The legendary songwriter opened up about his past and present methods of writing music, as well as the varying levels of confidence he has in his own ability. McCartney, who released a new box set, ‘Pure McCartney’, today, gave a candid assessment of his experiences of songwriting over his long and prestigious musical career.
In this new interview with NPR for their All Songs +1 podcast, McCartney said 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.”
He also opened up about missing John Lennon in a creative sense, saying that he hasn’t changed his method of songwriting since he first devised it with his fellow Beatle. “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,” McCartney said. “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.”
McCartney also spoke on his personal relationship with his former songwriting partner. “Obviously the biggie 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.”
The 73-year-old further discussed his desire to keep writing and working as a musician, saying that he considers it to be “like a hobby, and a hobby that’s turned into a living.”
“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,” he said. “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.