SEEDS WE SOW: AN ILLUMINATING CHAT WITH LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM
This article is written by MIKE RAGOGNA at THE HUFFINGTON POST
MIKE RAGOGNA: Lindsey, how are you?
LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM: Good. How are you?
MR: I’m doing fine. It’s an honour to speak to you, sir.
LB: Well, thank you. I appreciate that.
MR: I’ve been a fan since your first solo album LAW & ORDER. Of course, I loved the FLEETWOOD MAC material. But I’ve really enjoyed all of your solo material as well.
LB: Well, that’s nice to hear. We do our best. What can I say?
MR: Lindsey, you’re on your sixth solo album now, SEEDS WE SOW. No surprise. You produced, mixed and performed virtually every note. Oh…and you wrote almost all the songs.
LB: Well, pretty much. There’s a ROLLING STONES cover at the end, SHE SMILED SWEETLY and I cowrote one of the songs, STARS ARE CRAZY. My road band is also playing on one of the songs. But yes, for all intents and purposes, I did. I must have control issues. Yes?
MR: (laughs) Naw, you’re just ubercreative. STARS ARE CRAZY is one of my favourite tracks on this new album. Who cowrote that with you?
LB: A gal from San Jose named LISA DEWEY.
MR: Very nice. And which song is the band on?
LB: THAT’S THE WAY THAT LOVE GOES.
MR: I especially love that song’s line:
That’s the way love goes/It goes/It goes…
LB: Yes, exactly. (laughs)
MR: Lindsey, why is it that it goes, it goes like all the time? What is it about love and all that? Why can’t folks just get that stuff straight?
LB: Well…the thing is, I have gotten it straight finally – it just took me a while. You know, all of those years in FLEETWOOD MAC were very exciting and creatively satisfying much of the time – not all of the time, but much of the time. Personally, they left a little to be desired.
There was a lot of dysfunction within the band. I don’t think that having two couples that had broken up and were working together without ever really having a chance to come to any closure…I don’t think that was a very healthy situation, though it was certainly part of the whole package that people were interested in and it kind of brought out the voyeur in everybody. But it wasn’t always the most fun for us. I did see, during those decades, a lot of people I knew who were parents at that time and were not really there for their kids or their spouses and were doing what they thought they had to do to be rock & rollers.
I wasn’t going to be one of those guys, so I waited. I didn’t jump into the family scene like that and I was just lucky enough to meet someone relatively late who I fell in love with and who fell in love with me. I actually have three beautiful kids now. So the loving is there and it’s evolving. It was just one of those lucky things for me. I feel blessed that I didn’t jump in before I was ready and I feel even more blessed that it was something that happened for me at a time when the odds of it ever happening were not that great. That’s not to say that you don’t write about things that are bothering you in the moment. I think one of the themes on the record is that you have to make a choice and you have to have faith that things are going to sort of work out all right. The love is actually not gone – it finally showed up – that was the beauty.
MR: Nicely put. Very happy for you. I want to hear what you have to say about ILLUMINATION. My personal interpretation is that it’s about coming out of the fog, you know?
LB: Well it is, it is. It’s somehow evolving into a place where you can see things clearly. You can look at choices we make as individuals, if you look at the state of the world or the state of America right now. But that’s just a word. It really comes down to the decisions we make and the choices we make as individuals that define who we are – the sum total of those choices. Then who we are as a people or as a world is the sum total of all of those put together. So hopefully we’re poised for some new clarity fairly soon, I would hope.
MR: Let’s get to your first single IN OUR OWN TIME. Again, it seems like it’s about relationships in the way we’ve been talking about them. Wait, sidebar here…I feel like a lot of people now take for granted what you’ve contributed to popular music through your body of works, experimenting and playing. Your guitar work on this song, for example, harkens back to your live version of BIG LOVE, where this amazing speed meets emotion thing occurs. With IN OUR OWN TIME, if you close your eyes and forget about the musicianship, you easily could dismiss it as a loop, especially since we’re being bombarded with them on pop radio and everyone’s using them live lately. I mean, you were playing parts in that style for years, but where’s your cred, Lindsey? Makes me wanna holla.
