BUCKINGHAM BALANCE

“How is it in Montecito?” Lindsey Buckingham wants to know as soon as we’re connected for what was supposed to be a brief telephone interview. “I love Montecito. I would move there in a shot,” he adds.

Wait a minute. Buckingham – guitarist, singer and chief songwriter for rock superstars Fleetwood Mac for more than 30 years and the mastermind behind “Rumors,” which logged nearly 20 million sales in the U.S. – certainly has the wherewithal to afford the home prices in the village. And yes, he reports, he once considered buying a home on Ashley Road across the street from Lotusland, several years back.

So what stopped him?

“I don’t know,” he muses. “It just didn’t make sense at the time. It’s like Fantasy Land.”

Hmmm. That might also be a subtitle for Buckingham’s new solo CD, “Under the Skin.” His first non-Mac project in nearly 15 years fairly shimmers through dreams and vision, graced with highly reverberated (and often feverishly picked) acoustic guitars, lushly overdubbed vocals and simple refrains often repeated until they achieve a sort of meditate mantra. Through deft harmonizing, Buckingham coaxes maximum meaning out of the minimalist arrangements. Think, perhaps, “Smile,” by Brian Wilson, one of Buckingham’s heroes.

The brains and brawn behind Fleetwood Mac’s mid-‘70s resurgence has finally found happiness in his own nuclear family, and the grounding – and yet another break from the Mac – has given him the space and perspective to unleash this deeply personal song cycle.

Buckingham and his small three-piece band perform at the Arlington Theatre on November 5.

Q. I have to start out by saying that this is just a gorgeous album. It took a couple of listens, but now it’s turned into the current soundtrack in my brain, haunting and beautiful at the same time.

A. Thanks. The thing with this album is either you get it or you don’t. And that’s OK. I’m not shooting for broad. I’m trying to shoot high.

That‘s a good way to put it, because it seems like that dichotomy sums up the conflict you’ve dealt with throughout your career.

It is a tricky line to walk. Then again, it’s not a bad choice to have. If you can somehow manage to co-exist between the two poles and not drive yourself crazy, you’ve got it made. And it’s getting easier now with the family.

What inspired you, or at least prompted you, to make another solo album 14 years down the road?

It wasn’t supposed to be that long. I had the intention of putting the material that ended up on the last Fleetwood Mac studio album on my own solo album. But it got shelved to go out and do the live album in 1997. Then they wanted to do a studio album, so it became “Say You Will.”

(What led to this most recently was) I had taken a few songs that were ensemble pieces like “Big Love” and started doing them on stage as a single guitar. They connected so well with the audience it got me thinking about how we can do more of that, pare it back, do something that was that empty but still had production values. That’s why it departs so radically from anything I’ve ever done, so I have to assume somehow it was worth the long wait.

Also, I got married and had kids, which changes your perspective a little bit.

Indeed. The bulk of the record is very reflective. Is this a sort of mid-life crisis, wrestling with self-doubts or just some questions you grapple with?

What happened in Fleetwood Mac, as everyone knows, was there were two couples that broke up while we were making “Rumors.” Somehow, we managed to strike this attitude, “Damn the torpedoes” and do it anyway, and we certainly succeeded. But you have to look at how you managed to get through it when you didn’t have the proper distance from the person and never really had closure. For me, having to do things for her (Stevie Nicks) – to make hits for her and (thus) help her move even farther away, was so convoluted. Then on the other hand not just the carrot but the trophy too was that we were succeeding on such a huge commercial level. I think it became this very beautiful poetic thing, which is what brought out the voyeur in all the listeners.

Cut to any number of years later, and you could find yourself still in a forward direction on one level and yet in a state of arrested development on another level and not even know it. So when I managed to have children fairly late – I didn’t earlier because aside from my dysfunctional relationships with girlfriends I‘d seen a lot of my friends not be there for their kids, and I wasn’t gong to do that – by the time I actually did it, bam, I hit the wall. It’s like waking up out of a dream…. All that which is around you is completely in the present. But even though my work might be in the present, which I think this CD is, the motives and the line that got me here are very much in the past. That’s the reflection that seems to arise again and again, the narrow focus, examining what it actually meant to my life the last twenty or so years.

A breakup is hard enough in private, but I can’t imagine documenting it on what turned into one of the best selling albums in history.

Yeah, it was out there for everyone to hear. All I can say is thank God it wasn’t 2006, where the rags would have been all over us for details for years. But really, all entertainers get used to being exposed and examined. Maybe ours were a little more exposed but our personal life was also the subject matter of the record. What made it difficult it was what was going on inside the band – the politics.

So is this album your indication that you’ve resolved all that?

Oh, absolutely. I’ve been lucky enough to find myself having a beautiful wife and three kids, and also musically being able to do what I want to do whether it’s on the charts or not. Maybe I’ve earned the right to do that. It’s really the best time of my life. I would think it isn’t necessarily for Stevie because she doesn’t have that completeness. I don’t know and don’t want to guess.

In the very first verse on the first track, you react to being called a “visionary” in a Rolling Stone review from long ago. Why are you not comfortable with that term?

It was nice to see that term used in conjunction with me. But you have to understand that there are forces within the band that want you to see yourself as others want to see you, which is always inside the box, always a little bit to the right of center, always with the eye on the money. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it goes all the way back to “Tusk” when I really had to question my motives for being in the business at all. When you have a big success like that, you’re poised to either make “Rumors II” or go in a different direction. And I drew a line in the sand that I’m sure has helped to define me ever since. What happens when you do that is you find yourself isolated. There aren’t too many other people who are going to pat you on the back for making that choice. Rather, there’s a cultism that would rather draw you back into the fold.

Do you still enjoy playing “Go Your Own Way” and the other band hits, or is it a chore?

No, it’s fun. There’s a context you get into when you’re nearing the end of a set where the audience becomes more interactive. And any song that might potentially be boring or repetitive for you becomes a little different every night because they’re involved.

What’s next for Fleetwood Mac? Where would you like to see it go?

(chuckles) I know I’m going to tour past the beginning of year, then put out another solo album in rapid succession. Make it a complete statement of two albums and get it out of the way. By then it’ll likely be 2008 and the band will probably go on the road. I’m not sure if we’ll make another studio album, because of all the politics. I suppose after thirty years we should have worked that stuff out by now.