Interview for MPL Tours • 2019

Interview for the "Freshen Up" tour book

Interview of Paul McCartney
Published by:
MPL Tours
Timeline More from year 2019

Album This interview has been made to promote the Egypt Station Official album.

Songs mentioned in this interview



Eleanor Rigby

Officially appears on Revolver (UK Mono)


FourFiveSeconds

Officially appears on FourFiveSeconds


Hey Jude

Officially appears on Hey Jude / Revolution


Live And Let Die

Officially appears on Live And Let Die


Yesterday

Officially appears on Help! (Mono)

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Interview

FRESHEN UP IS THE NAME OF YOUR NEW TOUR, PAUL: DISCUSS…

Paul McCartney: Well, I was thinking about this tour and I was saying to my promoter Barrie [Marshall]: I’m probably going to do ‘Hey Jude’, I’m probably going to do ‘Let It Be’, we’re probably going to do ‘Live and Let Die’… Or: the other option is, we leave them out and we do something completely radical. But I think for people coming to the show they might expect those songs—and if it was me I think I’d like to see those in the show. So I realised that it wouldn’t so much be a radically new show as it would a freshen up. So, re-looking at the production, introducing some songs off the new album, obviously – and generally rejigging things so it’s a fresh new show without actually being a radical rethink of what I bring to an audience.

IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS YOU’VE PLAYED 169 SHOWS TO ALMOST FIVE MILLION PEOPLE. NIGHT AFTER NIGHT, WHAT KEEPS IT NEW AND INTERESTING FOR YOU?

Paul McCartney: Freshening the show up is a help because there are elements about it that I haven’t seen before, and nor have the band. But the main thing that keeps it fresh is the audiences. It’s the same story as it always has been, and maybe even more so these days: it’s just seeing the people in the audience enjoying themselves. I’m also looking forward to the people who’ve been before seeing what we’ve done to freshen things up. So it’s a mix between those. But in the end, the people are the main thing.

HOW DO YOU PASS TIME WHEN YOU’RE ON THE ROAD?

Paul McCartney: All sorts of things, really. The main thing, when we get to a city, is to try and get a look around. It’s a shame just coming from the airport to the gig and then back to the airport. So, if we’re staying overnight, the next day we’ll try to do something like a bike ride or a walk in the park or sightseeing tour just to enjoy the local scenery, get a feeling of the city we’re playing. We’re playing in such exciting places that people pay to go to as tourists and here am I also going to all these places. So it’s a shame to miss.

ARE THERE ANY GADGETS YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT ON TOUR?

Paul McCartney: Well, like everyone I suppose your phone is the big gadget numero uno. But, no, I’m not too crazy on gadgets. I could probably live without most of them because I’m a lover of nature. So if there’s nothing obvious available in the way of gadgets, TV screens, series on Netflix or HBO or whatever, then I’m just as happy to get out and noodle around and look at the sites. Even the phone, I like to think I could live without it.

DO YOU FIND YOU HAVE MORE DOWN TIME ON TOUR AS OPPOSED TO BEING AT HOME?

Paul McCartney: No, not really. I try to keep a balance when I’m at home. If I’m on my farm, which is most of the time, then I love horseriding – got my old trusty steed! I love nothing more than to just go out in the woods and enjoy nature. It just reminds me of when I was a kid. We lived at one point on the edge of Liverpool, so I could walk for about a mile and be in deep countryside. So as a kid I looked a lot at nature and at streams and at wildlife. I’d carry my bird book around with me and try to identify any birds I saw. So, yeah, that’s still a big love of mine. So I often will have done a giant gig like, say, Zocalo in Mexico, which is like hundred and something thousand…

IT’S OVER 400,000.

Paul McCartney: Really? Insane amount of people! OK, so I’ll have played to 400,000 people, and then a few days later I’ll be in the woods on my own, on the horse, experiencing the beauty of nature. That is amazing for me. I really love that, which means I probably try and balance it. But I suppose all things considered, I probably have a bit more down time when I’m at home.

SO, IN TERMS OF FRESHENING UP THE SET, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE SONGS FROM YOUR NEW ALBUM, EGYPT STATION, THAT YOU’LL BE PERFORMING IN THE SET?

