A Conversation with Lindsey Buckingham
Mike Ragogna: Lindsey, how are you?
Lindsey Buckingham: Good. How are you?
MR: I'm doing fine. It's an honor to speak to you, sir.
LB: Well, thank you. I appreciate that.
MR: I've been a fan since your first solo album, Law And 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 co-wrote 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) Nah, you're just über-creative. "Stars Are Crazy" is one of my favorite tracks on this new album. Who co-wrote 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 'n' 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 alright. 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, Lindsay? 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: Okay, the song, "When She Comes Down." One of my favorite 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 'n' 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 favorite 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 a 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 Bros. 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 Bros. in particular -- just taking Warner Bros. 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 Bros., 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, "Okay, 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 '81. 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 round about 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 anymore," 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 And 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 center 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 center, 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 center. 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 center 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 favorite 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 favorite, and lately, people have begun to say that Tusk is now their favorite Fleetwood Mac album.
LB: Well yeah, it's mine too. It's hard to be objective about the music, but it's my favorite 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 honor to talk with you because you are one of my favorite 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. Alright, take care.
1. Seeds We Sow
2. In Our Own Time
4. That's The Way That Love Goes
5. Stars Are Crazy
6. When She Comes Down
7. Rock Away Blind
8. One Take
9. Gone To Far
10. End of Time
11. She Smiled Sweetly
Lindsey's brand new website! http://lindseybuckingham.com/
Transcribed by Ryan Gaffney
A Conversation with Robert Earl Keen
Mike Ragogna: Hey Robert Earl Keen, how the heck are ya?
Robert Earl Keen: I'm doing just great, Mike, thank you.
MR: Let's talk about your new album, Ready For Confetti. I think this is your eleventh studio album, correct?
REK: You know, I've lost track. There's a bunch of them out there, but I guess this is the second one in a couple years. So, I can start with that, going back about two years.
MR: I'd love to catch The Huffington Post readers up on your history. Back in 1974, you were pals with Lyle Lovett and you guys made a lot of music together.
REK: Right. We went to Texas A&M University and in between classes and stuff... I had this old house that was kind of near campus, just a couple blocks away really, and there were a lot of students that came through, but one of them was my friend Lyle. He played music and I played music and there were a handful of other guys that used to hang out there, so we all got to be friends. Lyle and I stayed in music and have been friends all this time.
MR: It's nice, because the both of you have bucked traditional country or traditional folk or traditional anything for that matter when it comes to genres of music. Was that the intention or just the natural thing to do?
REK: Well, I always just thought in terms of writing the song and getting the idea across. A lot of my songs are story songs, so the idea would be to get an entire story in a three or four minute song. I never was really too concerned about how it played out on the radio. I wasn't thinking in terms of having some huge music career, I just really like music and I like playing music. I've always enjoyed the stage. As far as trying to follow somebody else's idea of what to do, it wasn't really my style.
MR: I love the title track, especially the part where the guy gets abducted by a UFO but then is freed because he tells the aliens' fortune.
REK: You know, when I write a song, I try to start from some kind of cornerstone of truth, and then I fictionalize it. The first character in the song is a woman I've seen from time to time that dances out there on the corner in any kind of weather -- it doesn't matter, she's out there. Just like the song says, "Dancing out there with her earbuds and her cardboard sign." Then, the second verse is based on a character that I knew a long time ago who did claim to be a psychic and also claimed he'd been abducted by a UFO. So, I just crammed that all into the song and then added the commentary about somebody actually having a dialogue with an alien. I thought that was kind of fun.
MR: And the spirit of the song, to me, says, "Everybody should be ready for confetti, everyday."
REK: Well, you got a new day everyday, unless you're living in the Gulag in Siberia. It's a whole new world. And particularly with as vast and frenzied as the world is today, it's always a surprise. I'm sure this is a universal truth, but you get up everyday and think you've got it figured out and you know what you're going to do, and it just changes on you constantly. I think those few characters that were sort of fringe characters, I thought they would kind of magnify that whole idea that every day is a different day.
MR: I'm torn between "Play A Train Song" and "Show The World" as my favorite song on the record. I love the spirit of that guy who's in "Play A Train Song," who's "a runaway locomotive out of his one-track mind."
REK: I always do some song that I really love, and -- just like you -- I love that song. But it's not one of my songs. Of the twelve songs on the album, only eleven of them I wrote, and that particular song is by Todd Snider. Todd is a really fantastic songwriter and performer that plays all over the country. I've been friends with him for a long time, and I've been as much of a fan as I've been a friend. When I heard that song, I decided to record it because -- just like you -- I thought it was a great story. It's just fantastic.
MR: And you juxtapose that with "Paint The Town Beige," where it feels like somebody is finally settling down and appreciating the slower things in life.
