Lindsey Buckingham has accomplished almost everything that can be done in rock ‘n’ roll, earning a spot in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame with Fleetwood Mac, winning countless awards, selling out venues around the world, and helping define the sound of rock for the last 3 decades. He’s the predominant musical force behind such Mac albums as Rumours and the innovative Tusk, and has created a critically acclaimed body of solo work that yielded the hits, “Trouble,” “Go Insane,” and “Holiday Road.”
But one thing was missing as Buckingham and his band mates were dominating music. “The irony of the bulk of the Fleetwood Mac experience was that none of us were comfortable,” Buckingham confesses. “We had this external success going, which was not matched by any kind of internal success. It didn’t make any of us whole people or contented people in that sense.”
Now married and with three kids Buckingham has found that internal success as he puts it. “It really does feel like the best time of my life,” he says.
That contentment and peace are evident throughout his sixth solo album, Seeds We Sow. From the soft melodic pop/rock tinge of “End Of Time” and the album’s most rocking track, “One Take,” to the touching “When She Comes Down” and the almost lullaby-esque hushed tones of the gorgeous closing number, “She Smiles Sweetly,” the album showcases Buckingham’s full arsenal of skills.
He attributes his peace to two things. The first is his personal life, “To finally meet someone and to have the family thing happen, that’s been a real gift,” he says. The other is musical. “If there is a level of contentedness that I’ve arrived at, part of it is because I think in the last three or four years what I experienced during the solo albums and then what I experienced on the last Fleetwood Mac tour I felt like I had come to a point where there was so much foundation that I had built for myself making incremental steps forward as a musician and as an artist,” he says.
Those solo albums, 2006’s Under The Skin and 2008’s Gift Of Screws, as well as the last Fleetwood Mac tour, in 2009, led directly to Seeds We Sow, an album Buckingham didn’t even plan on making. So where did it come from? “I think it came from a certain residue of momentum that was left over from the three years I did those two solo albums back to back and toured a lot behind both of them. That was such a great experience, just finally allowing myself to do that,” he says. “So I grew a lot during those three years and then of course we went on the road with Fleetwood Mac and did just the opposite, which was to go out and tour without any album at all. And that was sort of freeing because you come to terms with the fact that at a certain point people don’t necessarily want to hear anything too new from Fleetwood Mac. All the energy that I took from those three years and the confidence I took out of that three-year experience with those two albums got reapplied to Fleetwood Mac and it helped me to infuse a higher level into that music.”
How coming to terms with the band that made him a superstar, that success, and the tremendous Mac catalog influenced Seeds We Sow is evidenced from the gentle guitar intro of the opening title track, which Mac fans might recognize as being similar to the classic “Never Going Back Again.” But rather than just retread his past he utilized the full scope of his touring experience to mold the guitar sound. “Over a period of years when I was touring by myself, the song ‘Big Love’ got retooled as a single guitar piece and that was a real breakthrough. The energy I was getting back was extraordinary and it became a template for many other things that followed,” he recalls.
Buckingham wanted the guitar to be a unifying sound on this record. “Again I was interested in pursuing an orchestral guitar style that would be at the forefront of a lot of tunes,” he says.
Just as his guitar style on Seeds We Sow is more mature and refined, so too are his lyrics, with one of the standout tracks being the hook-laden “Illumination.” “I think the lyrics over the years have actually gotten better because they’ve gotten a little, I don’t want to say obscure, but gotten more poetic in the way they’re created,” he says, adding, “It’s a mysterious process even to me.”
The result is often sophisticated word play that possesses the rare double gift of being simultaneously personal and open to interpretation. A perfect example being “When She Comes Down,” which he calls, “The first song I wrote for my wife,” but one that has already piqued curiosity among friends. “Stevie [Nicks] heard that and she goes, ‘Who’s that about? Some goddess?’”
The album’s lyrics are Buckingham’s most subjective to date and seem to pit social commentary against personal observation. “’Illumination’ could be about honest relationships or interrogation, and there’s ‘One Take,’ which is clearly talking about the state of the world, or the state of America at least. But as soon as these are done, the subject matter returns to something more personal. “Even the opening song, ‘Seeds We Sow,’ is talking about observing a world which seems to be going crazy. But then at the end of the song you’re back in bed dreaming or with your spouse and you’ve turned that whole convoluted world back in on yourself.”
Sure to be one of the most talked about lyrical passages comes in “End Of Time,” where Buckingham seemingly addresses his own mortality, singing, “Even though I may be dead and gone.” He believes however that is not as clear-cut a line as it may first appear “The bridge does talk about ’Even though I may be dead and gone,’ so it’s pretty literal, but, again, you can take that to mean anything,” he points out. “You can mean me in the context of having a relationship with someone else. But I wasn’t necessarily thinking in terms of the end of a life. It’s just the end of a certain way of being I guess, and maybe the end of certain things in the world that may never be the same again.”
Buckingham, an admirer of up and coming bands like Phoenix and the Dirty Projectors, looks to his current favorite act to illustrate his point. “You listen to that Arcade Fire album, he’s going on about just how things were when he was a kid and how he expects them to be, referring to World War or wanting to have a child before all the damage is done,” he says. “There’s an element of that in there, world and how it affects us.”
Buckingham has another similarity to Arcade Fire. After 30 years signed to Warner Bros., he is now an indie artist, releasing the album on his own. Where some artists who’ve been in the confines of a major for most of their adult life might find the change intimidating, Buckingham is embracing his new role as a DIY artist. “I’ve lived a double creative life. On the one hand there’s the large mainstream machine of Fleetwood Mac and on the other hand, the small esoteric machine of solo work. Warner Bros. never fully embraced or supported that small machine. What happens when you pull away from the corporate mentality is that suddenly you’re able to deal with people who are free to appreciate your work for what it is without the constraints of politics,” he says.
The DIY approach extends to the music and recording as well. “I think it’s probably the first time I mixed everything,” he says. “I’m happy with my work on a technical level. I think it’s a good across-the-board representation of what I do,” he says. “It shows a certain maturity and musicianship and I just feel like I have a lot of tools in my musical vocabulary from which to draw that are again the product of the choices I’ve made. It’s on my own terms. This is very much from the inside out and I hope I never stop doing that.”