Paul McCartney: Yeah. We go into rehearsal soon and we’ll decide then which songs we want to attempt. Some of them, for one reason or another, are more difficult than others. For instance, there’s a couple of songs that I wrote in one key. But when I came to record them, I found it was better to sing them in another key. So, that makes it challenging because now I’ve got to learn the piano part that I wrote in one key and sing in another key – and sometimes because the key change is only for the vocal, it goes to a really awkward key that I’m not used to playing. So that may rule out that song for now as it wouldn’t be an easy learn.

IT’S A LOT OF HOMEWORK, EVEN FOR THE GUY WHO WROTE THE SONGS…

Paul McCartney: A bit too much homework for my liking! So, we’ll probably go to the songs first of all that are a little easier to do and that we think will work for a live audience. But I am looking forward to exploring these new songs and I think the band are looking forward to learning some new stuff, too.

PLAYING LIVE OR IN THE STUDIO: WHERE ARE YOU HAPPIEST?

Paul McCartney: Equally happy in both to be honest, because they are two completely different types of excitements. Being in the studio, there’s the thrill of crafting the song and how it’s going to sound. You’re making things up as you go along, you’re inventing, throwing in an idea, taking another idea out… So it’s like it’s “in motion”, that process, all the time — ’till you actually finish the song and mix it. It’s that mad-professor-in-his-laboratory kind of thrill. Then, when you take it out live, that’s a completely different type of thing. And when you start involving lovely audiences and you’re getting the feedback it’s great. So they’re equally as thrilling, just in different ways.

IN RECENT HAS THERE BEEN ONE SHOW THAT’s REALLY STUCK WITH YOU WHEN YOU CAME OFF STAGE AND YOU THOUGHT: “YEAH, WE REALLY NAILED IT TONIGHT…”

Paul McCartney: I think the show we did in Zocalo was very special. It was a nice day and before it we’d said hi to Bob Dylan’s band. We were in a good mood and the crowd was so huge and excited that it was infectious. So it made you want to play better, and it became kind of like a party. Which is actually kind of the aim for me with our shows. I like to play well and entertain the people. But once it starts to kick off into a party then the enjoyment level goes right up. So I think that would be my choice… although there has been a lot of others though!

AND ON THE OTHER SIDE: ARE THERE ANY NIGHTS WHEN YOU COME OFF STAGE AND YOU’VE BEEN REALLY TOUGH YOURSELF? “l COULD HAVE PLAYED A LITTLE BIT BETTER…”

Paul McCartney: To be honest, there’s always a bit of that. Well, maybe not always — often. There’s often a bit of that because you know how you can sing it, and if you don’t quite get up to the bar in your own mind, then you will beat yourself up a bit. Not a lot, just a bit. And then sometimes I’ll say something on the bus leaving the gig and the guys in the band will say: “Oh no, I thought that was great!” So with that, on top of the audience thinking it was great, you let yourself off. But I think in a way it’s good to be self-critical it means you care how well you do things. Some nights I think, “Wow, that guitar solo was really good, I enjoyed playing it…” And then sometimes you’ll get guys in the road crew saying, “Oh, I loved that solo tonight…” So those are the great things. Sure, sometimes it’s not quite as good. But if it goes horribly wrong, funnily enough I don’t mind that. ‘Cause that really shows we are live. And it makes you and the audience share this horror moment! So it actually becomes a bit of fun: “OK, we got that wrong, stop, let’s try to do it again…” And I think the audience kind of likes that.

DOES EVERYONE YOU MEET HAVE A DIFFERENT OPINION OF WHAT SHOULD BE ON YOUR SETLIST?

Paul McCartney: I don’t know, I haven’t asked them! I don’t really ask around. Most of the time, people are quite happy. But we do try to put something in the set everyone.