LB: The thing that’s been nice for me for years is that I’ve had this mainstream thing with FLEETWOOD MAC and that sort of feeds the financial side of things. The solo work has never been anything more than looking at the more esoteric side of what I do – the left side of the palette, the risk taking side of things and really the side of things that helps you to grow as an artist, take chances and keep your idealism intact. You know, some of those things were certainly there years ago and are still there. So it’s nice to have both, I have to say.
MR: OK…the song WHEN SHE COMES DOWN. One of my favourite folk songs is WILD MOUNTAIN TIME and I love how you have a little nod to that in the chorus.
LB: Yes, exactly.
MR: Obviously you have a love of folk in addition to a love of all kinds of music.
LB: Well, I started playing very young, when my older brother started bringing home ELVIS PRESLEY records. Of course when the initial wave of rock & roll started to peter out and we started to see all the little FABIANS show up, that’s when I got interested in folk music. That kind of kept me going for a while until THE BEATLES showed up, you know?
MR: And you had a friendship with the late JOHN STEWART, one of my favourite singer/songwriters.
LB: Yes, I did. I loved THE KINGSTON TRIO. I was a big fan of JOHN’S as a solo artist.
MR: And you worked with him on a couple albums. How did that come about?
LB: He actually sought me out because back in the late 70s, I had mentioned what a fan of his when I was in print a few times. So he sought me out and I worked on some of his records at that point. Yeah, we kept in touch over the years.
MR: I’ve been talking to a lot of jazz artists and I’ve been asking them, “Do you miss Miles?” So, I guess it’s fair to ask you, do you miss JOHN?
LB: Well, sure I do. We had kind of lost track over the last ten or fifteen years. He moved back up to Northern California and I’d only seen him a few times. But I miss the spirit of what he was about. Absolutely.
MR: That’s beautiful. Getting back to SEEDS WE SOW, the song ONE TAKE seems to focus on a particularly bad boy.
LB: Well, again…it’s just about people who have perhaps lost their perspective about how they’re impacting the world because all they care about is feeding their own ego or what they think they need. There’s a kind of mass hypnosis that a certain faction of the country has fallen into – certainly Wall Street. The corporate world, in general, has become so powerful and to some degree has displaced governmental power in a way that is unprecedented. Again, I think these are all good people who have just kind of lost their perspective on things a little bit. It’s just a little slice of some people that we all might know somewhere.
MR: Now this album is released on your own label. Right?
MR: So you are in the same boat as many of the kids that are coming out with new projects. How are you approaching this?
LB: Call me back in six or eight months and I might have more perspective for you – the album doesn’t really come out until September. We did take it around…my deal had run out with WARNER BROTHERS. It’s ironic, to some degree, that I’m putting it out myself. I’m excited about it and I think it’s a breath of fresh air.
Even if you hearken back to years previous, with WARNER BROTHERS in particular – just taking WARNER BROTHERS as an example of a large label – there have been any number of wonderful people that I have a high regard for that have floated through that company over the years, from MO OSTIN on. WARNER BROTHERS, though, never really interfaced with me in a constructive way with the solo work and I think the reason for that was because they kept thinking, “Well, let’s get back to what’s really important here,” which to them was FLEETWOOD MAC, obviously. So even at a time when the model of the large company was not broken – as it is today – and wasn’t so dominated by the bottom line mentality that exists today, it was hard.
A friend of mine is over there now and you think, “Well, this is a guy that I’ve known for close to twenty years,” and you would have thought that he would have found a place for me over at the label. But he did not feel that he had the power to do that – he started talking to me about the amount of money that he had to make every quarter and I’m going, “OK. Whatever.” Again, that’s its own kind of mass hypnosis. It’s not his fault. It’s just the way things have gotten.
If you backtrack to the fact that they never really got my solo work to begin with and it’s just that much more difficult with large labels or small labels today. I talked to (someone at) GLASSNOTE and he loved the album. But he’s got these kids working on his staff – kids by my standards – and it wasn’t that they didn’t like the music, but they just didn’t know. You know, there’s a demographic consideration. It’s symptomatic of what seems to be wrong with the business and so IRVING AZOFF and I sat down and we said, “Screw it. Let’s just put it out ourselves and see what happens.” It will be exciting to see how that works.
MR: With the bigger labels, it’s alleged good business sense to just sign new artists because you get them on the cheap, they don’t have contracts for years with their royalty rates that have gone up etc. While we’re on that subject, what advice do you have for new artists these days?
