Meeting Mike Campbell (When Rock Stars Conspire)

It’s been a week now, and I’m still struggling to believe it all happened.

The plan was for Fleetwood Mac’s tour photographer, Justin, to pick my sister and me up at our seats at 7:20 and take us backstage to Mike Campbell's dressing room.

By 7:15, my blood pressure had plummeted from sheer anxiety, and I was starting to see spots. Just like in the cartoons. It’s no small thing for me to know I will soon be backstage at a Fleetwood Mac show, and breathing became a voluntary act. I was running the real risk of passing out before Justin even arrived, so I focused on inhaling and exhaling, deeply and slowly, and hoped for the best.

And the best, I got.

Everyone who knows me and anyone else unfortunate enough to come across my Twitter account in April through June of last year knows how crushed I was when Fleetwood Mac fired Lindsey Buckingham and replaced him with Mike Campbell and Neil Finn.

CRUSHED.

It was an unholy occurrence in my world, and, when the news broke, I quickly declared I was finished with the band.

(I could write a complete dissertation on why I believed and still believe Lindsey deserved better from his four bandmates and friends--the entire situation made even more tragic by the news that Lindsey underwent emergency open heart surgery last month that resulted in damage to his vocal chords that may or may not be permanent--but I will spare you that here.)

Justin picked us up a little after 7:20 and off we were to Mike’s dressing room, so, yeah, things have changed pretty significantly for me over the past year. I’ve come to truly adore the new guys, not only as men and musicians, but also as members of Fleetwood Mac. Justin was very laid back and made conversation easily and that calmed me down a bit. But just a bit.

Breathing was a challenge but my eyesight was perfectly fine. My eyes miss nothing in this kind of heightened emotional state, and as we arrived outside Mike’s room (labeled simply “MC”) I saw the door directly next to it was labeled “NF” and realized that it was Neil’s dressing room.

Okay. Maintain, Krissy.

Mike’s door was closed but Neil’s was slightly ajar. Justin was explaining that Mike was finishing up with a vocal warm-up and would be out soon when I heard Neil’s voice from inside his dressing room.

Neil is from New Zealand. Men with adorable accents get me anyhow, but men with adorable accents who sing and play guitar, and do those things in Fleetwood Mac? That’s... well, it’s very nice.

Once I heard his Kiwi accent in person, I really, really had to keep mindful about the breathing thing to avoid passing out right there on the dingy concrete floor inside the Times Union Center.

It was at this point that Mike’s beautiful wife, Marcie Campbell, emerged from his dressing room to greet us. She was so lovely and offered us both warm and welcoming hugs and my anxiety finally started to dissipate, which was a good thing because here’s where the night really started getting good.

Earlier in the evening, I’d checked in with Leilani from The Tazzy Fund, Marcie and Mike’s animal rescue. The meet and greet experience came courtesy of The Tazzy Fund, and Leilani was the one who coordinated the meeting. She is a sweetheart. I’d called her once we got to Albany to get last minute details on where to be and at what time. She’d told me on the phone that when she’d told Marcie that I was their meet and greet for the night, Marcie exclaimed, “I know her!”

Cut to me blinking spastically…

I’ve become a fairly vocal supporter of both Mike and Neil as members of Fleetwood Mac on Instagram. In order to reconcile the loss of Lindsey from the band and accept Mike and Neil as a part of it, I’ve taken to referring to the latter as “the stepdads” when posting about them. And, as it turns out, the Campbells are, not only aware of my Instagram page, but appreciative of the support I’ve given to both Mike and Neil there.

As we waited for Mike, Marcie told me how they loved the whole stepdads thing and thought it was a really great way to look at the situation. As we were talking about this, as my mind was grappling with the fact that these people actually know of me, Neil appeared in the doorway of his dressing room, just off Marcie’s shoulder. He was completely stage-ready except for his suit jacket, which was hanging by the door, and the reason for him appearing before me. (Yes, just me, the rest of the world kind of fell away for a moment.)

As he threw the jacket on, he glanced out the door and spotted me and did sort of a double take, as if he recognized me but wasn’t exactly sure how or why.

Could be a good sign, could be a bad sign when you're known for following musicians around the world.

