Critical Questions: Lindsey Buckingham
The tightrope between rock stardom and artistic exploration.
Lindsey Buckingham has been leading a double life for the last three decades, crafting classic-rock rhapsodies with Fleetwood Mac while tending the fertile fields of his more eccentric solo recordings. The latest of the latter, Seeds We Sow (out now on his own Buckingham Records), was sung, played, and produced in its entirety by Buckingham, and it finds him digging into everything from pin-drop acoustic ballads to effervescent pop gems. We talked with the Fleetwood frontman about walking the tightrope between rock stardom and artistic exploration.
CM: Seeds We Sow is your first-ever independent release. What has it been like navigating between the two sides of your career: Fleetwood Mac and your solo projects?
LB: With the solo work there was always a deaf ear that was turned by Warner Brothers to a point, because I think they were always more concerned with getting back to what was perceived as the "real work," which was Fleetwood Mac. It's almost like having two different processes to draw from, in order to walk the line between the big and the small machine. The solo work, there's never an expectation that it's gonna go through the roof on a commercial level, it's for a far fewer number of ears.
You'll be touring in support of this album. Is it easier to expose your audience to new material in your solo shows than at a Fleetwood Mac concert?
I have found that. And I think probably it's a little easier for me than it would be for Fleetwood Mac, because I think that people who come to see me are slightly more tuned in to wanting to hear something new, and something a little bit off-the-radar. I think they expect it of me. They're intrigued and excited to hear something new. When you're playing in an arena for people that are there to hear a body of work that they know, that's one thing. When you have also made albums that are far more esoteric, and you're seen as having this more eccentric side, I think when you go out and tour solo you're playing for that faction who appreciates what that is. Of course it's a much smaller faction -- there's no way I can fill an arena; we're playing theaters.
What do you like best about Seeds We Sow?
One of the things I'm quite happy with on this album is the lyrics. They're more open to interpretation, in some ways more obscure, more of a Rorschach test for whoever happens to be picking up on what they are.
"One Take" is a strikingly dark character study. What can you say about the song's subject?
It certainly isn't me. It's basically just about the idea of someone who is perhaps exploitive, perhaps completely money-oriented, a bit smug about it, and doing whatever he can to advance the cause of disproportionate wealth, shall we say (laughs).
"She Smiled Sweetly" is the second late-‘60s Rolling Stones song you've covered in the last few years - what's the fascination?
Between the Buttons was one of my favorite albums of theirs. I think Brian [Jones] had a lot to do with it. He really did shine for a brief period where you could really distinguish what he was doing above and beyond what Keith [Richards] was doing in terms of record making. There was a period where they got very European -- not just their production -- I think it impacted the songwriting, songs like "Ruby Tuesday." For some reason I gravitated towards that period.
Will we be hearing from Fleetwood Mac again anytime soon?
There's nothing on the books, we haven't gotten together and said, "Yeah, let's do this." But the funny thing about this album...I didn't have any agenda to make an album, the time opened up and I used the time, but I think there was always a loose understanding that the band would reconvene once these projects were off the books. I'm going on the road in September for a few months, so after the holidays I would be surprised if there wasn't some sort of plan to do something.