Singing the blues: The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band comes to Croydon's Fairfield
Blues legend Mick Fleetwood is best known as one the founders of Fleetwood Mac. He talks to Mark Hill before playing Croydon's Fairfield with his new band
"Once a blues man, always a blues man," Mick Fleetwood says, calling from the sprawling home in Hawaii he shares with wife Lynn and their twin daughters.
Now one of the world's most iconic musicians, Fleetwood left school at 15 and in 1963 moved to London to pursue a career as a drummer, playing with The Cheynes and John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers.
It was in 1967 with Jeremy Spencer, Bob Brunning, and former Bluesbreakers members John McVie and Peter Green that there became the first incarnation of Fleetwood Mac – the band that went on to sell well over 100 million records.
Now he's going back to his blues roots on a tour with his new group The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band and a new live album, Blue Again!
Fleetwood explains how his Blue Band came about. "I put this band together with Rick Vito and two great players, Lenny Castellanos and Mark Johnstone, and it's really a focus of my relationship with Rick Vito who used to stand in the audience looking at Fleetwood Mac playing in Philadelphia where he lived.
"Many years later I met him and totally appreciated his guitar playing and he'd played with all the great players and then I asked him to join Fleetwood Mac. About three years ago, me and Rick struck up our friendship again and got connected with rock and roll gigs here in America, just for fun, and out of that came this."
Fleetwood, 61, says this tour is about going back to where he started with blues-based Fleetwood Mac and will feature some very early Fleetwood Mac songs but not the hits they are best known for.
They had hits such as Albatross, Go Your Own Way, Don't Stop, Dreams, and Everywhere, and Grammy Award-winning album Rumours is one of the biggest-selling albums of all time at more than 30 million copies. The band has seen various members come and go and Fleetwood is the only one to have stayed with the band consistently throughout the years.
Fleetwood Mac are touring in 2009 on a greatest hits tour.
"We're still all friends and in contact – absolutely. We're a strange old bunch - we are alive and well and we are going into rehearsals in the new year after I've done this tour with The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band. Fleetwood Mac is going to be going out on the road in the United States in late March of next year.
"I think we've been very open about our personal lives and probably a little foolishly, but it's really because we were in control of our own faculty - we managed ourselves. I managed Fleetwood Mac for a long time, which meant we were all pitching in, controlling our own destiny, and we didn't have some Svengali pumping us up and making us believe what didn't exist. But out of all the trappings of success our music brought to us, it was always about the music and just doing what we wanted to do."
Fleetwood battled with alcohol and cocaine addiction, but has now been clean for many years.
"Everyone takes responsibility for everything they do, but it may not be different from going down your local pub and realising the local car dealer, who's doing really well, is drinking a little much and buying too many drinks for everyone else in the pub. It's pervasive.
"We became aggrandised in this almost mythological storytelling thing that described a generation. I'm not excusing it, I'm just saying what was going on sociologically. The fact we survived is lovely, and a miracle to some extent."
In 1984 he was forced to declare himself bankrupt but denies it was a result of the rock star lifestyle, simply a result of bad business decisions.
"I was very entrepreneurial and yes, I lost and made my fortune in real estate and it had relatively little to do with drug addiction. However, I will never live that down.
"Would I change some things in retrospect, in terms of being less selfish, less driven? Yes. I hope I would still do what I needed to do and have a little bit more time for other things and other people including my older daughters. I'm also blessed with two young daughters. I am by no means saying I was an irresponsible parent, because I truly believe I was not. But could I have been better? Absolutely."
So what motivates Fleetwood to keep touring and recording into his 60s?
"I'm a musician, and it's like asking BB King or Eric Clapton or Elton John and you go, 'My God, they're still playing', but it's because we like what we do. We started this to do what we're doing now – which is playing. There's a sense of commitment to being an artist and you're driven to do that and you're not really complete unless you do it.
"Having said that, there are people that are quite happy to be famous, retire and start planting potatoes, and that's fine too.
"There's a reason why Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey are still playing - we all love to play, and God knows all of us could have retired 20 lives over. It's not about money - it's about what we do and how much we love it."
The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band comes to Fairfield, Croydon on Sunday November 2 at 8pm.
For tickets, priced from £22.50, call 020 8688 9291 or log on to www.fairfield.co.uk