Lindsey Buckingham occupies one of the odder positions in the already off-kilter business that is the modern-day music industry. Though Buckingham is the co-leader and driving force behind one of the bedrock bands of the classic-rock universe, the Fleetwood Mac singer/songwriter/guitarist’s long-standing, if sporadic, solo career is considerably more of a boutique operation. This is especially true with the arrival of his latest solo outing, Seeds We Sow, Buckingham’s first-ever release outside the major-label realm. Buckingham had been working under the Warner/Reprise umbrella ever since his band’s self-titled 1975 blockbuster album, but after his contract ran out following his last solo outing, he found the majors to be both uninspired and uninspiring in regard to his new work. “As we all know,” he says, “the model of the large record company, you might say it’s broken. But you might just say it’s insensitive to the sense of possibility, the sense of risk-taking, the sense of nurturing that it used to provide artists.” Consequently, he’s gone the indie route with Seeds.
Not only has Buckingham taken the means of production into his own hands for this album, he’s taken over responsibility for pretty much every other aspect of the record too, writing, playing, engineering and producing everything himself. How does the process of building a track work in this kind of one-man-band situation? “You may start with a melody idea, you may start with a guitar idea,” explains Buckingham, “it’s kind of like painting, you commit to one thing to make a start. You could say it’s a more subconscious process. I’m not one of those people who necessarily sits down with something that’s completely finished…the writing part of it kind of goes along with the recording part of it.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Buckingham is a world-class guitar stylist, and a number of the album’s songs are based around his unique acoustic finger-picking technique. Asked about how he developed his unconventional approach, he muses, “It was just kind of a hybrid of things. Part of it is starting really young and not taking lessons, and not knowing what was correct or what wasn’t. Early on I was listening to a lot of Elvis, so you have [Presley’s lead guitarist] Scotty Moore, who played with a pick but also used his fingers. He was a pretty orchestral player. When the first wave of rock music died away, folk music took its place in terms of my interest…and I did sort of dabble in banjo, enough to have that be a bit of a reference point. It was really just the fact that I started doing it myself and found my own way of approaching it. When I first started with Fleetwood Mac they said ‘Don’t you think you ought to use a pick?’ It’s a little late now,” he jokingly reckons.
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