Lindsey Buckingham says he hasn’t been avoiding Mick Fleetwood’s phone calls — even though the Fleetwood Mac leader has a vexing habit of distracting Buckingham from his own work.
The singer-guitarist, who propelled Fleetwood Mac to multiplatinum status after joining the band in 1975 with thengirlfriend Stevie Nicks, has abandoned two solo projects in the past decade to take part in band projects — the 1997 reunion album “The Dance” and 2003’s gold-selling studio set “Say You Will.” So who could blame him if he wanted to keep Fleetwood at bay while he was making his new release, “Under the Skin”?
“Oh, I always like talking to Mick,” Buckingham says with a laugh. “He does have a little bit of a distracting influence. But at the end of the day, those were my decisions, which I made for what I thought was the greatest good. And I think it turned out that way.”
Fleetwood Mac certainly allows Buckingham, 58, to operate at a high, arena-fi lling profi le. But as the group toured after the release of “Say You Will,” he felt a real itch to return to the solo realm, something he hasn’t done since 1992’s “Out of the Cradle.”
“Most of these songs were written and recorded on the road on a cheapo 16-track (recorder) in hotel rooms,” Buckingham says. “On days off, I would just do that. It was a great way to spend my time — and productive.”
Not surprisingly, the sound of “Under the Skin” is vastly different from Buckingham’s other solo albums — and certainly from Fleetwood Mac’s more full-bodied rock ouvre. Buckingham is no stranger to minimalism, but there’s a hushed and intimate quality to the 11 songs on the new album, with very little percussion.
In fact, Buckingham says the two tracks on which Fleetwood appears (“Down on Rodeo” and “Someone’s Gotta Change Your Mind”) were actually done before “Say You Will” and its accompanying tour.
In that regard, “Under the Skin” can be seen as the antithesis of playing in a big band. But Buckingham says it’s a process that also had quite a bit to do with the group.
“I had sort of come full circle to a point where I started readapting Fleetwood Mac songs back to more of a (solo acoustic) guitar style,” he explains.
“You take a song like ‘Big Love,’ the way we did that live; I started to become more and more intrigued about the work you could do from a single guitar or with very little instrumentation basically based around a single guitar idea.
“So that ignited the whole idea of, how do you approach that on a valid record-making level? And some of that is probably a reaction to (playing with the band).”
Save for two covers — of the Rolling Stones’ “I Am Waiting” and Donovan’s “To Try for the Sun” — Buckingham also drew inspiration for the songs from his family. A late-inlife father with three children — a son, 8, and two daughters, 6 and 2 — Buckingham feels he’s a long way from the interpersonal emotional turbulence that fueled Fleetwood Mac’s landmark “Rumours” album.
“It was sort of a minor miracle, really, when I met my wife, Kristen, and we started (a family),” he says. “After observing many of my friends who had children in the ’70s and ’80s and were not really present for them — and when they were there, it was probably not the right kind of presence — I didn’t even want to think about putting myself in the position of fatherhood.
“Now I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve fi nally worked through a fairly intense career experience and found something so wonderful to help you reprioritize and refocus and revitalize your creative life, too.
“It’s sort of the best time of my life, I would think, right now.”
“When the youngest (child) is graduating college, if I’m even here, I’ll have the drool cup and that whole thing,” Buckingham says with a laugh.
His record company, however, wasn’t exactly smiling over the final product, an album with admittedly limited commercial potential. But he can live with that.
“There were many discussions about this album and whether or not it was the right thing,” acknowledges Buckingham, who plans to release another album in 2007, which he describes as “more electric, for want of a better word.”
“But for me it wasn’t about whether it was the most marketable thing. It was just about the validity of it on all levels. ... Really, I’m just happy to finally be getting to a solo album after all this time, and I’m happy with what I ended up with. That’s the most important thing to me.”
He knows, however, that Fleetwood Mac is the most important concern to many of his fans, and Buckingham says he doesn’t feel the group is done.
There were some issues that cropped up during the “Say You Will” tour, he acknowledges, mostly having to do with Christine McVie’s departure from the band.
“I think for Stevie there was maybe a little too much testosterone on stage,” says Buckingham, who’s playing a mix of Fleetwood Mac and solo materials in his shows supporting “Under the Skin.”
He does anticipate more touring in the future, but “whether or not we will continue as a creative entity where you make new (music) and then go out, I don’t know.”
But, he adds, “If that happens, I’m not at all worried about finding a way to keep making music, you know?”
Lindsey Buckingham performs Sunday (October 22nd) at the Emerald Theatre, 31 N. Walnut St., Mt. Clemens. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $36 in advance, $39.50 day of show. Call (586) 913-1920 or visit
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