Borders TISL - 2001
by Maggie Gruber, Borders.com Music Editor
I've heard Trouble in Shangri-La compared to Carlos Santana's Supernatural in terms of the concept and the comeback. What do you think about that?
I have never heard that comment, but, boy, do I like it! I loved Supernatural, and I also loved the fact that I stood on the stage with Carlos Santana in 1970 and watched him play in the very, very beginning. For me, that was one of the first really big, live, San Francisco bands I ever actually saw. Because we—Lindsey and my band [Fritz]—opened for them, we actually got to stand on the side of the stage and watch them. Two weeks later, the movie Woodstock came out. Then I got to see them on the big, huge screen, and I think that's when I said to myself, "Oh, I'm going to do this. This is me." [Laughing.] "I'm definitely going to be a rock star. This is what I want to do." So to see Carlos have this huge album is just wonderful, because it's watching one of the really great people, who I actually saw in the beginning, come full circle. I was just very, very proud of him.
Do you feel you came full circle with this album?
This record, for me, is great, because I really did carry it through until it was exactly the record I wanted. I recorded several of the songs twice because they didn't come out the right way. I decided that even if nobody else in the world liked this record, I was going to like it. I was going to be proud of it. And if it didn't sell, then I wasn't going to feel bad about it because I would know that I did my absolute best.
You are very protective of your feelings, yet you write songs like "I Miss You" that are honest and make the listeners feel like they know your innermost secrets and emotions.
Well, you know what, I love that because that's why I write. I write those songs so you can put on "I Miss You"—or it'll come on and you'll be walking by and hear it and something will be happening to you—and you'll go, "Oh, I know exactly why she wrote that song." Then it will become your song. That's what I write for. The great joy of writing for me is to know that I can write a poem that can become somebody else's heart's desire. It is what they wanted to say. I can say it for you; that's what I do. I interpret how I think people feel and I try to put it in a little magical music so that it's easy to listen to, and then one day the real essence of that song will hit you.
Some of the songs seem to be about your relationship with Lindsey Buckingham.
Well, several of the songs are about my relationship with Lindsey because I've just had magnificent things to write about. My life is incredible. It is exciting. I'm not married, I don't have children. I'm very free. I travel. I do stuff. I love my life. But Lindsey and I have come through this whole thing, and we are still friends somehow. He lives 10 minutes from me. I can jump in the car and go over there. He knows these songs are about him. He's been hearing these songs since they were written. I wrote "Candlebright" before Lindsey and I left San Francisco. That was one of the songs we came here with to get our record deal for Buckingham-Nicks. "Candlebright" isn't really written about Lindsey, it's written about Lindsey and me, both of us. "Planets of the Universe" is written about when Lindsey and I really broke up after the Rumours record. "Sorcerer" is written about Lindsey and I coming to Hollywood from San Francisco. Lindsey had lived at home. He moved out of his parents' house, in with me, in Los Angeles.
So those songs are about us. He knows that. He looked at me the other day and said, "A lot of these songs are about me." And I said, "Aren't you just so flattered that you've been such an inspiration to me my whole life?" [Laughing.] And you know what? He is flattered. But there's nothing in those songs that you can't know, because if there were, it wouldn't be in the song. I write from a specific experience and make it as general as I can so it will be able to reach out and be understood by a lot of people.
"Bombay Sapphire" is your favorite song on the album?
Yes, because it is a song that I thought had a great message. I wrote it in Hawaii two years ago. At that point, in order to write the rest of the songs for this record, I really had to leave my Enchanted box set and Fleetwood Mac behind. Hawaii was very different than any place I'd ever been. Very green -- jade green -- very calm, very Zen. And I realized that if you take yourself to a great environment, you can just about get over anything. I was looking outside one day and it was like I was almost seeing my past as a little bit of something that I really wanted to leave behind for a while. I was looking past the past, out to the ocean and how beautiful it was and how white and inviting the sand was. I thought, I can see past you to the white sand and a message back to me that you are moving on now, you really are moving on. You are letting go of all that stuff that bothered you and you are moving forward. So, for me, it was very important that that song be on the record. I recorded that song two other times, and I didn't like it either time. I went back in for a third time and played it myself to get it the way I had written it when I was in Hawaii that night.
