How did you solo album turn into a Fleetwood Mac production?
I started working on this record after coming off the road for a small tour in support of Out Of The Cradle. One day I ran into Mick Fleetwood, who I hadn't seen in quite a while, and we started talking about working together. At the same time, Rob Cavallo-who was producing Green Day at the time - became interested in working with me. So the three of us just started cutting tracks. I took most of the songs back to my house to finish them, and while that was happening - as has occurred a few times in the past - the gravity of Fleetwood Mac just sucked me in.
At that time, there was a big push to do The Dance tour, so I put all my new stuff on the shelf throughout 1996. After the tour, I went back in and finished what was going to be my next solo album. This was about the time that Warner Brothers was preparing to change a lot of staff, though, and I was a little worried that my record would get buried. I felt strongly that it was the best solo thing I had done, so I thought, "Well, I'll just wait."
In the meantime, Stevie was around, and the whole idea of getting her in the picture came about. I wasn't sure that I was going to use my stuff for a Fleetwood Mac album, but we just decided to start cutting some of Stevie's songs while I waited for the new regime at Warner to come in. From there, the whole project morphed into as Fleetwood Mac thing.
But without Christine McVie.
Yeah. At the end of the 40 or so dates of The Dance tour, Christine announced she didn't want to go out on the road anymore. I wasn't completely unhappy with her decision because I had my solo stuff to get back to.
How did her absence affect the sessions for this new album?
The band had to explore new creative options because Christine wasn't there. For example, we were forced to play differently because, suddenly, we were a three piece. Her absence also forced Stevie and I to establish a different dynamic with each other, and, ironically, it's a bit more like Buckingham Nicks. But I think that working through Christine's departure is one of the reasons this album sounds as fresh as it does.
When you're writing a song, do you typically start with a guitar part?
Yes. I've always admired Stevie for her ability to have the vocal melody be the center of the song. In theory, that's how it should be. But the guitar is always the center of my songs, and writing is always a case of wondering, "What do I put over that?"
The great thing about Stevie is that she really isn't a musician, so 95 percent of her psyche is driving the melody. As a guitarist, I often find myself defining a guitar part before I even have a melody. There's nothing wrong with that, but it can be more problematic when you're trying to develop a song idea.
At one time, you and Stevie and Christine were masters of turning personal difficulties into hit songs. Is the ability to reflect on what's happening around you still a factor in your songwriting?
I don't really think of myself as a commentator of anything. I just try to find a lyric that has some truth, grace, and mystery. Hopefully, it will bridge the line between something personal and something that's about the world in a broader sense.
On Rumours -which was probably the primary example of our lives laid bare-I don't think we were aware of what we were doing. Our situation was unique because two couples were breaking up while making a record, and the personal difficulties were fueling everything.
Say Goodbye - "This song was written quite a long time ago, after I had left the band. I don't know if I was going for anything in particular, but I was in a place where I could feel compassionate, understanding, and nonjudgmental about the other people in the band, and about everything that had happened. The lyric was really important to me, and the fingerpicking part makes it a really nice guitar piece."