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Ben Rogerson

“I was gobsmacked. Mick Fleetwood called and said, 'We've got rid of Lindsey, would you play with us?'”: Neil Finn on joining Fleetwood Mac... but only after he'd gone through “the only audition I’ve ever done”

Neil Finn Fleetwood Mac.

Given the quality of his CV - he’s been making music with Split Enz, Crowded House and as a solo artist for almost half a century - you’d think that Neil Finn’s talents would speak for themselves, but the singer-songwriter has revealed that, prior to joining Fleetwood Mac on tour in 2018 as a replacement for Lindsey Buckingham, he had to go through “the only audition I've ever done”.

Speaking to MOJO, Finn says of his initial reaction to being asked: "I was gobsmacked. I was 60 and I'd had a wonderfully diverse musical life when Mick [Fleetwood] called and said, 'We've got rid of Lindsey, would you play with us?' I'd just done Lightsleeper with Liam [Finn, his son] so he had a vested interest in my not doing it, but he said, 'Give it a shot,' so I auditioned."

Finn goes on to reveal that "It's the only audition I've ever done,” explaining that  “I went to Hawaii and Mick spent an hour telling me it wasn't an audition, but it was. I was auditioning them too: I wasn't sure it was the right thing, I was quite conflicted, but I liked the people and the welcome was universal."

Presumably, Finn and Fleetwood Mac’s members at the time - Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, John McVie and the late Christine McVie - hit it off, and guitarist Mike Campbell was also added to the band. However, others weren’t so sure about the new line-up.

"The naysayers said, 'No Lindsey Buckingham, no Fleetwood Mac,'” Finn recalls, “but I brought personality and the ability to sing with Stevie and Christine. I could never be capable of sounding like Lindsey but I put a similar intensity into his songs."

Finn says that he hasn’t spoken to Buckingham since he took his place, but would like to have dinner with him at some point.

“There's a lot of ill-will, but I don't think he bears any towards me and I do think he had prior appreciation of the music I'd made,” says Finn. “Hopefully, once he got over the massive disappointment, he'd have thought, 'At least someone with something going for them is singing my songs.'"

What of the future of Fleetwood Mac, though? Christine McVie’s death in 2022 appeared to mark the end of the band, with Mick Fleetwood telling the Los Angeles Times in 2023: "I’d say we’re done, but then we’ve all said that before. It's sort of unthinkable right now."

Stevie Nicks was similarly unequivocal - “When [McVie] died, I figured we really can’t go any further with this. There’s no reason to,” she told Vulture that same year - but Lindsey Buckingham hasn’t ruled out a surprise reunion.

“In a heartbeat, absolutely,” the guitarist, vocalist and songwriter told Conan O’Brien when asked if he would consider rejoining Fleetwood Mac. “If there’s more to come [from the band], if there’s a way to heal that, that would be great. It would be very appropriate to close on a more circular note.”

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