Session with Kanye West

Early 2014 • For Kanye West

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Only One Single.
Timeline More from year 2014
Studio:
Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles, USA

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About

Early 2014, Kanye West and Paul McCartney met in Los Angeles, to start their collaboration, which would bring three songs – “Only One“, “FourFiveSeconds” (with Rihanna) and “All Day“ – all released in 2015. They met at the Beverly Hills Hotel, a “neutral location” chosen by McCartney.

In an interview with Danish magazine SoundVenue, McCartney explains how this collaboration came about:

With Kanye, it was kind of like, ‘Am I really going to jump into it – is that even my ballpark?’ But then I thought, ‘Hey, I got nothing to lose.’ It’s his business. If it doesn’t get very good, it’s his fault(laughs).

But honestly, I really enjoyed working with him. We sat down together two or three afternoons and they consisted mostly of me throwing ideas at him and then he grabbed what he found interesting. It was a new way of working for me. But I let him dictate the process. It was up to him to do with my ideas as he wanted. He could do something acoustic, something electronic, something popped, something strange. He could even discard it, for my sake (laughs).

The next thing that happened was that suddenly one day three songs came back to me from Kanye, which I listened to, and they were based on the ideas I had been working on with him. ‘FourFiveSeconds’ was the one, and then there was ‘All Day’ and ‘Only One’. But, well, I meet many interesting people, and thus many possible collaborators, and Kanye is definitely one of the more interesting… (laughs)

Paul McCartney – Interview with SoundVenue, July 3, 2015:

We had a few afternoons at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The only deal I made with Kanye was that if it doesn’t work, we won’t tell anyone. I didn’t know his system. I’d heard things like, “He’s got a room full of guys working on riffs, and he walks around going, ‘I like that one.’ ” It reminded me of Andy Warhol, these artists who use students to paint their backgrounds and things. It’s a well-used technique. I thought, “I don’t know how I’m going to fit into that, but let’s see. Here goes nothing.

Paul McCartney – Interview with RollingStone, August 10, 2016

We assume that the contributions of Paul McCartney on those three songs were all done, during those few afternoons early 2014 in Los Angeles

“Only One”

Only One” was the first of those songs released, in January 1, 2015 ; and the press release gives the following details:

In early 2014, Paul McCartney and Kanye West first began working together in a small bungalow in Los Angeles. The process that would result in “Only One” began with a simple brainstorming session between the two: With McCartney improvising on the keyboards and Kanye vocally sketching and shaping ideas in a stream-of-consciousness riff.

Paul McCartney inspired Kanye West to write “Only One“, by explaining him how he wrote “Let It Be”.

[…] Now with Kanye, I had no idea what was going to happen because I knew it wasn’t going to be two acoustic guitars opposite each other. So I thought, ‘Well, here goes nothing’.

The one provision I said to everyone, I said, ‘Look, if I feel this doesn’t work out, then we just won’t tell anyone. Kanye who? I didn’t work with him!’

I just was myself and I told Kanye various stories that had inspired me musically. One of them was how the song Let It Be arrived, which was through a dream I’d had in which I’d seen my mother, who had died 10 years previously.

But I was so inspired by that that I wrote the song. I told Kanye that, because he’d lost his mother. So then he wrote a song called Only One when I was just noodling around on the electronic piano. So he got the melody, I put the chords in and the style and that’s how it happened.

Paul McCartney, interview with BBC News, March 23, 2017

We sat around and talked an awful lot just to break the ice. One of the stories I told him was about how I happened to have written ‘Let It Be’. My mum came to me in a dream when she’d died years previously. I was in a bit of a state — it was the Sixties and I was overdoing it. In the dream she said, ‘Don’t worry it’s all going to be fine, just let it be.’ And I woke up and thought, ‘Woah’ and wrote the song. I told Kanye this and he said, ‘I’m going to write a song with my mum.’ So then I sat down at the piano.

Paul McCartney – interview with Mirror.co.uk, May 1, 2015

“FourFiveSeconds”

FourFiveSeconds” was the second track released, and it turned out to be a Rihanna track rather than a Kanye West track. Paul McCartney about his contribution to “FourFiveSeconds“:

[…] I just threw ideas at [Kanye]. I had no idea about the end result or whether he would even use any of it until he sent me the three songs for listening. The first time I listened, I was pretty confused. I spoke to one of Kanye’s people, Noah – an incredibly nice man – and asked him, ‘Well, where am I?’. And he laughed and said, ‘Well, the groove itself is your guitar, man!’

What Kanye had done was relatively simple. He had set up the speed of the recording. That’s kind of it. But that was enough for me not to recognize it at first. At some point in the finished version, you can actually see the sound of my voice sounding like Chip and Chap on the outing because it was also on the recording of the guitar! (Paul imitates the sound of his own up-speeded voice and laughs)

Well, well, the guitar, it’s me. The thing is, these are his songs. I trusted him to be able to assess if there was anything that could be used. I delivered the spine, you might say, or maybe it would be better to say that I gave him some pretty basic ingredients, and out of it, Kanye made a cake, a delicious but slightly unusual cake filled with his spices (laughs). He’s a really good cook!

The icing on the cake (laughs)… was Rihanna. He had her added afterwards because he thought the song would be a good fit for her. Then I listened to it one more time. It worked. The next step was that we made a video. It was super, great fun. It was with this Dutch director couple that I forgot the names of. They have some impossible names to remember (Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin), but they did a really fine job. The next step was that we played at the Grammys show in February… Rihanna is an excellent performer so it was a great pleasure. I have to say that I’m glad I jumped on the bandwagon…

Paul McCartney – interview with Danish website SoundVenue, July 3, 2015

“All Day”

All Day” was the latest song released, and featured a re-recorded sample of “When the Wind is Blowing“, recorded by Wings in 1971.

Linda and I were having our first baby together, Mary. She was recuperating – I’m sitting around eating chips with my guitar in the clinic, goofing around with it. And there was a picture on the wall that I’d been looking at for days – Picasso, “The Old Guitarist.” The guy held the guitar like this [strikes the pose from the painting], and a lightbulb went off in my head: “What chord is that?” It looked like it was two strings. “You know what would be cool? To write a song with only two fingers.” So I wrote this thing [plays the melody].

I was telling Kanye this story. I whistled it for him. His engineer was recording it, and it went into the pool of ingredients. Kanye was just collecting things. We weren’t going to sit down and write a song so much as talk and spark ideas off each other. It was only when I got this song, the Rihanna record [“FourFiveSeconds”] and “Only One,” the three tracks we did, that I went, “I get it. He’s taken my little whistle-y thing.” It returned to me as an urban hip-hop riff. I love that record.

Paul McCartney – Interview with RollingStone, August 10, 2016

In the full credits of “All Day“, Steve Orchard, Paul McCartney’s personal engineer, is mentioned in the following way: “Steve Orchard at No Name Studios, London“, which suggests McCartney re-recorded “When The Wind Is Blowing” in London, sometimes in 2014, for the purpose of the collaboration with West.

Last updated on March 3, 2021

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