He Can Go His Own Way: SEEN’s Exclusive Q&A with Mick Fleetwood

December 4, 2020

Legendary rocker Mick Fleetwood talks to SEEN about his photography, his favorite Detroit memory — and, of course, that viral TikTok video

By Danielle Alexander

In our December issue, we ran a story on Gerard Marti, the owner of Robert Kidd Gallery in Birmingham. Marti is known for featuring an eclectic set of artists — one of whom happens to be his close friend Mick Fleetwood, whose fine-art photographs are on display at the gallery. 

Turns out Fleetwood, 73, isn’t just a rock icon and an excellent photographer; he’s also a coffee connoisseur (he and Marti are launching their new venture, the Mick Fleetwood Coffee Company, this month) and, as of late, a TikTok phenom, thanks to that viral video of a man longboarding to work while drinking OceanSpray Cran-Rasberry juice and lip-syncing to the band’s 1977 smash “Dreams.”

We called up Fleetwood at his home in Hawaii  to ask him about all those things, plus what he’s been up to during quarantine and his favorite Detroit memories. 

Mick Fleetwood photography

How did you get into photography? Years and years and years ago, when Fleetwood Mac first started, bass player John McVie, who, unbeknownst to me, had studied photography, introduced me to it. At the time, all the band members were sharing a home, and John had built a darkroom there. When John took the really brilliant and lovely photo of mist that we ended up later using for our “Bare Trees” album cover, that’s when I sort of really got triggered as I knew a hill or a tree wasn’t going to run away from me. I’m basically still a still-life dude and wait around, sometimes for hours on end, until what I saw is what I see. 

One of your butterfly photos is currently on display in the front window of the Robert Kidd Gallery in Birmingham. What inspired you to show your work in galleries? Gerard [Marti, owner of Robert Kidd,] really became the motivating person that would sit on my shoulder and say, “You can do this.” We both lived in Maui and had become dear friends. He somehow became aware I took photographs, and at that point, he ran two beautiful galleries on the island. He asked to see my work and told me, “You should show them.” And I was like, “No, no, no.” I mean, who was going to want to look at, like, swans on a river? He kept badgering me, and after taking his advice on developing photos, I was finally able to get over the heebie-jeebies. 

Mick Fleetwood photography

Honestly, it was like being a musician, writing a song and not feeling confident enough to play it to a band member. Is my art, my baby, my thought process and the why-I-did-this understood? [With Gerard] being an artist himself, people just trust him. I wouldn’t have naturally done this, and now one of the main things I hope to always be is an appreciator of creative [things] around me, just like Gerard was with my photography. 

You and Gerard have embarked on another venture far outside the realm of art: The Mick Fleetwood Coffee Company. What was your motivation behind taking on this project? First of all, I’m a coffee freak, so when Gerard asked me to develop my love for coffee into a coffee company, it really made sense as I also own a restaurant here in Maui. I am also a softie for anything that has a romance or story to it, and even though I’m not doing it right now, I’ve traveled all over the world. I live in Hawaii but have also spent a lot of time in Africa. The beans themselves are imported from Ghana, Kenya, Maui and more, and there really are stories to be told about the blends, which will be part of what we offer up. I’m looking forward to the day when Gerard can come to Hawaii again, so we can do some filming on the beans and product here on the island. A dream would also be able to eventually do the same in Africa. [Editor’s note: the coffee will be available online starting this month and in local stores come 2021.]

Gerard Marti and Mick Fleetwood

Your music recently got introduced to a whole new generation, thanks to that now-famous TikTok video. You even joined the video-sharing app to recreate your own clip! [LINK] Tell us about it. No one is sure of what’s going this year, and things are really upside down, so you know what appealed most to me? The fact that he’s having fun and showing us all it just is what it is. To me, there is a real charm to the whole TikTok dialogue as it is really just fantastic, unpolitical little vignettes of expression. It’s all about having a lunatic lovely time. So being more of the loose cannon in Fleetwood Mac, I said, “Hey, I’ll try it!” It was just what we all needed to not overthink things and simply say, “Why the hell not?” And honestly, I feel like I owe him as our song is really quite popular again.  

You’ve been to Detroit many times over the years. What do you think about our city? Detroit was always comforting to me as it’s really a musical home. What happened in that area was very powerful. We were probably viewed by everyone as these funny-haired guys from England, but we always felt at home and very appreciated by bands that we’d meet in our early days. Fleetwood Mac was a blues band, so we were like kids in a candy store surrounded by all these young American musicians. 

One specific memory I recall is being at a motel in Dearborn on Christmas. We had hardly any money and could not afford to go home as we planned to work into the new year. I found a pay phone and discovered a way to get a free phone call back to my mum in England, who was having a big, homey meal to celebrate the holiday. She asked me what I was eating, and I totally teared up since we had just gone to the lobby of the hotel and dug up enough coins to get Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and those cheese biscuits with salt all over them.

I wanted to tell her we were doing the family dinner thing here but instead confessed that we were not having a Christmas at all. If it wasn’t hotel lobby snacks, our idea of heaven was a stash of donuts and coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts and eating the hell out of it. We’d fill up, be completely sugared out, watch local television and go to sleep. Point being, we had loads of fun and funny memories from [Detroit] in the early, early, early days of touring America. 

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