When asked how she and Mick Fleetwood were getting along at their first arranged meeting, Nicole Atkins responded nonchalantly, as if the two had known each other for years.
"This is what I do with my friends back in Brooklyn -- have drinks and talk about bands," she said. "So it's nice to talk music with the person who's actually in the band."
The pairing of "rock's royalty" with "rock's future" is the premise behind Cabo Wabo Tequila's Off The Record series -- a collection of filmed conversations and jam sessions between two musicians of similar stylings, separated only by their generations. Mick and Nicole were the first to test out this venture -- the former being the drummer and founding member of legendary rock group Fleetwood Mac, and the later, a Brooklyn-based blues-rock singer whose voice channels the same commanding tones as that of Stevie Nicks.
Mick and Nicole connected this past August at Fleetwood's on Front Street, Mick's newest restaurant venture set to open in early 2012 in his hometown of Maui. Over a glass of tequila and a few hours, they delved into untold stories of touring, music making and everything that falls between, as cameras recorded the landmark encounter.
"The Off The Record series is something long overdue and highly invaluable to aspiring musicians and music fans alike," said Mick. "Bringing together musicians of varying ages and genres to discuss common experiences gives a one-of-a-kind insight into our craft and world."
While the footage achieved is no doubt historical, contextually it's only a fragment of their immediate and undeniable chemistry, which rolled naturally even when the cameras were off. The full weekend spent on the lush Hawaiian island felt comparable to a tourist's attempts at capturing the Road to Hana in photos: though the video reveals a fascinating snippet of their many parallels, nothing can compare to witnessing the two musicians interact in person.
"How it came about couldn't be more perfect and more meaningful for what we get out of it," said Mick. "And that is the truth. There's probably a lot more than what ends up on the tape."
For three days, their banter flowed in a seamless nostalgic dialogue. Mick recounted scenes from years blurred by cities, songs and heavy doses of dangerous living and Nicole responded with effortless comparisons to her own parallel adventures. The two seemed cosmically destined to meet -- sharing influences, a love of the sea and a soft spot for the Peter Green era of Fleetwood Mac. Nicole even covered the band's hit "Oh Well" at her album release -- coincidentally, one of Mick's favorites from the Fleetwood Mac archives. For two artists with such complementary qualities, it's amazing to think that their paths could have just as easily not crossed.
"It's sort of uncanny, really," said Mick. "I knew a little bit about her, but nowhere near this. And that's made everything sort of fluid and seamless."
The exceptional pairing could have never been certain, but with Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer and Van Halen frontman, Sammy Hagar, behind Cabo Wabo, it was clearly not left up to chance. Hagar founded the tequila brand back in 1996 and has since dedicated a large portion of its focus to showcasing talented up-and-coming artists. Another similar campaign run by the tequila brand is grounded on the same motives. Cabo Wabo's Your Shot To Rock, a battle-of-the-bands type contest, aims to propel the top rock bands in America into the limelight.
"Cabo Wabo Tequila's association with rock music is well known," said Hagar. "And we have always been strong supporters of new artists."
But the support coming from Cabo Wabo's Off The Record series runs deeper than just helping a new artist get noticed -- especially since Nicole is not really new to fame. The songstress, wise beyond her years, has already married and divorced a major label (Columbia) and just last year turned to indie label, Razor & Tie, to release her second album, Mondo Amore.
"Some people define themselves by the car they drive. I don't play music to impress people, I play it to share something," said Nicole. "That unwillingness to compromise what you're doing because art is really important. And if that's what your whole life is based around, then you're lucky."
Embarking fearlessly on this unchained, unlabeled phase in her career marks an ideal time for fans to get to know Nicole personally, making Off The Record's timing perfectly relevant for her.
While Nicole has been spending time renovating her career, Mick has been renovating in a more concrete sense. The musician has been busy readying his new restaurant, set in a building that dates back to 1916 (coincidentally the same year his mother was born). The aim is to transform the historic venue in appearance and appeal to a restaurant, music venue and cocktail refuge, fully stocked with Mick's own Private Cellar wines. Mick stresses that the establishment is going to be a "real working restaurant" rather than a "shrine for Mick Fleetwood," shifting the focus from his name to the names of the local artists that venue aims to attract.
There have also been hints to other stirrings in Mick's musical career. Rumors of a Fleetwood Mac album and tour and have been buzzing about, and although the details are constantly shifting (in typical Fleetwood Mac character), Mick has at least confirmed that it's something on their radar.
"Latest thing is I met with Stevie [Nicks], and in truth, her album is creeping along. It's going from one sort of thing to another and she's not sure she's going to be ready to tour next year," said Mick. "Right now, for the tour, I am deferring to Stevie, but at the very least, the tour will not happen until late next year. With Stevie, this is one of those things that you just don't know. For now, she's loving what she's doing, and in truth, we'll all see soon."
Removing themselves from their own personal happenings and their initial reasons for getting involved with Off The Record, Mick and Nicole found a more profound side to participating in the series. The two got an up-close-and-personal look at another artist shaped from the same mold and grounded by the same foundations, and in turn, they each got a closer look at their own personal knowledge and accomplishments.
"[Nicole] has done something really lovely to hand over. And I have a little bit of that, maybe more of it than I realize," said Mick, getting a bit teary-eyed. "I get reminded by people around me and I think, 'what have you done?' I'm being reminded about what I've done with our new little liaise here, which really makes me emotional."
There's no word yet who Cabo Wabo will pull together for episode two of Off The Record, but cheers to hoping it's two more artists, similar to Mick and Nicole in the sense that they can be inspired and driven by their introduction.<
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