Chris­tine McVie fly­ing high for Mac re­union

Singer claims cre­ative re­la­tion­ship ‘bet­ter than ever’

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Randy Lewis

LOS ANGELES — Chris­tine McVie eases com­fort­ably into the cor­ner of a leather sofa, about a foot be­tween her and Lind­sey Buck­ing­ham. He leans for­ward and side by side, they lis­ten to the play­back of Too Far Gone, a dance­able new Fleet­wood Mac song they’ve writ­ten to­gether over the last few weeks at a West Los Angeles record­ing stu­dio. “This was a great col­lab­o­ra­tion,” Buck­ing­ham said. “I had a track with­out any singing on it, and she wrote the song over it.” “We’ve been do­ing that quite a bit lately, haven’t we?” McVie said. Help­ing McVie write songs, Buck­ing­ham said to her, “is some­thing you al­ways wanted me to do for you, which was not nec­es­sar­ily the case with Ste­vie (Nicks). She’s a lit­tle more com­pli­cated in her needs.” It’s a scene that would have been pure rock ’n’ roll fan­tasy barely two years ago. At that point, McVie was en­sconced in her 17th-century man­sion in ru­ral north­ern Eng­land, hav­ing re­tired from tour­ing and record­ing with a band she’d been part of for a quar­ter century. Crip­pled by a fear of fly­ing that made the idea of a trip to Los Angeles — or any­where else — un­think­able, the ’70s rock god­dess stopped tour­ing in 1998 and spent much of her time cook­ing and gar­den­ing. But last week, the woman who wrote and sang many of the group’s cor­ner­stone songs, in­clud­ing Don’t Stop, You Make Lov­ing Fun and Lit­tle Lies, traded ban­ter cheer­fully with Buck­ing­ham, who ex­pressed sheer de­light at re­sum­ing the cre­ative re­la­tion­ship they’d once en­joyed, both say­ing they’ve not only picked up where they left off, but agree­ing that “it’s bet­ter than ever.” In fact, it’s the same stu­dio they built 35 years ago when the Bri­tishAmer­i­can band was start­ing work on one of the most am­bi­tious projects of the group’s sto­ried ca­reer, the two-disc Tusk al­bum, which fol­lowed block­buster Ru­mours, one of the 10 best­selling al­bums of all time. Af­ter a smil­ing McVie flashes dou­ble thumbs-up to en­gi­neer Mark Need­ham, Mick Fleet­wood squeezes his un­mis­tak­able six-foot-five frame through the con­trol room door and starts munch­ing a forkful of salad out of a green plas­tic container. He grabs a dig­i­tal cam­era off a cof­fee ta­ble and points it at his band­mates. McVie obliges him by twist­ing her mouth into a goofy gri­mace as he snaps the shot. “There was some worry about whether it was a good idea to come back here,” said Fleet­wood, 66. “Maybe it would be bet­ter to go some­place new, some­place we hadn’t worked be­fore. But since we started work­ing here, it couldn’t be more fan­tas­tic.”

F. Scott Fitzger­ald’s ob­ser­va­tion that “there are no sec­ond acts in Amer­i­can lives” notwith­stand­ing, it ap­pears that the Grammy-win­ning quin­tet is po­si­tion­ing it­self for pre­cisely that. Of the band’s five mem­bers, only Nicks isn’t on the premises, busy at­tend­ing to other com­mit­ments, they say. While Chris­tine McVie and Buck­ing­ham signed off on the lat­est tweaks to Too Far Gone, John McVie and Fleet­wood worked on other facets of the new ma­te­rial. McVie’s re­turn to the fold for an up­com­ing full-band re­union tour, an­nounced in Jan­uary (it comes to Win­nipeg’s MTS Cen­tre Nov. 10) was sur­prise enough to mu­sic fans who’d been as­sured for a decade and a half that McVie had checked out of Fleet­wood Mac and wasn’t com­ing back. But things started to change a cou­ple of years ago, when she be­gan to re­assess her de­ci­sion. She con­tin­ued to write in her self­im­posed re­tire­ment, and put out an ap­peal­ing solo al­bum in 2004, In the Mean­time. It was that project that helped plant the seed for her even­tual re­turn. “It had some good songs on it, but I went about it all wrong,” said McVie, 70, still look­ing the part of the quin­tes­sen­tial rock ’n’ roll singer and song­writer in her brown leather jacket, over a white tank top and tight black jeans. “I did it the wrong way, with the wrong people, I didn’t want to fly, I didn’t want to pro­mote it. I just did it in my garage and noth­ing hap­pened with it. That caused a cer­tain amount of angst, and then I just stopped.” Then a cou­ple of years ago, she sought out a ther­a­pist to help her with the fear of fly­ing. “He asked me, ‘If you were to go any­where in the world, where would you want to go?’ I thought about it for a lit­tle bit, and I said ‘Hawaii.’ “He said, ‘Buy your ticket.’ Then he said, ‘You don’t have to use it. Just buy it,’” she said. Buck­ing­ham laughs at her rev­e­la­tion, say­ing, “I didn’t know that part.” Af­ter a pe­riod of be­ing grad­u­ally de­sen­si­tized to the idea of fly­ing, she said Fleet­wood drove to her home to meet her, and to­gether they got on a plane to Maui. There she joined him and her ex­hus­band, John McVie, at a per­for­mance by their blues band.