REK: Right. That's a song that I wrote a number of years ago. It was on a previous record, and at the time, when I wrote it, I guess I was channeling some older guy. The reason I re-recorded it was because it really reflects my life, more or less, now. What I'd like to say about that is, I've grown into the song. I wrote it some years ago and now I feel like it 100% reflects my life.
MR: I also wanted to ask you about the opening track, "Black Baldy Stallion." What is the story on that one?
REK: I have a real love for the western motif. I love western books, western movies, and I've almost always put some kind of western song on a record. But that wasn't the intention here. I was just kind of sitting around strumming and working on a song. But the upshot of the song is the lover has been away from his true love for years and years. In the middle of the song, it somewhat explains that there must've been some kind of trouble or fight with some of the townspeople where they lived -- like in a small village -- and that he's been excommunicated for that reason. In the song, he's on his way back from wherever he's been. You just have to assume it's out in the wild, wild west, and he's coming back to this village and he's riding this beautiful horse and has to cross the river to get to the village. In the end, his long lost love is sitting there, in the village, reading the letter that he never was able to deliver as the black baldy stallion rider passes, gleaming in the sun, dripping water from the river. So, he never actually sees her in the end. It's a forlorn, lost love song.
MR: Very cinematic. Now, I do have to ask about your stint in a certain musical called Chippy. (laughs)
REK: Yeah, that was back in the mid '90s. I was friends with a bunch of these guys -- artists, singers, and writers from around the Lubbock area, like Joe Ely, and Terry Allen, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. And even the man who produced Ready For Confetti, Lloyd Mains, was one of the people who played in the band for this play. Anyway, the Allens -- Terry and Jo Harvey -- wrote this play about a prostitute in West Texas in the '30s. They wanted somebody who looked like kind of a ne'er do well, sad-sacked lawyer, and they picked me. So, I got to be in this play in Philadelphia for, oh, about a month, I think. We were at a playhouse there in Philadelphia and then we took it to Lincoln Center in New York for a week. I didn't have a lot invested in it in that I'm not an actor, so I wasn't worried about that kind of career. But it was the highlight of my life, just to be around so many creative people and getting to act onstage. I remember being backstage, waiting for my turn to walk onstage, and thinking, "You know, I want to remember every second of this because this has been one of the best times I've ever had in my life."
MR: And you didn't catch the acting bug after that?
REK: Not really. I've been in a few oddball movies and things here and there, but I'm not an actor. I'm much more a writer. I certainly enjoy performing onstage, but to me, it's a whole different discipline.
MR: On the other hand, your actor side shines a few more times. Which movies were you in?
REK: I was in this movie called Grand Champion, and it plays on cable every now and then. It's kind of a kid's movie. Somebody described it as "Free Willy with a steer." I had a little bitty part in that, and then I was in this other cowboy horror movie called Blood Trail. I've been in a few things. Acting is fun, you know. It's just something else to do, really.
MR: There's some sort of connection, though. You have so many songs in your catalog that have these cinematic images and stories. Are you at least a bit of a movie buff?
REK: Oh, I love movies. I don't really watch any TV, but I watch movies. I have a pretty big collection and I'm a real fan of different actors and know some of the background on some of their careers. I'd say that's my hobby -- it's not a very active hobby, but I certainly love movies.
MR: As a songwriter and artist, are there times when you wish you had written the theme song to some of these movies? Maybe even a movie?
REK: Well, I mean, I can answer that in two parts. One -- I definitely think that a lot of my music can fit into different movies, and that happens occasionally. But the other thing -- as far as the storylines go -- I'm pretty hard on them. I go to movies in the theaters and think, "You know, so many times they get to maybe the last act in the movie and they just let them unravel." I think that's a common failing in movies. They have a good beginning and a good start with some good exposition and some good action going, and then it kind of falls apart. So, the answer is yes, I have felt in the past that I could certainly write better endings than some movies have.
MR: Don'tcha love the tinkering that some parent company does to a director's work after a couple of focus groups get done with it?
REK: I think focus groups hurt art. I'm a believer in the idea that the best art is created by one person. Not that it's not successful and doesn't work a lot of times when several people are involved, but I think, in general, the best art is created by one person, and you don't need a focus group to tell you whether it's good or bad.
MR: By the way, I know two show hosts at KRUU who met and fell in love because of your song "Don't Turn Out The Light." It seems that your songs have been featured in peoples' real-life movies. (laughs)
REK: Right, they definitely have. You know, I get a lot of fan mail from people expressing that they used a certain song at a wedding or that their high school senior graduation song was "The Road Goes On Forever" and that kind of thing. I certainly am a part of a lot of peoples' lives without even knowing what's going on. (laughs)
MR: Oh, since you brought it up, the story of "The Road Goes On Forever" is about the Willy Nelson 4th Of July concert when your car caught on fire, right?
