The Paul McCartney Project

Recording NEW with Ethan Johns #1

Late January 2012 • For Paul McCartney

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the New Official album.
Timeline More from year 2012
Studio:
AIR Studios, London, UK
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Master album


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About

Paul McCartney decided to audition some young producers for his new pop album. He firstly met with Paul Epworth. Second, he hooked up with Ethan John. They spent a day working together at AIR Studios, London, before moving to Abbey Road for two extra days. During that time, they focused on one track, “Hosanna“.

From the liner notes of the album, notes from Paul:

[…] Next I hooked up with Ethan Johns, the song of my friend Glyn Johns, who I had worked with on Beatles and Wings recordings. Ethan, a full bearded Glastonbury man was easy to get along with and I got a feeling that his style suited my more acoustic songs. We went to Abbey Road Studios and fairly swiftly put down a take of ‘Hosanna’. […]

Paul McCartney

Next up was the producer Ethan Johns. “He’d done Kings of Leon records, so I knew there was an authenticity and a realness about what he did,” McCartney says. “I brought him ‘Hosanna’” – a tender, tentative acoustic ballad – “and I said, ‘I wrote this song.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you go in and sing it?’ So I did that and said, ‘Should I do it again? Should we fix it up?’ He said, ‘No, that’s beautiful the way you did it. I think that’s enough.’ I thought, ‘OK, this is the way he works: He’s gonna be very raw, he’s gonna want it to spill out, don’t think about it too much, just say it.’

From RollingStone, November 7, 2013

It’s classic Paul. This is very different to the last album. We’ve done two sessions already and the third is in a few weeks. It’s sounding great. He’s still one of the most extraordinary recording talents. There’s a song on the record called ‘Hosanna’ which is absolutely heartbreaking – just Paul and an acoustic guitar. It’s gorgeous… I know he’s also been in the studio with Mark Ronson, which I imagine is going to be quite current-sounding… I’m not sure what [the project] is. I’m simply a guy in his phone book he calls up every now and again and asks if I want to do something. And you don’t say no to McCartney. I mean, who would?

Ethan Johns, about working with Paul McCartney on “NEW”, from NME, October 18, 2012

I got a call saying, ‘Would you like to go into the studio with Paul? And of course I said, ‘I would love to!’

It was very low-key. [The idea was,] ‘Let’s just go and hang out for a few days, play some music, have a bit of fun and see what we come up with.

The first day we had was remarkable. He walked in with this incredible song [Hosannah], we threw up a couple of microphones and within four hours we had this great track. I think we did an edit between the first two takes. It had an incredible feel – a really evocative piece of music. A very interesting lyric, and the performance was great. Then we started to experiment with it, and I put a bunch of psychedelic strangeness on it. You have fun. ‘Oh, try this! Do that!’ It’s just very inspiring to be around.

The first thing he said was, ‘What do you feel like doing?’ I could have said, ‘Let’s spend the day making percussion loops with drum machines,’ and he would have been, ‘Great!  Let’s do that!’ I don’t think he ever said ‘No,’ which is kind of the mark of who he is as an artist, really. He’s always up for trying something new.

[At Abbey Road] It was revelatory for me, recording Paul in that space having listened to the sound of those Beatles records. He plugged in his bass, I put a microphone in front of it, walked upstairs into the control room, pushed the fader up, and [that sound] came out of the speakers immediately. I didn’t have to do anything! It was a pretty major light bulb for me. People get so fixated on the equipment and the gear, and those things are important – but ultimately, the bass sound on Revolver is Paul. Paul could be playing anything and he will get that sound.

Ethan Johns, about working with Paul McCartney on “NEW”, from RollingStone, August 14, 2013

This session was documented by RollingStone journalist, Brian Hiatt, who followed McCartney for a few days, to prepare an article for the release of the album “Kisses On The Bottom”.

A week before the album’s release, McCartney is already working on a new rock record. So far, he’s been playing all the instruments himself: The bass, guitars, keyboards and drum kit set up in Studio Two are all his. “The plan was to do what I’m doing now, which is to almost immediately start into another studio album, so people don’t think that that’s it, I’m now in the jazz genre.”

Today he’s recording a song for that next album called “Hosannah” – an acoustic ballad that wouldn’t be out of place on his first solo LP, 1970’s McCartney (another one where he played everything). As he puts headphones on and gets down to work – summoning that trumpetlike tone from his familiar old violin-shaped Hofner bass, pounding his foot to the beat – it’s almost hard to hear him with all the ghosts hanging in the air. […]

Up in Studio Two’s control room, the most melodic songwriter of his generation is making some seriously horrifying noise. McCartney is twisting knobs on an ancient tape machine, messing with a loop of a guitar lick he just played. He speeds it up until it becomes a beyond-Yoko shriek, slows it down until it sounds like droning sludge. He punches “stop” and smiles. “We do have I fun, don’t we?”

He’s working with producer Ethan Johns – the tall, bearded son of producer-engineer Glyn Johns, who worked on Let It Be – on potential tape-loop overdubs for “Hosannah.” In the corner is a Pro Tools setup, though Johns is also recording on analog tape. “Is that enough?” McCartney says after a few more licks. “I could go all day!”

From Paul McCartney’s New Album, New Life and How the Beatles Almost Reunited – Rolling Stone, March 2012

Last updated on December 17, 2020

Songs recorded


1.

Hosanna

Written by Paul McCartney

Recording

Staff

Production staff

Ethan Johns:
Producer

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