Paul McCartney is one of the greatest and most prolific songwriters of all time. Now he has given us a look into his creative process via an in-depth interview with NPR for its All Songs +1 podcast. He also revealed just how much he misses working with his old writing partner John Lennon.
During the interview, Sir Paul opened up about his methods of songwriting both past and present, as well as talking candidly about the varying levels of confidence he has in his own ability.
To coincide with his newly released box set Pure McCartney, which covers 5 decades of music, he gave a rarely heard insider’s view of his experience as a songwriter during his hugely successful musical career.
McCartney explained that with songwriting, “You never get it down. I don’t know how to do this. You’d think I do, but it’s not one of these things you ever really know how to do.”
In a revealing moment, McCartney opened up about missing his friend and band mate John Lennon with regards to his creative-sense. He also shared that his method of songwriting hasn’t changed since he first devised it with his fellow Beatle.
McCartney said: “If I was to sit down and write a song now, I’d use my usual method: I’d either sit down with a guitar or at the piano and just look for melodies, chord shapes, musical phrases, some words, a thought just to get started with. And then I just sit with it to work it out, like I’m writing an essay or doing a crossword puzzle. That’s the system I’ve always used, that John [Lennon] and I started with. I’ve really never found a better system and that system is just playing the guitar and looking for something that suggests a melody and perhaps some words if you’re lucky.”
Talking of his personal relationship with Lennon, he said: “Obviously the biggie is I miss working with is John because that was something very special and you know it’s very difficult to replicate that,” he said. “In fact it’s almost impossible, because we met each other as teenagers and went through a lot of life together: hitchhiking to Paris and holidays and working together and being in Hamburg together with The Beatles. So we were very intimate, we knew each other intimately as only teenage friends can.”
With no sign of slowing down, the evergreen 73-year-old talked of his desire to keep writing and working as a musician, explaining: “I do like it. I do enjoy it. I mean, when I get a day off and I’ve suddenly got loads of time on my hands, I might do the kind of thing where I’m at home — I live on a farm — so I might get out for a horse ride or something,” said McCartney. “But when I’ve done those things that I want to do and there is still a couple of hours in the afternoon, I’ll often just gravitate to a piano or a guitar and I feel myself just kind of writing a song. It’s like a hobby, and it’s a hobby that turned into a living. But I like to think of it that way and I sometimes kind of pull myself up and say, ‘Are you taking this seriously enough? Maybe you should try a little bit more.'”
Listen to the full interview below: