Interview for The Sunday Times • Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Lucky Man Who Made The Grade

Press interview • Interview of Paul McCartney
Published by:
The Sunday Times
Interview by:
Mark Edmonds
Read interview on The Sunday Times
Timeline More from year 2012

Album This interview has been made to promote the Kisses On the Bottom Official album.

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If there is such a thing as a typical day, it might start in the local gym. I’ll spend an hour or so splitting the time between running on a treadmill, stretching, or lifting what I’d once have called “girls’ weights”, but I wouldn’t now because that’s sexist. And I’m not telling you how much they weigh; let’s just say they are not challenging. I’ll end with a headstand. After 50 years I’m still performing on stage — playing and singing pretty much nonstop for three hours at a time — and I’ve realised I’ve got to keep fit, keep going, because I am getting older.

My wife, Nancy, tends to prepare breakfast. She makes a mean cereal, you know… not granola, but it’s healthy enough. Then it’s down to work, one way or another, preparing, recording… I’m not a workaholic, but I do have a strong work ethic. When we were in the Beatles, I was the one who always wanted to make a record. I had fewer distractions than the others, as they were all married and bringing up kids in the suburbs. I was single — well, for most of the time, before I married Linda — and living in the city, going to exhibitions, concerts and stuff. So it would be me ringing up, saying: “Come on, guys, time we made a record.”

For writing songs, I use my old method — just a guitar with a pencil and paper. I try and get away from people.

The work ethic hasn’t changed but other things have made a difference to the pattern of my life. The main thing is that after my divorce I have a joint-custody arrangement. I’m luckier than many divorced fathers because I have half the time with my youngest, Beatrice.

I had a word with my promoter, and said: “From now on I’m only going to be able to work here, here and here.” So instead of long, gruelling tours we do more hand-picked events. And that means the dates can actually be more enjoyable, and we’re always hungry to play. I much prefer it. You’ll have a little time to look around the place, too. We were in Bologna not long ago and it was really nice to be able to see a city I didn’t know.

I’m sometimes bothered by people when I’m out, but there are places where I can just melt away. I made a decision long ago, when the Beatles thing was clearly building. I said to myself: “Look, you either give up now or you keep going and you just better get used to it.” So I’ve learnt to live with it.

It’s great having a small child again. I’ve always loved children. I have five kids and eight grandchildren — all very Italian. I often do the school run. I gossip with the mums at the school — and dads as well, by the way. Quite a few come these days. At school I’m just another dad. When I first went there, the head said: “Let’s just see if you can blend in.” In the playground I don’t talk like I’m a big shot. I talk about the next school trip, or homework, or the next swimming gala. People aren’t stupid, they get it.

In the studio I’ll probably start about 11am. I’ve always preferred recording during the day. For the new album I worked with the producer Tommy Lipuma at Capitol Studios in LA. We had these lesser-known songs and we kept it intimate, a small jazz-combo thing. The album took about two months to record. On an office day I’ll get in about midday, probably start with my PA, then have meetings. It could be with the guys from Apple, the Beatles organisation, bringing me up to date on Beatles projects. It might be to do with charity work. I do get lots of letters and requests for autographs. My PA suggests things I might do, and it all gets selected down.

I don’t really use email or the internet. I prefer to travel light, so I have a slim mobile phone, and I can text, make phone calls and send photographs. All I use a computer for is music. Otherwise I tend to avoid it. I’d rather walk in the real world than look at the countryside in a virtual world. In my studio I use an Apple Mac for composing orchestral music. It’s quite a nice thing, with a big screen, and I use a program — very simple — called Cubase. It’s addictive; I can sit there for hours. For writing songs, I use my old method — just a guitar with a pencil and paper. I try and get away from people a little bit, to a space where I’m kind of on my own. A few hours thrashing at it, then I just give in, and I’ve either won or lost. If I’ve lost, I’ll attack it another day. There’s always another day.

In the evenings, Nancy and I might go the theatre and to dinner with relatives or friends, or we might stay home and watch TV. My evenings are pretty much the same as anyone’s. I go to bed around midnight. I’ve always slept well — and no, I don’t wake up the next morning thinking how famous I am. I wake up feeling extremely ordinary. Then I hit the high street and I’m reminded I am not.

Paul McCartney


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