Composer, musician, singer and songwriter Lindsey Buckingham stopped by the Sirius XM studios recently to talk with Ron Bennington about the release of his sixth solo album, The Seeds We Sow, and play a few songs. Buckingham is best known as the male frontman of wildly successful band Fleetwood Mac, which created one of the best-selling albums of all time– Rumours. Buckingham was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac. Below are the highlights of that interview.
Ron Bennington: That’s the new Lindsay Buckingham, Seeds We Sow is the album and that was End of Time. Lindsay welcome to the show today man.
Lindsay Buckingham: Nice to be here, thank you.
Ron Bennington: You did all this at your house?
Lindsay Buckingham: I did (laughing), that’s right.
Ron Bennington: Everything was done by you though right?
Lindsay Buckingham: Well there’s one song that has my road band on it, but yeah aside from that, everything yeah.
Ron Bennington: So a normal day for you- you’re either writing, recording- it’s gotta be this strange thing?
Lindsay Buckingham: Well it really isn’t! You know you work with the band and it’s kinda like movie making – it’s a lot more chaotic, a lot more of a conscious process to get from point A to point B. You know you go down and you work by yourself it’s more like painting. You don’t have to have full songs fleshed out, you can have a notion and kind of start slopping the paint on the canvas so to speak, and the work will kind of lead you in directions you wouldn’t expect to go.
Ron Bennington: So are you in the studio by yourself during that time?
Lindsay Buckingham: Yeah, I’m engineering and I mixed it. But again, you know you’ve got this one kind of political thing that goes on with working with a group, and the other thing is just way more meditative.
Ron Bennington: Just you, yourself and you’re just being an artist. How do you know if it’s for your solo work or whether this would be better for Fleetwood Mac?
Lindsay Buckingham: Well it usually gets defined for me by what I’m doing at the time. When I started working on – I was not really even expecting to make this album this last year, but the time opened up. It’s really just a question of what it is that you’re working for and that defines what it is. With Fleetwood Mac, again you have to have more completed songs, and there is a kind of A&R (Artist & Repertoire) factor that enters into it, an editorial filter going through the band in terms of what gets picked. But you know it’s really just a matter of what happens to the basic song once you put it out there. If it’s the band it’s gonna be a band song, and if it’s a different process it’ll be a solo.
Ron Bennington: So you don’t really – as you start to write the songs they’re just songs – you don’t think here’s one that I think I’m going to be presenting in one way, or here’s another one, you just let the song kind of unfold.
Lindsay Buckingham: That’s pretty much it, yeah. I mean clearly there are things that seem like they might be a little too far to the left, or a little too esoteric for what Fleetwood Mac is gonna want, but generally speaking you just start with a notion and you go from there.
Ron Bennington: There’s always been a complexity to what you’re doing too. Do you always feel that? Just a simple song doesn’t seem to be a Lindsey Buckingham song.
Lindsay Buckingham: Well you know, some are and some aren’t. I mean production is something that’s been important to me, it’s part of how I define myself in Fleetwood Mac – as someone who produces those records – and I have always been interested in that craft. By the same token, over the years I’ve gotten more interested in looking for what is essential and what is my centre, which is the guitar. Starting with a song called ‘Big Love’, which was an ensemble piece on the recording, it made its way to the stage as a single guitar and voice piece, and it became a kind of a template really for the idea of one guitar, with production values, doing the work of a whole track. So I think there’s a little of both in there.
Ron Bennington: Are you touring with this or are you gonna wait and tour with Fleetwood Mac?
Lindsay Buckingham: I am on tour right now you know, supporting The Seeds We Sow. We’re about two weeks into a tour, just played town hall last night.
Ron Bennington: But it’s always been about music for you, you’ve never thought I’ll have something to fall back on. Even when you were younger, has it always just been music?
Lindsay Buckingham: Well you know, we were lucky. Stevie and I really connected with a situation which took us away. I mean I was 25 when I joined Fleetwood Mac, so we didn’t ever have a chance – we’d been in LA for only about two years, we moved down from Northern California – so we never had a chance to really second guess the choices we were making, whether or not we were going to have to rethink our aspirations, because we were grabbed up into a situation and that album became quite successful right away. So you know there was never a sense of wondering if this was gonna pan out for me. And again, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have that large machine and the small machine work in tandem because the two clearly enhance each other and they allow you to not become a caricature of anything. There is this tendency to want to identify the brand, and uphold the brand, and continue to you know, kind of work off the formula of the band, and that’s not necessarily – it’s a good business model – it’s not necessarily a good artistic model.