What is in the name "Trouble in Shangri-La"?
Shangri-La is paradise. It came from a long time ago, when I was little. I remember there was a TV show called "Adventures in Paradise," and I was always fascinated by the idea of adventures in paradise. So my idea of paradise I changed to Shangri-La, "Adventures in Shangri-La." But then I realized that whenever you get to Shangri-La there is always going to be a lot of trouble. There just is. If you make it to paradise, there's going to be a lot of trouble surrounding you, and people have a lot of trouble staying there because of that. People make it to the top of their field and think that that's paradise, and it isn't somehow. So I just wanted to keep my little umbrella of Shangri-La over the whole record so that it really was a record about relationships.
It seems like "Shangri-La" might also describe Fleetwood Mac.
Well, that's very interesting that you would say that because, even though I didn't set down to write any of it about Fleetwood Mac, in fact, some of the verses actually did touch on Fleetwood Mac. The first verse is absolutely about Lindsey and me. When I was writing it I really wasn't conscious of that because I just write long poems. I write poems with about 20 stanzas and then some of them have to go when you actually put it to a song. But "I remember him, he was very young / No one spoke like him, he was someone / And I carried on, like I couldn't stop / All of it for us baby." All of it for love basically. That verse is about him and that is how the verses started out. The rest of the verses are all about separate people. But they'd all come down to a very common thing, trouble in Shangri-La.
"You will never love again the way you love me," the chorus to "Planets of the Universe," is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain."
"The Chain" was my song. It was my words and my song put together with an instrumental Fleetwood Mac had going that had some of the same chords in it. Lindsey had heard me play the song on my guitar before and asked me, "Could we use this, because that song will fit into this song." Of course I said, "Cool."
All the guest artists on Shangri-La are women. Is this a coincidence, or did you plan it this way?
This was totally a coincidence. I asked Sheryl Crow to produce the record and we did "Candlebright" and "Sorcerer" two-and-a-half years ago. She didn't sing on them until just the last six months when I actually said, "You know what, Sheryl, I think you could really do those harmonies Lindsey did on the demos. Why don't you go and try." She did and, of course, they were perfect.
Natalie Maines came to me through Sheryl because Sheryl Crow knows everybody. I had noted two or three years before, when Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks had just come out, that she and I have very similar country voices, and I could definitely sing with her. I just kind of put that in my brain and never really thought about it again. When I mentioned it to Sheryl Crow she said, "Let's send her the cassette, and we'll see if she likes it." She did, and two days later we went to [Trouble in Shangri-La producer and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers member] Mike Campbell's and recorded "Too Far From Texas" live with me, Sheryl, and the Heartbreakers, except for Tom Petty and Waddy Wachtel. It was like a live band. We were all standing there together playing, and it came out great.
Macy Gray is managed by my manager, Howard Kaufman. I wanted to ask Sting to sing that part, but I just chickened out. He was on tour and has a big record out, so I thought he must be very busy. At the last minute of "Bombay Sapphire," I thought Macy could do that part really great if she would. The next day, she was there, did it in about an hour, and was gone. It was a little moment. As people hear the record, all those little moments will be much more special after they've really listened to it and heard what Macy did. She sang a great little part on it. It's very quiet, but it's very there. It's the same with Natalie and me. We are like two old country singers from Alabama, and you hear that. And the more you hear it, the more you hear how really great we sing together. I'm totally bragging because I'm totally proud.
What inspires you?
Experiences inspire me. I wrote the words to six or seven of the songs while on tour with Fleetwood Mac. When you're on tour it's very inspiring because the shows are huge and totally exciting and everybody there is totally excited. The whole environment becomes very romantic, and a romantic environment is the best environment for writing. You do the show, everybody has a great time, you go back to your hotel, and for me, I go back and write. Seven of the poems were written during that four-month tour.
In "Candlebright" you sing "I am something of a dreamer." What are you dreaming about now?
It was written in 1970, so I was only 22. I think I was always dreaming about now. I had never lived away from my parents when I wrote that song. I had no idea what was coming. But I think that song is a pretty amazing premonition, because it really is about how I would always travel and basically keep the light in the window so I could find my way back.