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James McCartney Interview: Paul and Linda McCartney's Son Finds His Own Wings

Written by , Posted in Musicians

Image attributed to Marc Parker

James McCartney

Following a year that introduced him to international success in 2012, James McCartney now heads toward an exciting and unprecedented 2013. This is a year that will see him release his first full-length album and embark on a forty-seven date, twenty-seven state tour of the USA, to be followed by a number of additional shows and appearances across Europe.

The singer/songwriter is fresh off the release of his two digital-only EPs, Available Light and Close At Hand, as well as his first physical release, The Complete EP Collection, and his first full-length album called Me dropped May 21. The US tour to accompany the release of Me reflects McCartney’s singular idea of who he is … both musically and personally.

“Well, that was a time after mum died, maybe two or three years afterward. I was grieving her death and went into a pretty grungy kind of goth kind of period in terms of music that I liked to listen to. It was a fun time on one hand. It was maybe not the easiest time on another hand.”

McCartney is the son of Paul McCartney, the multi-talented music superstar and former member of the Beatles, and professional photographer Linda Eastman McCartney who succumbed to cancer in 1998.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): James, it is so nice to meet you. How’s the tour going?

James McCartney: The reception has been great. The record is intimate and personal, and that’s why it’s a solo tour to keep it intimate and personal, and also to say, “This is me.”

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is that one of the reasons you titled the new album Me?

James McCartney: Well, I’m a solo artist, so just trying to focus on my music. I don’t know. “M E” is in the middle of my name.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): James is the first name of your dad and grandfather, correct?

James McCartney: My dad’s dad, yeah.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you remember your grandfather?

James McCartney: No. I never met him.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was he in the music business also?

James McCartney: A little bit, not really. I think he was into big bands or something. But he was more of a cotton salesman.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How would you describe your sound, James?

James McCartney: I guess the production is pretty poppy, isn’t it? Hopefully the songwriting is more rock and roll, but the production is more poppy. I like to think of it as just rock and roll, you know, and not try to get too much into defining and putting labels on it. But, yeah, poppy and abstract, surrealism, realism … mainly just rock and roll.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What was the inspiration for the single, “Strong As You?”

James McCartney: I wrote this while listening to “Here Comes the Sun.” “Strong As You” is just one of those existential songs about life, just being strong and keepin’ on keepin’ on.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I just can’t get the tune out of my head.

James McCartney: Cool.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): A period of your life is referenced in the song “You and Me Individually.” Tell me about that.

James McCartney: Well, that was a time after mum died, maybe two or three years afterward. I was grieving her death and went into a pretty grungy kind of goth kind of period in terms of music that I liked to listen to. It was a fun time on one hand. It was maybe not the easiest time on another hand.

I was listening to bands like Red House Painters and Low Five, just kind of acoustically, slow and melodic kinds of tunes. So I just remember this time I was hanging out by the pool. Light was pouring in through the woodlands in Sussex in maybe May or June. It was a hot day, and I wrote that song. Then I continued to finish the lyrics more recently.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is songwriting fairly easy for you?

James McCartney: It depends. If I’m in the rhythm of writing lyrics a lot then it can be okay. But if I haven’t exercised that muscle as it were, then it could be difficult. So I’ve got to keep in the process. The music generally comes first and then the lyrics. But it can be the other way around sometimes.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your artwork is featured on the cover of the album?

James McCartney: Yeah.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you spend your time working both in music and in visual art?

James McCartney: I mainly focus on music, but I do visual art as well. I do illustrations and painting and a little bit of sculpture and stuff. The back cover has got a crucifix and is like the Painted Desert in Arizona. All the other art is just stuff I’ve been putting together in my old notebooks.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did your dad contribute to this album?

James McCartney: A little bit. He sang on “Thinking About Rock and Roll” and played a bit of guitar.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): James, as a young child, did you realize the affect your dad had on the musical world?

James McCartney: I’ve always been aware of it really.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Interesting. Even as a young boy of seven or eight years old?

