When producing Stevie's songs, do you change them at all?
Buckingham: Sure. I try to make them as far to the left as possible [laughs]. I try to put as much of an artistic, modern spin on them, an edge on them. Because she's very romantic, and that's her strength. Her songs are great, but they can be interpreted in an overly sentimental way or in a more taut way, and I tend to go for the latter.
Does she generally agree with your production approaches to her songs?
Buckingham: I hope so. She's pretty complimentary about this group of tunes. But I was working hard! Some days I would be there at ten in the morning and wouldn't leave till ten at night, and the others would waltz in for a couple of hours and then leave, because I was doing that painting thing. And they were happy to see that being done. And I was happy to be able to do it. It was really quite a unique thing to be in a house, which is a very safe environment. You don't have some other band walking down the hall, outside your door. I could show up anytime I wanted.
Another thing that was unique about working on this stuff was that I was engineering it. I used many of the things I had learned while I was away from the band. It sort of vindicated my decision to leave in '87. Not that I ever felt that I had made the wrong decision, but sometimes you wonder if you could have worked it out. But by taking the time away, getting myself off the treadmill, and just slowing down and learning, I felt I had so much more to give back. And maybe that was something that needed to happen for all of us.
"Say Goodbye" connects a strong guitar piece with a great song.
Buckingham: Yeah, it's Charles Aznavour meets Leo Kottke. That is a song about Stevie, and it reflects just what I was talking about. The lyric came first, which is unusual for me. I tried to do that song for a number of years and couldn't quite figure out how to do it. After a couple of failed attempts, I came up with a weird tuning where I was dropping the G string down a step so that it became a seventh, and it got me to a place where I could play all these figures fairly easily. It was not an easy thing to work out.
Buckingham: This is a group of people that I love dearly, and maybe for the first time in years we can acknowledge that. It's one of the greatest rhythm sections in the world. But it's a volatile group of people. We've all got large egos. All I can do is try not to make the mistakes I've made before with the band members.
I'm very proud of this album. I feel this is the best work I've ever done. And I think Stevie's songs enrich that. The whole subtext of sweetness is what the album is about. It's about a circular karma. We wouldn't be doing this if there wasn't something drawing the four of us together, in a kind of a love and a destiny. This is a very special time for us. Let's just hope I don't blow it.