BUT YOUR EARS ARE ALWAYS OPEN, RIGHT? IF YOU’VE BEEN OUT AND HEARD ONE OF YOUR SONGS AT A PARTY OR ON THE RADIO, YOU’VE OCCASIONALLY THOUGHT: YEAH ACTUALLY, HAVEN’T PLAYED THAT FOR A WHILE, LET’S HAVE A GO…

Paul McCartney: Yeah, that’s how it happens for me. I’ll just hear something at a random place – like you say, on the radio, at a party – and decide to include it. That’s always a good feeling. It’s like a little lightbulb moment: “Ding, eureka, we should definitely try that one…”

DURING THE SHOW YOU SWAP BETWEEN MULTIPLE INSTRUMENTS. BUT IS THERE ONE YOU REALLY WISH YOU COULD PLAY?

Paul McCartney: Not really. I’m quite satisfied – I play enough instruments! Of course, it would be quite good fun to be able to play a trumpet. But that’s hard, and would require more homework than I’m prepared to do! I ‘ve got enough other stuff going on!

ISN’T THE TRUMPET WHAT YOUR DAD WANTED YOU TO PLAY?

Paul McCartney: That’s right. My dad played trumpet when he was a kid, and he bought me a trumpet when I was a kid. I did try and learn it and whenever we do sessions now, if there’s a trumpeter I will go up to him and go: “Do you mind if I have a little go on your trumpet?”. And I can play ‘When The Saints Go Marching In” in the key of C. Don’t think that’ll be making the set any time soon, though…

ONE OF YOUR PRE-SHOW RITUALS IS WATCHING TV. WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO WATCH AND WHY?

Paul McCartney: I like to watch Steve Harvey in ‘Family Feud’! I don’t like to watch anything too serious before a show. I like to keep it light, and something you can dip in and out of. So if I’ve got to go in the back dressing room to change, it doesn’t matter if I miss a bit of the programme. I can come back in and “100 people said” and I’ll give the top answer hopefully. That’s a good fun show and I just like the fact that you can give your answer.

TALK US THROUGH YOUR AVERAGE DAY ON TOUR: WHAT DO YOU DO BEFORE YOU GET TO THE VENUE…

Paul McCartney: It’s actually quite set. We get up, get breakfast – normally cereal and berries and then I see if I can go to the gym and do a bit of a work-out, which I enjoy I never used to, but you get addicted. Then I’ll come back and maybe go out for a bike ride if the weather’s good and we have time. We do that a lot in Australia, America, Japan get a bit of fresh air. Because that’s one thing with touring: you’re not getting a lot of fresh air. You’re on a bus, on a plane, at a gig… Then, come back and get a massage. Soothe those aching muscles! Or, really, it’s just good to get a massage even if you’re not aching. I like a bit of pampering! Then we would normally have lunch. After that, if Nancy’s with me, and sometimes with Mike [Walley], our tour travel guy, we just discuss what’s going on, have the nice little lunch… And then it’s getting ready time: have a shower, get dressed, leave for the gig, soundcheck, dressing-room… show time.

WHAT DO YOU THINK 16-YEAR-OLD PAUL WOULD FEEL, COMING TO SEE A LIKE YOURS?

Paul McCartney: Hopefully he’d love it. I mean, I try to make it so he would love it! To be honest, though, it’s hard for me to imagine myself, aged 16 – because, you know, I’m just a little Liverpool guy coming to this show by this guy “Paul McCartney” who’s been in The Beatles and Wings and all that… But I think teenage me would like it. I’d enjoy the songs I’d enjoy the audience around me. I’d enjoy the singalongs and the excitement, and I think the production would amaze me. And I’d think that Paul was fab!

AND IF YOU BUMPED INTO 16-YEAR-OLD PAUL OUT ON YOUR BIKE RIDE, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE HIM?

Paul McCartney: Don’t! Ha ha! No… I’m always asked for my favourite quote and it’s always the same. It’s a Shakespeare line: “To thine own self be true”. In other words: Just be true to yourself, kid.

DOES THAT STILL INSPIRE YOU NOW?

Paul McCartney: Yeah, I think it’s a good one. Shakespeare wrote a lot of great things that have just been assimilated into our day-to-day language, and I enjoyed that in school. I notice loads of little things he said that are great ideas to live by. And I think “be true to yourself” is one of the big ones.

LOTS OF PEOPLE HAVE COVERED YOUR MUSIC OVER THE YEARS. ARE THERE ANY COVER VERSIONS THAT HAVE REALLY NAILED IT – SO MUCH SO THAT IT’S CHANGED THE WAY YOU’VE APPROACHED THE SONG LIVE?

