As far as rock music is concerned, you can’t get much more iconic than Fleetwood Mac. The British-American band has sold more than 100 million records, boasts a career that spans an incredible six decades, and possesses a sound that simply defies categorization. On Friday, March 9, Tusk, a Fleetwood Mac cover band, returns to Leesburg’s Tally Ho Theater, giving fans a chance to experience the band’s masterful song-craft in an intimate setting.
Get Out Loudoun chatted with Tusk singer Kathy Phillips and guitarist/vocalist Scott McDonald about what drew them to the work of Fleetwood Mac, their own musical backgrounds, and the unique aspects of playing another artist’s music professionally.
GOL: Can you two tell me a little about your musical backgrounds?
Scott: I started playing guitar when I was 8 years old. I used to run around the house pretending I was playing guitar by holding a tennis racket like a guitar. It was The Beatles and Led Zeppelin that got me interested in learning to play guitar.
Kathy: I loved music from as early as I can remember. I used to listen to the great women singer songwriters of the ’70s and ’80s—Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, Carole King, Linda Ronstadt, Ann Wilson, Debbie Harry, Chrissie Hynde, Pat Benatar—and just be so in awe of them all. It was magical and I dreamed of doing what they did.
GOL: What are your earliest Fleetwood Mac memories and what drew you to Lindsey Buckingham’s and Stevie Nicks’ songwriting and artistic styles?
Scott: My parents bought “Rumours” and I used to listen to it all the time. The inner sleeve had photos and lyrics so I would sit and read along with the words. It was a big album in my home and still is to this day. Well before we ever started this project, Lindsey was a big influence on me as a player and singer and especially as a composer.
Kathy: I remember my sister being in her room playing albums and I heard [Stevie Nicks sing] “Landslide” through the closed door. Something about that song stopped me and I was hooked. Even at a young age, her music had an effect on me. It’s a combination of her voice and melodies along with her lyrics that are uniquely captivating and mystical.
GOL: In a cover band, you’re acquainted with a particular artist’s work much more than the average fan. What have you learned about Fleetwood Mac by playing their music professionally? Has it affected your own songwriting in any way?
Scott: I can differentiate the different writing styles much easier now and how each of the three songwriters bring their own influence and style into the band dynamic. I have watched quite a few live video clips and witnessed what an amazing, high-energy band they were when Lindsey and Stevie joined. I have also learned a lot about their previous work with Peter Green and Bob Welch and other guitarists who preceded Lindsey. Lindsey has always had an underlying influence on my writing, which is probably why I enjoy performing his music so much.
Kathy: That each of the five members had such a tremendous influence to every song. My writing style is similar in that I am all about the hook of the song.
GOL: What is your goal with Tusk? How do you balance your own personal artistry and talent with the possible expectation of merely replicating the work of Fleetwood Mac?
Scott: To continue to pay homage to Fleetwood Mac music through live performances for as long as we can. We have all released many original recordings over the years and continue to do so when time permits. The five of us also wrote and recorded our own; all original CD called “Stockton Bridge,” which we sell at all our shows and is available for download on iTunes.
Kathy: To continue to perform to our incredible audiences. Also to keep the songs out there—it really makes me happy when I see young people at the shows and how they love Fleetwood Mac. We do keep true to most of the Fleetwood Mac song compositions but we add in our own personal flourishes that add to the songs and still keep the true essence of them.
GOL: What’s your favorite popular Fleetwood Mac song?
Scott: “The Chain” is my favorite because it feels like a full band composition with everyone working together on stage in unison.
Kathy: There are so many that I just love. If I had to pick, it’s a toss between “Rhiannon” and “Gold Dust Woman.”
GOL: Favorite deep cut from Fleetwood Mac’s catalogue?
Scott: I like “Bleed to Love Her.” It is a beautiful song and the guitar part is very interesting yet they have rarely performed the song since “The Dance” tour.
Kathy: “Silver Springs”—original version cut from Rumours.