Interview for • 2017

You Gave Me The Answer (2017)

Press interview • Interview of Paul McCartney

Album This interview has been made to promote the Flowers In The Dirt - Archive Collection Official album.

Songs mentioned in this interview


Officially appears on Flowers In The Dirt

Put It There

Officially appears on Flowers In The Dirt

That Day Is Done

Officially appears on Flowers In The Dirt

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What was it like writing and recording with Elvis Costello? Did you learn anything from him in the process?

Thanks for your question, Joe. The answer is no![Laughs] It was good! It was good fun actually. When we were about to start, I had said to Elvis that I kind of missed the way John and I used to write, which was sitting across from each other, with an acoustic guitar each. And I’d explain to him that the fun thing for me was, with John being right-handed and me being left-handed it kind of looked like it was in a mirror. So I said we should do the same thing. He just came down to my studio in Sussex and we used that same process. We just sat down, started banging away until one of us had an idea, or either of us brought in something that had inspired us and we wrote in the same manner that John and I had written in. So that was nice, it was kind of reminiscent of using this method once again. And the great thing was, this time, once we were finished, we could go right downstairs into the studio itself – because we wrote in my office above the studio – and we’d go right downstairs into the studio the minute we’d finished it. Five minutes later we’d recorded it. Talk about fresh! That was ‘hot off the skillet’. “And those are the acoustic demos on the reissue?”

Paul: “Those are the demos, yeah. That’s why they sound so immediate – because they are!” “We were listening to them earlier. They sound like they could have been recorded today!”

Paul: “Yeah, there was a very good spirit on them. We thought, ‘Just finished a song, yeah. Let’s go downstairs and just record it!’”

Is the song ‘Put It There’ about your father, brother and you, or is it about your relationship with your children?

Paul McCartney: Thanks for your question, John. The song was originally inspired by my dad who used the expression regularly. ‘Put it there, if it weighs a ton,’ he would say. Growing up I heard this expression a lot when he was shaking hands with anyone! So I have an affection for the phrase. When we were doing the video I explained this to the filmmakers, and so it really is to do with me and my dad. But then the next generation is me and my kids. So it’s to do with family. It’s to do with parents and kids. Or just anyone who wants to shake hands.

I always wondered what the song ‘That Day Is Done’ is about. It sounds to me like it is someone talking from the grave?

Paul McCartney: Thanks for your question, Stephen. Well, when I was working with Elvis Costello, he told me about a funeral of a favourite relative of his and it became the inspiration for this song. It really was Elvis’ story that I empathised with and we eventually took the lyric, ‘Flowers In The Dirt’ for the title of the album. I suggest actually on this one you talk to Elvis…

Elvis Costello: The starting point of the lyric for ‘That Day Is Done’ came from my anxiety about possibly not being there for the funeral of my Grandmother (or Nana as I called her). By the way, she was also the subject of ‘Veronica’ (her third name). Odd that the question mentioned voices from the grave. That device was taken from William Kennedy’s book, ‘Ironweed’, rather than a ‘Halloween’ idea.

One of my favourite songs on the album is ‘Distractions’. What was your musical reference point that inspired you to write that song?

Paul McCartney: Thanks for your question, Simon. I like a good love song, you know. And it’s always nice to be in the mood to write a ballad and that was the case when I sat down to write this. It just occurred to me that if you love someone, one of the problems is that you don’t always spend enough time with that person. Because you’ve got things to do, you’ve got work or you’ve got other obligations to other people or whatever. And so I thought, yeah you could call those distractions from the main event kind of thing. That was basically what this is:

What is this thing in life that persuades me to take time away from you?
 … Distractions, like butterflies

I elaborated on that theme, it’s just someone wishing they could spend more time with their loved one. And you know for me at that time it was about Linda. But people often say to me, ‘Who did you write this about?’ and even though then I would have been writing specifically about Linda – because she was the object of my affection – I liked the idea that it could also be the sort of dream of romance. It could just be an ideal – we all love someone and wish we could spend more time with that someone. A romantic ideal! I know that a young couple won’t hear this about me and Linda, the guy will hear it about him and his girlfriend, the girl will hear that it’s about her and her boyfriend, and I like that. I like that about my songs, that people use them for their own purpose. And I think that’s a very romantic idea. would you describe the Japanese audiences at your concerts compared to other countries

Paul:Saiko! Which is Japanese for fantastic. Karaoke is a popular amusement in Japan. What would you sing at karaoke?

Paul: What would I sing at karaoke? Hmmm… [Starts scatting]. What would I sing in karaoke…? ‘My Way’ comes to mind, of course. And then, ‘You Are The Sunshine Of My Life’… I probably wouldn’t do either! [Laughs] But in a hypothetical and fun situation, I would do those. Being vegetarian, what is your favourite Japanese food?

Paul: Avocado, or cucumber sushi. Do you enjoy Japanese teas?

Paul: Mm-hmm. Green tea, mm-hmm. But they like it stronger than I do. The Japanese like it very strong! I like it probably not quite as strong in flavour. But yeah, I love green tea. Is there anything in particular that impresses you about Japan?

Paul: Yeah, the cleanliness is amazing! We couldn’t believe that. We couldn’t find one scrap of litter in Tokyo! And the friendliness of the people.

Of all of the photographs that you have taken, which is your favourite?

Paul McCartney: That I’ve taken? [pauses to think] Hmmm, it’s probably the one of Linda on the cover of ‘Wide Prairie’. It’s a really nice picture of her wearing the Fair Isle sweater.

From ‘You Gave Me The Answer’ – Melissa from Australia Asks… |

How do you look after your voice, especially in the middle of a big tour?

Paul McCartney: Thanks for your question, Richard. I have a couple of things I do before I go on stage, and I don’t even know if they work! But I do like – over a bowl of hot water – a steam. I do like a steaming before I go on, which I was told was probably the best thing to clear your larynx. I was taught that by watching Little Richard do it when we were kids in Hamburg. He used to do it before he went on. He’d get a kettle full of hot water in the sink, put a towel over his head, and [inhales] breathe in, get the vapours. So, I do that. It’s become part of my ritual and then I have a salt-water gargle. Again, I’m not sure if that does anything! “This is all just before you go on?”

Paul: “Yeah, before I go on. Well, it’s in the hour before we go on. When I get told: “It’s time to go on!” I start that ritual and it involves those two things, which are specifically to do with the voice. “Have you done that ever since Hamburg?”

Paul: “No. But I remembered it since Hamburg and probably whilst I’ve been on tour with this band. So that’s like ten years. So yeah, the last ten years I’ve probably done it, and it’s become a routine.”

Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever had any paranormal experiences?

Paul McCartney: Thanks for your question, Audra. I would say no, not really. I’ve heard bumps in the night, but it’s usually the plumbing! You know, I’m a bit too practical so if I see something or hear something, I normally will reach for a rational explanation. I do know a lot of people who go, ‘Oooo!’ and think, ‘Oh, that must be something spooky!’ No, the thing is I’ve never seen a ghost so I can’t believe in them. I’m not sure. I’ve had all sorts of interesting sort of spiritual moments. I mean, I remember after Linda died, I was on a horse ride on my own. And I remember seeing a pure white squirrel and to me it seemed like that was a message from Linda – that was like Linda’s incarnation. So, I mean I’ve seen little things like that, but no ghosts.

Last updated on April 10, 2021


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