Paul McCartney: In the early days there was a girl called Esther Phillips who did a version of ‘And I Love Her’, but called it ‘And I Love Him’. I liked that a lot. Later, Ray Charles did a great version of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ that I loved. And Guns N’ Roses did ‘Live And Let Die’, which I thought was great. There’s lots, and to tell you the truth I’m pleased when anyone does my songs. I was just talking about this with friends last night and they were saying there must be some really naff versions. And I said, “Yeah, probably, but they’re doing my song and I’m chuffed that they’re thinking of me and that it’s worth covering.” Even if it’s the Dutch Steam Organ Band doing ‘Yesterday’, I’m happy.

YOU’VE COLLABORATED WITH SO MANY AMAZING PEOPLE OVER THE YEARS. WHO’S BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE?

John.

IF THERE’S ANYONE THAT COULD CHOOSE TO COLLABORATE WITH, IN ANY MOMENT IN TIME, WHO WOULD IT BE?

Paul McCartney: There’s a lot of people you can say, but it might not be that easy to fix up, or may just be a bit of fantasy. But if we are talking fantasy: Bob Dylan. I don’t know if it would work, and I can’t guarantee that he’d be interested, or that we’d work well together. Also in a fantasy football world, someone like Rihanna. Again, I don’t know if it would work out, or what we could do, but I think she’s great.

WELL, YOU’VE DONE A BIT WITH HER

Paul McCartney: That’s true! See, this is the most amazing thing talking about fantasy — that happened without me even knowing. I thought I was working with Kanye West, and then I get this great Rihanna track ‘FourFiveSeconds’, and it turns out I was working with Rihanna! I just think she’s got a great voice.

YOU MADE EVEN MORE HEADLINES IN THE EARLY SUMMER WHEN YOUR APPEARANCE ON ‘CARPOOL KARAOKE’ WENT GLOBALLY VIRAL GENERATING MILLIONS OF VIEWS. AND IT’S BEEN DESCRIBED BY TV CRITICS AROUND THE WORLD AS THE TV MOMENT OF THE YEAR. WERE YOU TAKEN ABACK BY THAT REACTION?

Paul McCartney: I was actually. And to tell you the truth, I almost bottled out because I looked at what was going to be involved – I would need to rehearse with the band for a week because we hadn’t been playing, so I knew we’d have to get up to speed. And then there was going to be a day in Liverpool, and a day in London. I just suddenly thought: “Oh, it’s all too much…” So I kind of reneged on my half-promise to James Corden that I would do it. And I was about to pull out. But then he wrote me a really nice note saying how his team were so high when I said I’d do it, and now they were so low… And I felt bad, so I said: “OK, let’s do it, but let’s just keep it to Liverpool, and just do the five days rehearsal.” But on the morning of it, I was still thinking, “This isn’t going to work out”. Because I’d seen a few of the other ‘Carpool Karaokes’, and thought, “Wow, they’re really good – I don’t know if I can get up to that level.”

REALLY? YOU DIDN’T THINK YOU’D BE GOOD ENOUGH?

Paul McCartney: Yeah, I just had doubts about it. So right up until the moment we got in the car, I have to admit, I was a bit moany! But now I feel really sorry for James and his producer- they did not need somebody moaning before they did it! So I do keep planning to write him a letter to apologise for putting him through that. But anyway, the minute I got in the car it became fun and really just got better and better and better and better.

AND IT WAS A DEEPLY PERSONAL JOURNEY FOR YOU TOO, RIGHT?

Paul McCartney: Yeah. I was a bit apprehensive about going back into the house where I used to live because I hadn’t been back there literally since I used to live there full-time. And also the Penny Lane barber’s – I haven’t actually been in that shop. I’d written about it with John, but we’d never actually been and had our hair cut there. So that became a real joy, just visiting all these old places and going into my old house. That was, like, wow. It was so great I can’t describe how I felt. It was so many feelings of nostalgia for my family, all sorts of little memories of how we used to keep the condensed milk in that cupboard there… Silly little memories. But they all came flooding back.