LB: Oh boy, if I only knew. I don’t have any particular insight into any marketing advice or strategies at all, other than in the same way there were a ton of independent labels in the 50s and early 60s, which all went away at some point. Now you’ve got the internet. So that does level the playing field a little bit and it gives people the opportunity to be heard on their own terms. Because of that I would say, as a new artist, I guess it’s one thing to have a clever marketing idea, but I think it’s most important to find something you can call your own.
MR: I have one last question for you about one of the songs on the album: END OF TIME. I love the line
When they finally come to bury us/Maybe then we’ll tell the truth
LB: Yeah. (laughs)
MR: That’s great. What growth have you seen from your first solo album to this album?
LB: Well, I think that you have to look at what my life was like back then – that was like 1981. Probably, I never would have made a solo album at all had there not been a certain political backlash to the making of the TUSK album. Now I don’t know if you know any of the story behind the TUSK album. But to me, that was in reaction to this ridiculous Michael Jacksonland we were in, in a post RUMOURS environment and being poised to make RUMOURS 2 and me saying, “That’s like the beginning of painting myself into an artistic corner.”
There is this axiom in the business: “You run it into the ground and move on,” and I was not interested in doing that. If you isolated my songs from TUSK as a first solo album – this is a roundabout way of answering your question – but what happened was, in the wake of TUSK not selling sixteen million albums, there was some kind of an edict that came down within the band that said, “Well, we’re not going to do that any more,” and it kind of left me treading water a little bit as a producer and as a band member because there was this sense that we were going to backtrack into previously known territory, which was a very deliberate and artificial thing to do.
So I think that first solo album LAW & ORDER was probably a bit of a reaction to all of that. I think if you look at it, it doesn’t really have a centre per se – it’s more of a variety show – it’s way more ironic and tongue in cheek in some ways and it probably reflects to some degree the way that we were conducting our personal lives.
You can kind of see the evolution of moving more and more towards the centre and I think that’s one of the things that I’ve learned over time – you have to look for what’s essential and you have to look for the centre. Of course, if you cut to my personal life now – because I did see many of my friends who weren’t there for their children during those decades and I didn’t want to be one of those and I waited long enough to meet someone, fall in love and have children at a relatively late age – I think that was…maybe it was karmic. But it was also something which grounded my personal life and it was such a gift that I could appreciate, unlike a lot of people who didn’t seem to appreciate their families, or couldn’t, at the time they were having them. I think that also reflects back on, not just this album, but the two I did back to back four or five years ago, UNDER THE SKIN and GIFT OF SCREWS. This one seems to me to be the most overview of the range that I can do…It seems to bring everything that I’d ever tried to do as a solo artist into a focal point, but I think it’s doing it from a real centre more so than ever before…and that would be how I sort of track the growth, for sure.
MR: Well, if it matters, this is my favourite solo album from you. And just for the record with TUSK, I think it’s in the same category as JONI MITCHELL’S THE HISSING OF SUMMER LAWNS, in that, back in the day, people didn’t know what to do with the experimentation that went on with both of those albums. PRINCE and many others have publicly commented how JONI’S album was their favourite and lately people have begun to say that TUSK is now their favourite FLEETWOOD MAC album.
LB: Well yeah, it’s mine too. It’s hard to be objective about the music, but it’s my favourite for what it represented – for the line in the sand that I drew, for the fact that it was, in many ways, the beginning of the way that I still try to think, in terms of prioritizing what’s important, you know?
MR: Yeah, I do.
LB: The choices that I’ve made have not always afforded maximum profit, you know? Sometimes that’s driven the band crazy, but that’s the trade off. I’m in this place where I really am happy with who I am as an artist and as a person. That’s the tricky thing about choices – you don’t always know that those choices are good in the moment. Sometimes, it takes the perspective of time when you’re making choices that are not universally popular with your peers. (laughs) I don’t know. I feel good about those choices and I think if there was a trade off, it was the trade off that I’ve been happy to make.
MR: Lindsey, I so appreciate your time. It’s an honour to talk with you because you are one of my favourite musicians, writers…You know, all that. (laughs)
LB: Oh, I appreciate it so much, man.
MR: All the best with the new album and maybe six months from now we’ll talk about it again?
LB: Love to. Absolutely. All right. Take care.