Originally published in Spinner, September 8, 2011 1:30PM
By David Chiu
When it comes to solo work, Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham’s output has been somewhat sporadic. Before 2006, Buckingham had only released three albums: ‘Law and Order’ (1981), ‘Go Insane’ (1984) and ‘Out of the Cradle (1992).’ Midway through this period, in 1987, Buckingham left Fleetwood Mac, and despite a one-off reunion show at Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, he remained out of the fold until the band’s 1997 reunion.
So it may seem like a godsend to his fans that Buckingham has put out three additional albums in the last five years, including recently released ‘Seeds We Sow.’ Buckingham not only produced and engineered the album — a diverse collection he’s said might be the best work he’s ever done — but he also performed all of the music by himself. And for the first time, he’s an independent artist, having left Warner Bros., the label that had issued his Fleetwood Mac and solo recordings since 1975.
Shortly before embarking on a solo tour that starts on Sept. 9 in Sparks, Nevada, the legendary guitarist talked with Spinner.
‘Seeds We Sow’ is your third solo album in five years. This is probably the most prolific you’ve ever been as far as making records.
Well, I’m making up for lost time. During the time when the Fleetwood Mac situation was pulling me — it had a little more gravity than it does now — towards the center, there were certainly a few times when I went out with the intention to make a solo album, and probably two or three times, that got folded. I got pulled into the ranks, and that material got turned into part of a Fleetwood Mac album. There was kind of a running punchline that had to do with that, and maybe the amount of time between solo albums. It’s kind of like a Terrence Malick thing. Now there’s a little bit less frequency to the call of Fleetwood Mac. It seems to open up the time for doing solo work.
This is a significant album in that this is your first independent release after being with Warner Bros. since 1975. How does it feel to be a free agent?
It’s unknown territory for me. As long a history as I’ve had, and for the number of wonderful people that have been associated with that label over the years, my interface with Warner Bros., as regards to my solo work, has always been a little bit blank. I think from their point of view, they always were thinking, “Let’s get back to what really matters,” which in their minds was Fleetwood Mac, so there was always a kind of a lack of a connect for what those albums really were about. Over the years, the older you get, and the way the large companies — I won’t say evolved; I will say devolved, to some degree — it’s made it that much more difficult to prioritize anything other than those things that represent bottom-line kind of mentality.
That’s always been a luxury that I’ve had as an artist, having that large machine, which feeds certain things [such as] politics [and] financial considerations. And then the small machine, which has proven to feed the heart and the sense of risk-taking and all of that kind of stuff. They support each other, certainly. But the solo part, it makes it hard for people to want to step up to the plate for that, because everyone is worried about the bottom line to some degree, even the smaller labels.
You called ‘Seeds We Sow’ the best work you have done. Why do you feel that way about it?
Over the years, there’s been a kind of a pitting of the left side of my palette, the more esoteric side of things, against the more mainstream side. On some level, this is a reconciliation of those two things. But I also think on a lyrical level over the years, I try to get a little bit more poetic and subjective in terms of what lyrics mean so that they’re not particularly literal. I think I hit my stride on this album in that way. It represents a level of maturity [and] a reflection of what my personal life has become. And then a kind of a transitional period, which lasted for quite a few years before I was lucky enough to meet a beautiful lady relatively late, and now I have three children. The whole balance of having that and having the work still be what it is for me, I think in the largest sense, I feel like I have hit a stride that maybe I hadn’t hit before.
And not only does this new album carry over the sounds from the last two albums, ‘Under The Skin’ and ‘Gift of Screws,’ but it also contains elements from ‘Out of the Cradle.’
It’s funny — a lot of people will mention ‘Out of the Cradle’ as having been something that meant a lot to them, and that was 18 years ago now. It seems to encompass more of an overview of what I do and what I am able to represent and the range of what I can do, maybe better than I was ever able to do it before. Hopefully it’s just the beginning.
The first single off the new album is ‘In Our Own Time.’ How did you come to write that song?
It’s about my relationship with my wife. There seems to be a common element that’s about choices. I guess that song is about coming to terms with the fact that there are things that are always not going to be comfortable, things that you’re not always going to understand in your life or in your relationship, and that to some degree, you’ve got to inject a constant dose of faith into the fact that things will evolve in their own way, in their own time, without you exerting a huge amount of control over the situation. There is only so much you can control or understand in any given situation, and you’ve got to somehow find the balance between being proactive in your involvement in anything and also being a bit passive about letting it have its own life as well.
Another great song is the title track. It’s very lovely and gorgeous, with that distinctive guitar strumming and soulful vocal.
Again, the theme is similar. You could probably say that we are all to some degree the sum total of the choices we’ve made, and that we are living in a world where people seem to make choices that are based on only what’s right in front of them, and only the sense of what feeds their own need or their own ego in that particular moment. Every time you put something out there — an energy or a choice for the good or for the ill — you’re sowing a seed of some kind, and in a karmic way, it’s gonna come back.
Could you describe how the record came to be?
It was funny. We got off the road with Fleetwood Mac. At that time, we came back from New Zealand. I was not really planning on making an album. There was some talk about doing some more Fleetwood Mac touring, and I had no agenda, for once, to go in a studio and to make an album. But things seem to conspire in a certain way, and the Fleetwood Mac continuation did not happen. The time opened up and, of course, I used it. I thought, “Well, OK, let’s see what happens.” In a way, going into it without any preconception was part of the beauty and possibly one of the reasons it turned out the way it did.
Unlike working with the band, which I have always made the comparison to what I think shooting a movie would be like — because there is a lot verbalizing and a lot of politics — working on solo stuff is more like painting, because you’re down there just kind of slapping the colors on the canvas and changing it around. It’s way more meditative.
So I was basically engineering it and playing it by myself for the most part, and kind of writing it as I went. And 10 months later, that’s what I ended up with. It was a surprise to me as well. I honestly didn’t know where it was going at first. As I say, I had no plan to make an album at all, so I’m just as surprised as anyone, really.