There are few bands with a more diverse– not to mention dysfunctional — history than Fleetwood Mac.
Fleetwood Mac tribute band Tusk is pretty much the polar opposite, exhibiting absolutely no drama or on-stage tension.
Rather, it’s a collection of musicians who came together almost on a lark and now more than 11 years later, are enjoying their status as full-time musicians and bandmates.
Tusk on a lark
“A mutual friend had seen each of us playing Fleetwood Mac songs in other projects and said, ‘You should do a tribute band,’” said Scott McDonald, singer and guitarist who handles the duties of Fleetwood Mac vocalist and guitarist Lindsay Buckingham. “I just said, ‘Yeah, yeah.’ But I got together with Kathy [Phillips] who plays Stevie [Nicks], and we decided to try it out for fun.
“It was originally just going to be a short-term situation, just playing regional shows here in the New Jersey area. But I remember when we finished our first song, ‘Second Hand News,’ I thought, ‘That sounded great.’ We saw the potential for something larger, and we all got along really well, unlike the members of the actual band.”
More than a decade later, the quintet — which also includes Kim Williams, Tom Nelson, and Randy Artiglere — have traveled extensively, focusing on the classic years of Fleetwood Mac.
“We try to recreate that era,” McDonald said. “People enjoy it because it reminds them of that time in their life. All these songs make us feel great because they’re so intertwined with our lives and memories. We do a lot of songs from Rumours, songs from Fleetwood Mac, the album before, and a couple things from Tusk. There were a few hits from Mirage that we do, and we do some of the solo stuff. We’ll do Stevie’s songs like ‘Edge of Seventeen,’ ‘Stand Back,’ and ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.’ Sometimes we do Lindsey’s ‘Holiday Road,’ and we’ll throw in a few of the Peter Green blues songs from the early years. But primarily we stick to the 1975-80 songs.”
Regarding the unexpected firing of Buckingham in the original band last year, McDonald said the new lineup of Neil Finn and Mike Campbell in Buckingham’s place lessens his interest in seeing Fleetwood Mac live.
“Nothing against Mike Campbell or Neil Finn because they’re both great musicians, but it wouldn’t be the same for me without Lindsey Buckingham,” McDonald said. “I actually met Lindsey last year, and I wasn’t sure what to expect because I’d always heard he was temperamental, but he was so nice and so pleasant. I didn’t tell him what I do because I thought that might be weird. But he just couldn’t have been nicer.”
Fleetwood Mac fans continue to flock to see Tusk regularly, and just as they do at Fleetwood Mac concerts, they respond with enthusiasm to the songs, a few in particular.
“‘The Chain’ always gets a big response, and is a great song since it’s such a group performance rather than focusing on just one of us. ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Landslide’ get a huge response too. When Kim does ‘Songbird,’ the audience loves that, and it’s a great chance to put the focus on her. ‘Go Your Own Way’ is a favorite, and we do bass and drum solos and sometimes we do an acoustic set.”
Although Tusk may not have seemed like a long-term project the first time they played together, it has allowed the members to balance a career in music and home and family life. Playing around 120 shows per year, the band is happily prepared to keep sharing the music of Fleetwood Mac for years to come.
“It’s nice because around those shows we have travel days, but we also have time off. We’re all married, though not to each other, so there are spouses and kids.
“My wife is a teacher, and we have a six-year-old, so it’s nice to have time in the summer to spend with them. We also have professional subs that can step in if someone can’t make a show. That provides a nice respite if we want it. But we get to spend our careers making music, which is what we all ever wanted to do.”
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