Lindsey Buckingham On Return To The Road And An Early Concert Memory

Over the course of the last eight months, Lindsey Buckingham has finally been able to tour in support of the ten songs that make up his latest studio album, songs written in 2018 prior to the release of his Solo Anthology project and departure from Fleetwood Mac.

Following his recovery from open heart surgery in 2019 and two years forced off the road amidst pandemic, his self-titled seventh solo album finally saw the light of day last September, one of the catchiest, poppiest collections of material in his career.

“Sort of the re-acquaintance of the body of work in Fleetwood Mac – and maybe having a renewed appreciation for it – made me want to make a solo album that was actually a little more referential to my big picture body of work, which included Fleetwood Mac, rather than trying to pit the solo work against the Fleetwood Mac work in a way,” said Buckingham. “I went into this thinking that I wanted to make more of a pop album than I had made in a while – probably since Out of the Cradle. So that’s what I did. And there certainly are Fleetwood Mac sort of allusions to other songs in there that are intended.”

Set to return to the road this fall for a European tour, I spoke with Lindsey Buckingham about one of his earliest concert memories and continually pushing things forward with his solo work. A transcript of our phone conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows below.

Everyone experienced a long stretch there with no live shows – but it was even longer for you with everything else going on prior to the pandemic. I know you did some shows over the fall and winter. What was it like finally getting back on stage?

LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM: Well, you know, I think it’s interesting because it feels more tangibly special in a way. And I think, to some degree, the subject matter that I was addressing on the album – which of course has also been ready to go for a number of years now – has been sort of moved into the real world a little more. There’s a lot of abstraction in terms of things I was touching on in a more intellectual sense of some of the subject matter and it’s become more visceral. As has the whole idea of being back together with this group of people [in my solo band].

And so all of that sort of getting put on hold in the wake of not only a bypass but all of the fiasco that happened with Fleetwood Mac, it just feels very, very much to be an affirmation of the notion that this family and this group of people all want the same thing for the same reasons – and unlike Fleetwood Mac there’s no politics at all.

Growing up, do you remember your first concert? Even if it’s not your first, maybe a seminal early live moment that stands out or had an impact?

LB: My first concert… Oh my god… Let’s see… Well, it wasn’t rock and roll. It would’ve been probably like The Kingston Trio or something.

In fact, I remember… I can’t say it was my first concert but it very well may have been – The Kingston Trio when I was like 12 played up in San Francisco at the Civic Auditorium. And they were still doing quite well. They hadn’t been displaced by The Beatles yet – although the striped shirts were wearing thin! But I always loved them. And my girlfriend’s parents took the two of us up to San Francisco to see them.

Well, this young woman came out opening for them – and was just like killing it. And that young woman, of all people – if you can even imagine this bill – was Barbara Streisand. I think she might have just come off Funny Girl or was just about to do Funny Girl in New York. She was like 18 or 19. And she got up there and did some of those early songs she’s known for – “Happy Days are Here Again.” And then The Kingston Trio came on and it was sort of a letdown! (Laughing)

I talked to John Stewart [of The Kingston Trio] years later about that concert and he said, “Aw, I remember that. We didn’t know how to follow that!” And I was thinking, “Well, good job whoever booked that one!”

The new album was written prior to the pandemic. What did pandemic do for your creative process?

LB: Well, I think for a while I just didn’t feel like working. Now part of that was the pandemic. Part of that was also because we moved. And my studio sort of took a while to get reassembled and get put back together in a way that was user friendly. And then I just kind of kept putting off the idea of going down and forcing myself to start something new. Which was fine. I was sort of embracing the discipline of nothingness. And then, at some point, I said to myself, “I’ve got to go do something…” So I’ve actually now finished two or three songs for a new album. So I’ve made a start. But I don’t think it had a profound effect on me creatively.

It also took me a while to kind of… After having a bypass, I was physically fine but I was mentally – maybe I had lost my edge for a little bit. And that might have played into my lack of feeling a need to go downstairs. And there was also the fact that I had this album which was just sitting there on the shelf done! Part of the need to create is when you feel you’re filling a void. And there was anything but a void at that point. So I think that played into it as well.

In a more general sense, I don’t think the pandemic had much of a negative effect on me. Because I’m kind of an insular person and live in my head a lot anyway – kind of a loner and very self-sufficient. But it was tough as a father watching how challenging it was at times for our children, you know? They were like, “What the f–k is going on here?” Not that we had ever experienced anything like it either. But I think for them it was very surreal. And sometimes very socially challenging for a while.

I’m always impressed by the ways you find in your solo work to continually push things forward. You’re not relying on old tricks. The way you use drum loops on the new album really struck me in that way. It reminded me of the way Prince used drum machines and drum loops on the Purple Rain album – these pop songs with these really elaborate percussion parts. How did you go about programming the drum parts for this album?

LB: A lot of the drums on there are actually not loops. They’re just me playing drums by hand off an electronic keyboard. But the two that are very loopy are “Power Down” and “Swan Song.” And they’re sort of soulmates in a way. Because they’re probably the two strangest songs on the album. And they rely heavily on a set of a dense series of drum loops. And I just happened to have those loops sitting around. Those are kind of the same loops on both of those songs used differently. But yeah. It was just something that I wanted to kind of experiment in where you’ve got more of a textural approach going on.

And then there are other songs on the album where I’m just trying to avoid the idea of something sounding like a drum kit. The opening song “Scream” is really just a bunch of found sounds that I played by hand – hitting the front of my console or just finding things just to sort of more organically approach that. Which sort of hearkens back to Tusk in a way.

So sort of the re-acquaintance of the body of work in Fleetwood Mac – and maybe having a renewed appreciation for it – made me want to make a solo album that was actually a little more referential to my big picture body of work, which included Fleetwood Mac, rather than trying to pit the solo work against the Fleetwood Mac work in a way.

I went into this thinking that I wanted to make more of a pop album than I had made in a while – probably since Out of the Cradle. So that’s what I did. And there certainly are Fleetwood Mac sort of allusions to other songs in there that are intended.

So it’s an interesting thing.

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