Ron Bennington: Yeah I think somewhat after The Beach Boys everyone went ‘oh let’s write more Beach Boys songs, Beach Boys, Beach Boys’ and you can see how that can happen because I guess the songwriters are being told ‘hey, this is great’. But at a certain point no matter how much you’ve got a sound down, the audience starts to wander off into other things.
Lindsay Buckingham: That’s true, yeah.
Ron Bennington: And you, as I guess everybody at one point or another said I’ve had it with Fleetwood Mac though right?
Lindsay Buckingham: Well, I only had it with Fleetwood Mac because in the late 70’s we had made an album called ‘Tango In The Night’, and the lifestyle of everyone in the band had become so dysfunctional at that time. You know, success on a career level is one thing, it doesn’t mean you’re being successful in your personal lives. And so I needed to take a break, that album was very, very difficult to produce and to make, because you know, people were only sort of half there. That was sort of the beginning of the end of the logical succession of events that started in the 60s and kind of lost their way somewhere. So yeah, I took a break for a few years and then came back when we did that thing for Bill Clinton and we just kind of moved forward from there.
Ron Bennington: All you guys got into the business to be musicians first, I mean there was a love of music. When did you pick up, when did you say this is what I wanna do with my life, this is something that’s important to me.
Lindsay Buckingham: I just kind of fell into it. I mean started playing guitar when I was about 6, when my older brother brought home Heartbreak Hotel, and I taught myself, but I never really thought about being in a band or really going for it. I found myself, you know, through a series of haphazard events in a band, out of high school, and Stevie ended up in that band, and we played around the Northern California peninsula for a number of years. Then at some point someone – when we tried to get a deal, then couldn’t – people somehow recognized that Stevie and I were an interesting pair, and we were singled out. And that led to us, you know, getting together as a couple, which we hadn’t been before, and it led to us becoming a musical duo and we made that one album and moved to Los Angeles.
Ron Bennington: And that whole time you were doing that music had been changing so much, like the music industry, in those early days – from like when you guys would’ve just been working out having a band from like a 64 to 69 – it almost is like every year the sound was different.
Lindsay Buckingham: That’s true! I mean those were still formative days in terms of the alignment of the music and the business. I mean even when we joined at the time we joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975, Mo Ostin, who was the president of Warners at that time, he had let Fleetwood Mac languish on that label for a number of years. After Peter Green had left, each album was kind of a non sequitur, they weren’t really making the label any money, and yet he had the autonomy and the smarts to say ‘well I’m just gonna let this simmer here, we’re gonna give it the ferment and something interesting might happen’ and of course, here comes Stevie and Lindsay and look what happened. In today’s climate with a large label, that kind of ferment, that kind of nurture, that kind of autonomy does not exist because someone on Mo Ostin’s level has to answer to somebody above him, who has to answer to somebody above him. It’s become a kind of a boardroom mentality now.
Ron Bennington: But for you I guess it’s cool because you now can do – because you’re established – you can do these home recordings yourself, market them yourself, sell them yourself. But for some of these younger people who are doing what you’re doing but without having that base of being with a big label, it’s very, very difficult for those people to be heard.
Lindsay Buckingham: It is! And yet there is a lot of great music going on, so I mean it wants to live, and I believe it will.
Ron Bennington: The bigger problem now I think is being in an audience, and how do you find the music, because it takes a lot more time, it takes a lot more time to find music.
Lindsay Buckingham: Yeah I mean I had an experience where I was – you know my children who are young were listening to, you know the kind of radio where you hear Katy Perry or whatever – and suddenly I went on to satellite radio and found the college format, and I was immediately in touch with Phoenix and Arcade Fire and ah, Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend, and there’s a lot of really smart music going on out there.
Ron Bennington: As we said this [new] album was all done at Lindsey’s house, written over…was it a long period of time to put this together?
Lindsey Buckingham: Well it was a little less than a year, maybe 9-10 months. Fleetwood Mac had just gotten off the road and I was not expecting the time to open up, and then suddenly it just did, and of course I had to fill it. And ah, the beauty of this album for me is that there was no preconception going into it. I had done a couple of solo albums back-to-back about four years ago where I had to say to Fleetwood Mac ‘just leave me alone for a couple of years’, and those were conceptualized ahead of time, and this one, it kind of led me in the direction it wanted to go, and I think in many ways it is the culmination of everything that I’ve learned over the last six, seven years, in one place. I was quite surprised.
