Fleetwood Mac had already been a band for eight years before Lindsey Buckingham joined the group in 1975 (along with then-girlfriend Stevie Nicks), but it was Buckingham's voice, guitar and pen that helped make the band one of the best-selling rock acts of all time. With Buckingham onboard Fleetwood Mac cut such era-defining, chart-topping, multiplatinum monsters as Fleetwood Mac (Reprise, 1975) and the monumental 1977 follow-up Rumours (Warner Bros.). The latter produced four top 10 hits, including the No. 1 single "Dreams," "Don't Stop" -- later the theme song for Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign -- and "Go Your Own Way."
But it's the left turns of Buckingham's solo career, which began with 1981's Law and Order (Warner Bros.) and often finds him working as a one-man band, that mark him as a musical maverick. His sixth solo album, Seeds We Sow, continues that tradition as Buckingham explores a broad spectrum of sounds from intense, drum-machine-driven grooves to solo-acoustic splendor and even a cover of the Rolling Stones' "She Smiled Sweetly." On Sept. 6, Buckingham will self-release the album, the first indie set of his 38-year recording career.
How do your Fleetwood Mac duties and your solo career fit into your life?
You could say that Fleetwood Mac was the mainstream big movie, and the solo thing was the independent film. If you have the choice to be able to do both, it becomes clear that it's the independent film that's going to be your source of growth, where you're going to be able to tap into your higher aspirations as an artist, whereas the other thing eventually will become more about upholding the brand.
Have you ever wished you could just be Lindsey Buckingham?
It would certainly make things a lot easier. But just because it's easier doesn't mean it would be more enriching. One of the things that makes [Fleetwood Mac] very interesting is that we don't necessarily belong in the same band. We have a set of reference points as individuals that aren't necessarily the same, and it's the differences that come together and make something that's interesting.
You wrote, performed, produced and mixed everything yourself on Seeds We Sow. Are you a control freak?
There's some element of wanting to control the situation, but some of that comes from giving up a certain amount of control on the other side of the coin, too. Because making albums with Fleetwood Mac is not a solitary endeavor. Working with a band is a more conscious political process. Working on your own, sometimes you start slapping the paint on the canvas and the work will lead you.
How did you go from lifelong major-label artist to self-releasing Seeds We Sow?
My deal with Warner Bros. had expired. Trying to shop this album was kind of like starting over. I actually started [shopping] with Warner Bros. [chairman] Rob Cavallo, who is a friend of mine and is in this new position over there. Rob liked it a lot, and then he had to go back and deal with the people in Burbank [Calif.], and when I talked to him on the phone, he started talking about the numbers he had to make quarterly, and I thought, "Well, that's the end of that." I did talk to a few independent labels and finally decided that what they were doing was something I could probably just as easily do myself.
Bill Hader recently played you in a recurring "Saturday Night Live" sketch, and "Glee" did a Rumours tribute. What's behind the sudden TV interest?
Your guess is as good as mine. When I heard about ["SNL"], my initial reaction was, "Gee, that's kind of obscure." I can only assume someone in the cast was a big fan. I did a walk-on at the end of the season. Irving [Azoff, Buckingham's manager] and I were talking about how funny it would be to just show up on the sketch, and we called Lorne [Michaels], and I guess one thing just led to another. "Glee" I knew ahead of time they were going to do it. I've never seen the show -- my guess is, it's probably not my cup of tea -- but there was no reason to say "no." It's a compliment, to be sure.
After 38 years of making records, how do you keep the process fresh?
If you make choices that help you remember who you are and why you got into this in the first place, and if you maintain your idealism and your sense of wanting to keep growing ... you have the potential of hitting a stride fairly late in your career. You may hit a certain point where any number of things suddenly comes to fruition. And I feel like that kind of happened with this album.