The Paul McCartney Project

Paul McCartney Talks about Family Life and Songwriting

Interview of Paul McCartney • Jul 8th, 1997
Published by:
The Today Show (NBC)
By:
Matt Lauer

Album This interview has been made to promote the Flaming Pie Official album.

Songs mentioned in this interview

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Interview

MATT LAUER, co-host: Paul McCartney is one of the most prolific and successful recording artists of all time. His current album, “Flaming Pie,” is his 68th release since he first recorded back with the Beatles back in the 1960s. Recently I sat down with McCartney at his recording studio in Sussex, England, and I asked him if songwriting comes as quickly to him these days as it did back then.

Mr. PAUL McCARTNEY (“Flaming Pie”): This album actually is–was quite quick. There wasn’t an awful lot of deliberation on the songs. A little trick I have was–during this album, I did it on two songs: “Some Days” and “Young Boy.” Two songs. What would happen was, Linda would be going to a cookery assignment. So I said, Well, I’ll drive you. I’m not doing anything.’ We’re kind of out on holiday. I said, Well, I’ll drive you and I’ll bring you back.’ You know. I like her, she’s great. And I’m cheap. 

So I drove her there. I take my guitar in case there’s nothing for me to do, as there often is. So I’ll just go into the little back room and I’ll make it–make it a little sort of game with myself and say, OK, I’m going to write a song in the next three hours.’ Because when they finished, one of them–probably one of them is bound to say, Did you get bored? What did you do?’ You know.

LAUER: Right.

Mr. McCARTNEY: And I’ll say, well, I wrote a song. And they go, Never. Three hours? What?’ I say sure, you want to hear? And it focuses me.

LAUER: Well, you mentioned the song “Some Days.”

Mr. McCARTNEY: Hmm.

LAUER: Tell me about that song.

Mr. McCARTNEY: Well, I was doing the cookery thing. See, I’m cheap…

LAUER: I mean, what’s–what’s the inspiration for that song?

Mr. McCARTNEY: Inspiration. It’s very difficult. I know there is an inspiration but I don’t know where it comes from. It’s like a vast reservoir of music out there. All these atoms contain all the music there ever was. And it’s all there for the picking. And someone like me–when you’ve learned to songwrite, it gives you the confidence to just reach in there and find something. Eleanor Rigby. Rice, church, picks up. Oh, OK. We know where we’re going.

LAUER: Is “Some Days” a love song?

Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah.

LAUER: Is it written for Linda?

Mr. McCARTNEY: Any love song I write is written for Linda. Yeah.

LAUER: Wh–what did she say the first time you played it for her?

Mr. McCARTNEY: That’s a nice song, dear.’ No, I can’t remember what she said. Great,’ she loved it.

LAUER: Linda sings…

Mr. McCARTNEY: Yes.

LAUER: …on the album. Your son James plays guitar…

Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah.

LAUER: Was that nerve wracking for you?

Mr. McCARTNEY: It was a bit, actually, yeah. And he was a bit nervous. But he doesn’t show it.

LAUER: How old is he now?

Mr. McCARTNEY: He’s 19.

LAUER: Are you going to be the kind of dad who offers advice to the son who wants to go into the–the music business?

Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah, but you know, talking about maturity and stuff, the one thing I’m learning is that it’s very difficult to give advice. People often think you’re telling them off. I wonder if you find that. I–I do sometimes. I’ll do what seems to me a perfectly good-natured thing. Now, you know what, on that third phrase there, you know, if you’d had done that, it just might have been better.’

And I figure, well, I’ve been around long enough. It’s got to–hopefully it’s got to be some kind of good advice. But he’ll just say, Yeah, Dad, but you know, I’m thinking–I’ve got my own thought on it.’ You know? And I sometimes get a little bit, Hey now, come on. You know, like if you were going to a master class or something with me, you’d have to listen. He says, Yeah. But Dad, I’m 19.’ Ding. And the lamp goes off. I realize he’s quite right. He’s 19. I say, All right. You’re talking about youth, aren’t you?’ I get it now. I remember.