REK: Yeah, it was back in the '70s and I had a date with a girl -- I didn't even count it as a date because it was just so haphazard. You're just sitting there kind of being a kid, stabbing your toe in the sand and going "You wanna go to a concert?" and she says "Yeah, sure," and you're totally unprepared and you go out there. It was in the Texas World Speedway, which is near College Station. It was one of those things... back in those days, they put on some kind of festival or something, and nobody'd know if it would work or not. But it was overwhelmingly successful, it truly was like a Woodstock for Texas. There were more people than they could handle, and they didn't have enough room, and everybody was in hardly any clothes at all, and it was about a million degrees outside, and I was hanging out just trying to do the best I could. All of a sudden, the parking lot behind the stage caught on fire and burnt my car up. It was a long ordeal of trying to get it fixed, and within the whole deal, I lost my car and I lost the girl. So, consequently, there's a story on one of the records that pretty much encapsulates that whole experience, and then it turns into the song. "The road goes on forever and the party never ends..."
MR: Robert, what advice would you have for new artists?
REK: My advice is to write and work as much as you can. Work through all your demons as far as lack of confidence and your need to show people stuff -- just believe in yourself. And if you're a writer, write as much as you can. If you're a singer, sing as much as you can, and do it every chance you get, because there's a point where if you've become famous or if you've become popular or sought after, that time will never be there again and you won't be able to continue to work on your art. And the art part is really what keeps everything going.
MR: It's difficult as young people try to make it in art these days. With Facebook and Twitter and now Google+, it almost seems like for survival, young artists have to both create a body of work and keep up with social networking to accumulate a fan base at the same time, and I fear that the latter takes away from making the art as good as possible.
REK: Well, it certainly takes away from that. I'm guilty of being a part of all the social media, but it doesn't draw me in because I've been around for a long time and I'm not quite as enthralled with it. But in this day and time -- and in this market -- I think it is imperative that you're part of those worlds of social media. But that doesn't mean that you can't turn off your computer and sit down with your keyboard or your guitar or your tap shoes or your singing voice and woodshed and get that experience in beyond just talking about it. I guess that's the only real distraction with social media, that a lot of people spend a lot of time talking about stuff that they're not really working on as hard as they would in a perfect world or as much as they would like to. So, you know, we're somewhat distracted as a culture by some of that, and I'm fully guilty myself. However, I do know the value of really digging in and writing good songs and then writing another one. Just because you write a good song doesn't mean you can't turn around and write another one right afterward. You don't have to sit there and pat yourself on the back for a year. You just keep on cranking.
MR: Jim, this interview will be featured on solar-powered KRUU-FM, which is the only solar-powered radio station in the Midwest. But we're also a community-based station, which is interesting because you've based a career on these types of stations.
REK: Yeah, I've never had a real hit, you know? As a matter of fact, many people who know all the words to my songs will come to my show, and they'll bring a friend and their friend has never heard of me whatsoever. And they're going, "How do all these people know all your songs?" You know, for the most part, it's word of mouth and people liking the records. And obviously they like the records enough to where they learn all the songs. But as far as that goes, the world of community radio has been my home for thirty years. I've been part of community radio all that time, and if it weren't for community radio, I wouldn't have a career. The other world of hit songs and commercial radio really just doesn't even exist for me. It's a real testament to the power of community radio -- and I guess we'll see what the power of solar community radio will do for us.
MR: Robert, thank you very much for those kind words.
REK: You bet.
MR: And thank you for visiting us here, all the best of luck with your new album, Ready For Confetti.
REK: Thank you. I think it's really the best one I've ever made, and I get that feeling because although everybody seems to like it, I've noticed with repeated plays -- and this is always good for movies or plays or songs or anything -- as you get into repeated plays, it sounds better and better to you. I think that's the kind of record we have here.
MR: Well, I'm ready to throw confetti for you regardless. I love this record. Thank you so much.
REK: Thanks a lot, Mike, I appreciate it.
1. Black Baldy Stallion
2. Ready For Confetti
3. I Gotta Go
4. Lay Down My Brother
5. The Road Goes On And On
6. Show The World
7. Waves On The Ocean
8. Top Down
9. Play A Train Song
10. Who Do Man
11. Paint The Town Beige
12. Soul Of Man
Transcribed by Claire Wellin
ROSE HILL DRIVE "TELEPATHIC" VIDEO PREMIERE
Rolling Stone named the Boulder, Colorado, group Rose Hill Drive one of their 10 New Artists To Watch in 2007 and Guitarist wrote, "If this doesn't make you want to pick up a Les Paul, you have no soul." After EPs and two full albums, the band returns with this new video for the track "Telepathic."
Follow Mike Ragogna on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ragz2008