“I did a cou­ple of songs there, it felt good on­stage, and then I thought, I’m re­ally miss­ing out on some­thing — some­thing that’s mine, that I’ve just given up, and I’m not pay­ing re­spect to my own gift,” she said. “I saw that if I want to start to play again, there’s only one band I want to play with, and that’s Fleet­wood Mac.” That led to her first ap­pear­ance in 15 years with Buck­ing­ham, Nicks, McVie and Fleet­wood when the 80 per cent edi­tion of the group per­formed at the O2 Arena in Lon­don last year, a one-night re­union that set the stage for her re­turn to the band. That would have been rea­son enough for Fleet­wood Mac fans to cel­e­brate, but as McVie put it, her re­turn wasn’t sim­ply for the full-group re­union tour now sched­uled to start in the fall. “I com­mit­ted to join the band hook, line and sinker — record­ing, ev­ery­thing,” she said. Hav­ing over­come her fly­ing fears, a new sense of lib­er­a­tion is man­i­fest­ing in McVie through an out­pour­ing of song­writ­ing, much of it with Buck­ing­ham. Over the last eight weeks, Buck­ing­ham said they’ve writ­ten and recorded eight new songs, which will help pop­u­late a new Fleet­wood Mac al­bum along with seven or eight more the band recorded about 18 months ago while gear­ing up for a 2013 tour. An­other McVie-Buck­ing­ham col­lab­o­ra­tion they pre­viewed, How I Feel, is a buoy­ant num­ber with all the mark­ings of a hit. “There’s a lot of pop in what we’ve been do­ing,” Buck­ing­ham, 64, says with a smile, his sig­na­ture shock of kinky hair still shoot­ing sky­ward even as it has mor­phed over the years from dark brown to salt-and-pep­per shades. Fol­low­ing this round of record­ing, the al­bum will be shelved while they gear up for the new tour, which opens Sept. 30 in Minneapolis. “I think we both came in with a cer­tain level of... not anx­i­ety, but ac­knowl­edg­ing that there were cer­tain un­knowns as to how this was go­ing to go, or where it was go­ing to go, or whether it would only get so far and then hit the wall,” Buck­ing­ham said. “It’s al­most like the whole be­ing greater than the sum of the parts, which was al­ways a way to de­scribe Fleet­wood Mac. “When some­one takes such a long hia­tus, you don’t know if that was a mo­ment in time; if that (work­ing re­la­tion­ship) is still there,” he said. “You know the po­ten­tial is still there, but are the tools for get­ting in touch with it still there? But ac­tu­ally, it’s bet­ter than ever, wouldn’t you say?” “Ab­so­lutely,” McVie said in­stan­ta­neously. “You’ve heard what the tour is called?” she asks, as if to un­der­score the theme of re­ju­ve­na­tion for the new chap­ter in the con­tin­u­ing story that is Fleet­wood Mac. “On With the Show,” she said, an­swer­ing her own ques­tion. Work­ing to­gether again, Buck­ing­ham said, “has been a re­ally pro­found cou­ple of months. I can’t think of any­thing bet­ter for the next act for this band.”

RICHARD YOUNG/REX

Mick Fleet­wood helped Chris­tine McVie as she strug­gled with fear of fly­ing.

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