LAUER: Is it tough, though, if you think he’s making a mistake to sit back and watch someone you love so much possibly make a mistake?

Mr. McCARTNEY: It’s very tough. But you’ve got to let him do it.

LAUER: Yeah.

Mr. McCARTNEY: It’s very tough. But that’s when I’m learning, is to do that. You know, if he’s really making a mistake, I’ll pull him back before he really does it and then just say, Sorry, going to pull you out of this water or you’ll drown.’

LAUER: Ringo also plays on a couple of songs…

Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah.

LAUER: …on this–on this album. When you sit in–and I think it was this room right here…

Mr. McCARTNEY: This room right here.

LAUER: When you sat in this room, and Ringo’s playing drums and you’re doing your thing, do you look across the room and think, This is how it should be’? Or do you stop and think, My God, we’ve been doing this for almost 40 years now’?

Mr. McCARTNEY: Both. I think this is how it should be for 40 years. It’s a–it’s a great feeling, you know, to play with him. Before the Beatles Anthology, we–we were getting back together in–again in this studio, to do “Free as a Bird”…

LAUER: Mm-hmm.

Mr. McCARTNEY: Which is the John song. We didn’t know then whether we’d be able to cut it because we hadn’t been in the studio together. We…

LAUER: Cut it technically, or cut it personality wise?

Mr. McCARTNEY: Both. Both. You know, we didn’t know whether we’d like each other, or didn’t know if we’d be comfortable. You know, if you don’t live together for a long time, a long time, you may get–you may need your own space. Someone may say something that annoys you. It wasn’t like that. It was fantastic, really. Ringo and I locked in really easily on bass and drums. So after that, I said to him, You know, it would be lovely if you–if you’d play on some solo stuff.’ He said, I’d love to.’ So I said I’ve got a song called “Beautiful Night.”

LAUER: You and Linda have been married 28 years?

Mr. McCARTNEY: Twenty-eight years, man.

LAUER: In a business and a world where divorce is everywhere…

Mr. McCARTNEY: Unfortunately, yeah.

LAUER: What–what’s the secret? You’re still writing love songs with her.

Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah, well I love her. That’s the–I mean, anyone asks what the secret is, that’s the secret. You know. We just fell in love. We were lucky. We had our ups and downs. You know, I don’t want it to seem rosey-posy. I mean, you know, we argued. And we–we argue, you know, because you’ve got to have that. But we’ve always had a good sense of humor. We’ve always been quite honest with each other. And we’ve been lucky.

LAUER: You’ve had a tough couple of years with her health. Much talked about that she’s been battling breast cancer. How is she doing, first of all?

Mr. McCARTNEY: She’s doing great. She’s doing great. Yeah, but it’s very tough. You know, it’s not–it’s–it’s–I mean, it’s an understatement to say it’s not easy. It’s very tough, indeed. But you do what you’ve got to do. And the thing is, you know, if you catch this stuff early enough–I always use this opportunity to say to women…

LAUER: As you should.

Mr. McCARTNEY: …watching the show, you know, make sure you get checked. Do all the examinations, because, you know, you catch it early, there’s a lot they can do these days.

LAUER: It must’ve brought back some bad memories for you. Your mom had cancer.

Mr. McCARTNEY: Mom died of cancer. Yeah. Yeah. That was…

LAUER: You were 14.

Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah.

LAUER: So you must be thinking at that time, My gosh, don’t let his happen again.’

Mr. McCARTNEY: Exactly, yeah. It’s not easy. But you know, you get on. You do what you’ve got to do.

Mr. McCARTNEY: You try and enjoy your life. That’s all you can do anyway. You know. If you could have the greatest wish, if God could come down and say, like, you get anything you want, you’d–or what I would want would be to like enjoy today. Because if I can go to bed and say, hey, you know, it was good, that’s about the best for me, you know. So that’s what we do. That’s what we try and do. And, you know, we have a lot of fun.

Last updated on March 9, 2019


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