Ron Bennington: What comes to you first, are you guitar first or are you melody/lyricist first?
Lindsey Buckingham: Usually some kind of riff on the guitar, or melody line, lyrics are always last.
Ron Bennington: But it’s never really up to you, you never know how it’s gonna come in.
Lindsey Buckingham: Well the way I see there’s always stuff passing in the ether over your head, and if you have your antenna up you’re gonna catch some of it, and then you’ve gotta take it to the next step if you’re in a writing mode.
Ron Bennington: Isn’t it an amazing thing though that, really doesn’t – after all these years – you can really say here’s the day I have to write a song, it’s almost as if you have to catch it coming by.
Lindsey Buckingham: That’s right, yeah! And I think for every one that I’ve caught, there’s been probably a lot of others that have made their way cross-country somewhere.
Ron Bennington: Yeah, somebody else is grabbing it, Jerry Garcia got one, Don Henley got the other, these are your hits!
Ron Bennington: Travelling around the country now doing this, is it easy to stay in this kind of phase of your life and the solo project, or a people calling you about the next Fleetwood Mac project?
Lindsey Buckingham: Well you know, the way Fleetwood Mac manages to stick together is that we take long breaks. I mean there is clearly the understanding that we will reconvene, I have not heard anything specific. There has been talk about 2012, I don’t know if that will occur or not, and I don’t worry about it. I mean I have this right now, obviously when I go home I have three kids, thirteen through seven, and so you know you try to strike a balance in the same way you try to strike a balance between the big and the small machine, you’ve gotta strike a balance between career and family as well.
Ron Bennington: And it is I guess somewhat of a luxury to know that you don’t even have to keep that one fire going, that the Fleetwood Mac thing – much like what Keith and Mick have with The Rolling Stones – is that audience seems to be there and is going to stay there for the rest of your life.
Lindsey Buckingham: Well, yeah! I mean the real challenge in Fleetwood Mac is getting everyone to want the same thing at the same time. That’s always been part of our challenge, because in a way, unlike Keith and Mick – who probably are two halves of the same whole – we’re a bunch of people who really don’t necessarily belong in the same band together (laughs), and it’s a synergy that makes it work, but it doesn’t make it any easier on a political level.
Ron Bennington: Well I don’t know whether it ever works, I mean it always seems to be like guys in a submarine, no matter who the band is right (both laughing). Sooner or later you’re taking that long car trip and you just look over and you can’t stand each other anymore. It seems to be part of no matter who it is, that it’s going to happen.
Lindsey Buckingham: You know, I think with Fleetwood Mac it was a bit unique in the sense that we were two couples originally and we broke up – nothing like a little success to break things up. So you know, here’s me trying to produce Rumours, I’m in the studio trying to make the right choices, Stevie’s – we’re not together anymore- you know it was a challenge! None of us had the time. If we wanted to follow this calling that we had defined for us we had to, you know live in states of denial. We had to compartmentalize our emotions, and so, you know if you start with that as the beginning of success, in many ways it can only get better.
Ron Bennington: Everyone did seem to pull together and here you are, all these years later and like you said as crazy as you guys can drive each other, there’s a bond there that I guess only you folks understand.
Lindsey Buckingham: Yeah we’ve been through things that no one else has been through together and – you know speaking strictly for Stevie and myself, I spent some time with her this last year when she was finishing up her solo album and we had just a great time, probably the best time we’ve had in ages. It’s kind of sweet to know – you know I’ve known her since high school – to know that all these years later there can still be some chapters yet to be written.
Ron Bennington: It’s an amazing thing. Well we’ll end this up, the new album is Seeds We Sow and it’s available on Amazon.com and from Lindseybuckingham.com, thanks so much for coming in Lindsey.
Lindsey Buckingham: My pleasure, thanks for having me.
Ron Bennington: I’ll see you next time through.
You can hear the full interview in its entirety on Ron Bennington Interviews which airs on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. Not a subscriber yet? Sign up here for a free trial subscription.
You can also get more information at his official website.
You can buy Lindsey’s new album, The Seeds We Sow through the link below at Amazon.com.