I’ve spoken to Neil a couple times on Twitter. A song he wrote with his son called “Ghosts” is featured in Murder Creek, and I’d used Twitter to reach out and ask for permission to use it. He’d also responded to an open letter I wrote to Mick Fleetwood and posted to Twitter last summer, explaining how devastated I was about the firing of Lindsey. When nobody else in “my” band seemed to even care about my pain, Neil took the time to read the letter and responded to it so kindly and with such empathy. His letter is why I ultimately decided it was time to give him a chance, because he was clearly a very nice man and deserved the chance.

Also, he is Adorable.

And there he was in the doorway of his dressing room. Looking at me.

The breathing thing became an issue again as I contorted my face into what I hoped was a smile. Only beginning to now grapple with Neil being right there, while still coming to terms with the fact that the Campbells knew of me, Mike’s door opened up and out walked Mike-freaking-Campbell in the slickest suit I’ve ever seen any man wear in my life. He, too, was completely stage-ready, which, of course, made sense since it was about 7:35 and showtime is 8:00.

Mike shook and kissed the tops of both of our hands (omg) and escorted us into his dressing room. This entire 30 second stretch plays out in slow motion in my mind and will forevermore. With my hand inside Mike’s, being led into his dressing room, Marcie turned and poked her head into Neil’s room and I heard, “Hey, stepdad two, you want to join us?”

Join me in freaking out, won’t you?

It became clear that these beautiful people had conspired to make this the absolute most perfect evening for me by giving me the opportunity to meet, not just one of the stepdads, but both of them.

Inside, Mike offered us a drink “water or wine or whatever you want?” and I did my best to ignore the fangirl in me who was smacking me and squealing, “Ask him if he can turn the water into wine!”

I said yes to the wine and Mike got really excited. I might be paraphrasing, but he said something along the lines of, “My kind of girl! You didn’t even hesitate on the wine!” and set about pouring us each a glass.

Steph was drawn right away to Mike and Marcie’s little dog, India, who was chilling on the couch. This is the first time in my life I didn’t immediately seek out the pet in the room during a social gathering.

Mike handed the glasses around and we gathered in this sort of semi-circle around the coffee table in the room and, just as I took my first sip, in walked Neil Finn and completed our circle. Neil Finn, with his eyes and the accent and the hair.

My first instinct was to chug the wine. This is too much. Chug it!

But I refrained. Instead, I set the glass down and smiled and extended my hand to Neil as I introduced myself and he said, with that voice and in that accent, “Oh, how about a hug?”

Well, IF YOU INSIST, MR. FINN.

Since I had already had my arm extended to shake his hand, I ended up hugging him under his arms, around his chest and torso and...sigh. That was really nice. As we withdrew, I managed to gesture to Steph and, I think, introduce her. I said something about her, anyhow. Steph can probably tell you better than me what was said by me here.

After intros, we edged back out into our circle, Steph, Neil Finn, the Campbells, and I, and Neil said, still with that voice and in that accent, “I thought that was you out in the hallway but I wasn’t positive.”

Fangirl me was positively pummeling me at this point: “OMG ASK HIM IF YOU CAN TOUCH HIS HAIR!!!!” His hair is a genuine work of art. That night, it was sticking out in every feasible direction as if he’d just rolled out of bed and called it stage-ready. The hair only adds to his boyish charm that is almost overwhelming and rivaled only by his obvious shyness.

Both men, in fact, were shy. It was the first time I didn’t feel insecure about my own shyness because I felt it from them too. Steph can back me up on this: it almost felt like we were the famous ones in the room. They acted as if they couldn’t believe we were there to meet them. Thank god for Marcie controlling the conversation or we might have all just stood around blushing at each other and playing with India.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about the next few minutes because the things they said were so special and mean so much to me that I want to keep them for myself (and Steph and a handful of fellow fangirl friends I’ve already told every single detail of this to) Suffice it to say, they went out of their way to show their appreciation for the support I’d given them and their gratitude for giving them a chance.

