In his bookMaking Rumours, record producer Ken Caillat recounts with humour and detail the tumultuous year of betrayal, drama and rock Ďní roll excess behind recording Fleetwood Macís 1977 Rumours album, which has sold over 40 million copies.
Caillat, who counts Billy Idol, The Beach Boys and Alice Cooper among his many producing credits along with Fleetwood Mac, has more recently been instrumental in the career of his singer-songwriter daughter Colbie Caillat, who has sold over six million albums worldwide and scored a major hit with Bubbly.
As the world celebrates Father’s Day today, the talented dad-daughter team, currently working together on a Christmas album, speak of collaborating and how the music industry has changed since Rumours.
What made you decide to write the book, Ken?
Ken: I couldn’t listen to the album. I heard it as all work. I knew that I spent 14 hours a day on it. Up until a few years ago, I still had dreams, rather nightmares, about being in that studio. I thought it would help to write the book. I decided to in 2009. First, I did extensive research and got access to Warner Bros. Records’ vaults of the recording sessions. Then I started writing. I got up at 7am and wrote it by the fireplace every day for about 90 days.
Colbie: I love the book because it’s about the band’s personalities and what it takes to make a record like that. It’s really cool for people who are fans of Fleetwood Mac to get the inside look. I was reading it on the plane and after each chapter, I’d listen to the song the chapter was discussing.
How does working with Colbie compare with your experience with Fleetwood Mac?
Ken: Fleetwood Mac was always pushy, cantankerous, opinionated and inebriated. Fast forward 30 years, and the whole situation is clean. Nobody smokes in the studio night or day. With Colbie, we just focus on the music. You can do things faster and cheaper now. We had 365 days to make Rumours. When I talked with (former Fleetwood Mac singer) Stevie Nicks recently, she was about to make a record and told me she had only 13 days to record it.
Do you two ever clash over the work?
Colbie: We argue creatively all the time. There are two songs I wanted to do for this Christmas record, and I don’t want to do them anymore — I’ll Be Home for Christmas and Winter Wonderland. I’m not feeling it. But he wants it. We did this with my song, Rainbow. He wanted people to do background ‘oohs’ and I was annoyed and didn’t want it. But then I realised it was a good idea. You have to be nudged and open-minded.
Colbie, you grew up in what many would consider to be a cool, rock ‘n’ roll home around artists all the time. But did you ever have the typical, “I can’t stand my parents,” stage?
Ken: She doesn’t have a problem calling me a dork.
Colbie: Everyone can’t stand their parents at times. He can’t stand his parents sometimes. It’s just when, maybe, you’re around each other too much. Then, you step away from it. My parents influenced me to become a songwriter and learn how to play an instrument. I can appreciate that now, but at the time I was annoyed. They wanted me to take lessons and write songs. I just wanted to sing. I thought it was annoying but now, okay... (turns to Ken) You were totally right and thank you.
Clearly Colbie was born with an incredible voice. But how would you know she had the potential to write songs?
Ken: I think everyone has the potential to be a songwriter. If they can make their hands play music, their mouth will correspond and jump in and join the party.
What’s the biggest lesson you can teach Colbie in terms of your years of experience in the business?
Ken: It’s a totally different game. I don’t try to teach her anything. The only thing I’ve said in the past is to slow down and listen. She sometimes gets so booked up on things. She does vocals with me and races over to do a new vocal. I say ‘you never get the chance to sit and listen to what we’re doing.’ That’s what I tell most musicians these days. Slow down. Enjoy listening more, because it’s all about the listening experience. I don’t know if that’s old fashioned, but it works for me.
On her first record, I fought with her producer because Colbie was really co-producing the record. She knows what she wants. She says ‘I like that and not that,’ every step of the way. I was trying to encourage her to be involved in producing.
Colbie, you recently guest-starred on TV show The Playboy Club. Do you plan on acting, too?
Colbie: He wants me to!
Ken: Sure, why not! She thinks it’s going to be difficult, and I keep promising her that they’re going to write scripts and all she’ll have to do is be herself.
He was right about your songwriting. Maybe you should listen to your dad.
Colbie: He’d been telling me for years to take lessons and write songs. I didn’t. Finally, when I was 19, I said, ‘Fine. I’ll take a guitar lesson.’ I went to my first guitar lesson and I came home that evening. I had learned the basic four chords and I wrote a song in my parents’ bathroom that night where nobody could hear me. I started singing when I was playing the chords and was impressed by what he had said. If you just sing whatever you’re feeling and learn a simple instrument, you can write a song. It was fast and easy, and I fell in love with the experience of writing. I was lucky that I had parents in the business who helped me find a great manager. Ken: She opens her mouth and golden rainbows come out. She’s the luckiest girl in the world.