James McCartney: Yeah. Maybe it was all the attention. There were lots of fans when I would be picked up at school or when we would go to events. There would be a lot of photographers. He would be on TV shows, and I’d realize it.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What are the disadvantages of being Paul McCartney’s son?

James McCartney: The family is kind of public, so there’s a fair amount of attention toward me. I have to be careful. But, privacy is a good thing if you want it.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was your dad always wishing you would follow in his footsteps?

James McCartney: I think he was always just happy for me to be doing whatever I wanted to be doing which just happened to be music, encouraging me to just be myself.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What was the feeling like the first time you shared the stage professionally with your dad?

James McCartney: The one in London recently? That’s the only time it has happened. But it was great. It was a dream come true and a surprise. Ronnie Wood was there. It was good fun.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tell me about what you will be doing at Bonnaroo on June 15.

James McCartney: I think I might just be talking about transcendental meditation a little bit and watching the meditation documentary. Just talking about my experiences with transcendental meditation and the effects it has had on my life like helping with problem solving and creating bliss in one’s own life.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You touched on “privacy” earlier. Are you a private person?

James McCartney: I’m private, and I’m not private. It’s a bit of both.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you feel more comfortable on the stage?

James McCartney: Um, yeah, maybe. Yeah. I feel pretty comfortable on sage. We’ve been doing a lot of shows recently, so I’m getting pretty used to it.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you still interested in photography?

James McCartney: I take photographs sometime on real film cameras even with little disposable ones. My mom was an amazing photographer. I think its part of the artwork, which goes into music as well.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I like using film.

James McCartney: Oh, yeah. Definitely.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What are your other interests?

James McCartney: I like surfing. That’s cool. Meditation and spirituality, horse riding, charity work. Interested in theology and spirituality in general.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What were your studies in college?

James McCartney: In college, I studied sculpture. It’s a different educational system in England. I did sculpture for about a year, but then my mum died, so I decided I wanted to focus on what I really wanted to do.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was she strictly a photographer?

James McCartney: She may have been into a little sculpting like clay figures or something. She did a bit of painting and drawing. But she was definitely more into photography.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What kind of music are you listening to, James?

James McCartney: There’s a band called Dive, Pink Turns Blue, Nirvana, Radiohead, The Cure, the Beatles, the Stones, all the 60s music.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I can hear the Radiohead influence in your songs.

James McCartney: Oh, cool.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Other musical influences?

James McCartney: Kurt Cobain, The Smiths, PJ Harvey, Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, Hank Williams, the Beatles, the Cure. I could name so many more. In the end, I don’t really prefer a particular style, just great music, truly.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What makes you laugh?

James McCartney: I’ve got a dry sense of humor. I don’t know. That’s a good question. I don’t have the strongest sense of humor, but I do have a great one. The British sitcom Blackadder was cool and The League of Gentlemen.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Does your dad have a dry sense of humor also?

James McCartney: I don’t know how to define dad’s sense of humor. But also, I like Whose Line Is It Anyway? That was cool. Dad has a great sense of humor. He probably does have a dry one amongst other forms.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Would you say that he’s “cooler” than you, or is it the other way around?

James McCartney: As in trendy? Hopefully, we’re equal.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): In what direction will you be taking in the next album?

James McCartney: It depends. Probably a little bit more grungy, a bit more “Nirvanary.” Hopefully that will be the direction, but it could go a bit more electronica.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is your dad on the board with you when you produce the records?

James McCartney: Sometimes.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Will you have new music next year?

James McCartney: I don’t know. I’ll just see how it goes for now because I don’t want to be procrastinating either.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Has your dad offered any advice to you about the music business?

James McCartney: Just to have fun and be honest, you know? I think just being in his presence has given me advice personally. Just the example of the Beatles. It’s an amazing role model.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What are your goals personally and professionally?

James McCartney: I’d love to feel that I realized my full potential both as a person and as a songwriter. That feels like a great, fulfilling goal to shoot for. Making a lot of music and striving for more depth artistically. And always improving and evolving as a songwriter.

© 2013 Smashing Interviews Magazine. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written consent of the publisher.

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