It was such a dream and time wasn’t really a thing I was aware of in the room. Part of me will always be in that room. But Neil stayed for about ten minutes and then he had to go because it was nearly show time. He held out his hand as he was leaving and so then *I* said, “How about a hug?” and he laughed and I laughed and we hugged and now we’re best friends.

Mike was in no rush at all. I’d gathered from his social media that Fireball whiskey was his drink of choice (if you’re in Fleetwood Mac, I’m going to know everything about you eventually, so just roll with it) and so I’d snuck some tiny bottles of it through security with the thought that he might do a shot with me. I hate the stuff but obviously some things are worth the sacrifice.

When he saw I had Fireball he got really excited, again, and said, “How did you know??” I asked if he wanted to a shot but that I understood if he didn’t since it was so close to showtime and he waved his hand dismissively at that and said, “Hell yeah, let’s do one!”

So, empty belly full of Mike’s wine and with the scent of Neil Finn still in the room, I did a shot of Fireball with Mike Campbell. It was right after this that Justin snapped this photo, as we washed the Fireball down with the wine like completely responsible adults.

After giving us the rest of the bottle of wine in Solo cups, so that we could carry them with us out on to the floor, Mike took us to the stage to look at his guitars. On the walk, I told him I’d been waiting 20 years to get backstage at a Fleetwood Mac show and he laughed and gestured around the drab hall and dark rafters and said, “Glamorous, isn’t it??” Along the way, I also had a wonderful conversation with him about writing and I will cherish that always.

Literally in the back of the stage now, with an arena full of fans waiting for Fleetwood Mac to start, Mike showed me Neil’s guitars first. I asked if Neil’s vintage red Gretsch FireBird was nearby, because I love it, but figured it was probably up on stage by then because Neil uses it in the opening number. But it was still there, right there, perched alone on its stand at the base of the stairs, like a king, and I touched it.

Mike was so excited to show off his guitars. I’d told him in the dressing room that I had an affinity for his Gretsch guitars and so he made sure to show me those. When he got to “the white Gretsch” as I so ignorantly referred to it because I haven’t learned all the names of his yet, I said I love that one, and he says, he goes, wait for it, “Here! Wear it!” and he PUT IT ON ME.

(Research since tells me it’s a 59’ FALCON and MAN, I wish I had known that when I was in front of him. What a cool name.)

Fangirl me had passed out right around the time Neil had walked into the dressing room so she was quiet, thankfully. Alone with my thoughts, I struggled to remember a chord to play, any chord, so I didn’t look like a complete fraud in front of Mike Campbell, and my fingers quickly found the D chord. Whew.

I wish I remember more of the conversation at this point, but I was just so excited. Mike told me something about the tab markers on the neck of Falcon. He’s got tiny stripes of black electrical tape on them for some damn reason that my mind isn’t allowing me to remember right now. It was something about the stage lights.

He showed me his Gibson SG next and mentioned it’s the same model that Angus Young plays, and my unfiltered mouth blurted out, “That guy is so little!” Mike and Marcie both laughed. Belly laughs. Like we were actually friends and I had made a real funny.

I told them when I was a kid, I thought Angus played some sort of giant custom guitar because it looked so big on him but eventually realized he was just a little guy. Mike nodded and said, “Yeah he comes up to about here!” and held his hand up to his midsection.

Last came Mike’s Rickenbacker. Oh, it’s so pretty. Again, he put it on me and said I could “play it if you want.” Again, I wish I could remember more of what he said in this moment but... oh well. Someday it will return to me. Probably at the worst possible moment, and I’ll blurt it out to whoever is unfortunate enough to be near me at the time.

By this time, it’s well past 8 o’clock and the arena was full and Mike was still playing guitars with me. Someone came and said he really had to go now, and he seemed almost apologetic that he had to leave us. We took one last photo as a group, and then he thanked us again and KISSED MY CHEEK AND SAID I WAS BEAUTIFUL and then he was gone.

I’ve never felt beautiful for even a day in my life, but Mike Campbell said I’m beautiful, so I guess I’m beautiful now. 🤷‍♀️

And that is the story of meeting Mike Campbell that, thanks to conspiring rock stars and a beautiful woman named Marcie, became meeting Mike Campbell and Neil Finn, and I'm so very grateful for the opportunity. <3

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