “Not Too Late.” So, what is a guy like you most insecure about musically?
A. I’m a primitive. I don’t read [music] and I’ve never had any lessons. It’s funny because that song was inspired by a Bud Scoppa review . . . and it made me realize that what I have been striving for probably is based on feeling a little bit unseen or misunderstood. It would be nice to find a larger audience as a solo artist.
Q. Guess that’s the price you pay for being the mastermind behind the scenes. Besides, Stevie got all the good outfits.
A. No comment.