AND THEN, ONE OF YOUR SMALLEST GIGS IN WHO KNOWS HOW MANY YEARS…

Paul McCartney: Yeah, in the pub! Surprising people from behind the curtain – I hoped that was good, and I enjoyed it, it worked out as a good show. Then a few days later they showed me the edited version and I must say I was really blown away. I thought, “Oh, this works, this is really nice.” And of course when James got emotional in front of the cameras, that was a moment of deep emotion out of the blue. So it was a special day all round, and I’m very glad I did it. And as you say, the reaction to it! I’ve had the most random people sending me texts and messages, or stopping me in the street. Everywhere I go just now, someone says: “Oh, by the way, I liked your Carpool!” Even in the gym the other day, someone said: “l loved your performance.” And I said: “What do you mean, my headstand?” He said: “No, your Carpool!” It feels like everyone in the world has seen it. So, yeah, I was very pleased to do it.

YOU’VE HAD TO HANDLE FRANKLY UNPRECEDENTED FAME AND SUCCESS FOR A LONG TIME. WHAT’S YOUR SECRET?

Paul McCartney: Again, to thine own self be true. Something like The Beatles happens in such a flurry, such a whirl, that it’s hard to know what’s going on while you’re doing it. But you get to a certain stage where you can look back on it— because it’s finished, The Beatles is finished. The music still lives on, incredibly, but the work period is over. So you can look back on it and think, “Wow! all these things we did!” And I will say, I do ask myself how I handle it. Why didn’t it drive me crazy? And my answer to myself is: my family. The way I was brought up was very down-to-earth, very loving. I feel now, more than ever, very lucky to have been in the family I was born into. Because not only were my mum and dad and brother great, but all my uncles and aunts and cousins were, too. There’s quite a few of them, all lovely people. And there was a way that we did things that kept you level-headed. There was no kind of baddies in there, so you got this idea that it’s nice to be good. It’s not soppy or goody-goody. It’s just actually nice to get on with people in life. So I thank them for that. And that is something I’ve learned from them, and from Liverpool: that you can have a good time with people. You don’t have to be uptight.

THINKING AGAIN ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENTS: OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS ALONE, THERE HAVE BEEN MULTIPLE AWARDS, HUGE CHART SUCCESS, BOX-OFFICE RECORDS BROKEN ALL OVER THE WORLD… BUT HOW DO YOU MEASURE SUCCESS?

Paul McCartney: I think just how it makes you feel; the happiness it brings. So, for example, getting the Companion of Honour from The Queen — that was very rewarding. I kind of think of it as if I’m at school and I’ve just suddenly got a prize that I didn’t know I was going to get: “Wow, got a prize, that’s great…” “Yeah, but also, the coolest person in the land is gonna give it you…” Amongst all those kings and queens you ever read about, The Queen is the longest reigning monarch in history — that alone is pretty staggering. Then the fact that she’s a good person and isn’t having people’s heads chopped off! I think she’s the glue that holds Britain together, which I think is a really good thing, so that’s also really exciting and makes you feel happy. As for musical successes: those are really great rewards for the effort you put in. If you make a song, it’s exciting at the time. But by the time it’s released, you’re wondering whether it’s as good as you thought it was when you wrote it… And then if people start feeding back, “Wow, I love that song” , and it’s a success, that’s a vindication of why you did it. People often say to me: “Why do you do it?” That’s why: because this success brings with it joy for me and for the people.

YOU’VE PROBABLY BEEN ASKED MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANYBODY ELSE IN THE WORLD. BUT IF YOU COULD KNOW THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH TO ONE QUESTION, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Paul McCartney: Oh boy… “Why are we here?”

From Paul McCartney: Freshen Up — SMOG Design Incorporated
From Paul McCartney: Freshen Up — SMOG Design Incorporated
From Paul McCartney: Freshen Up — SMOG Design Incorporated
From Paul McCartney: Freshen Up — SMOG Design Incorporated
From Paul McCartney: Freshen Up — SMOG Design Incorporated
From Paul McCartney: Freshen Up — SMOG Design Incorporated
From Paul McCartney: Freshen Up — SMOG Design Incorporated
From Paul McCartney: Freshen Up — SMOG Design Incorporated

Last updated on April 8, 2021

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