How Paul McCartney’s Producer Learned to Tell Him to Change Songs
Greg Kurstin, who produced Paul McCartney’s upcoming album Egypt Station, revealed how he tackled the challenge of telling the Beatles icon to change his songs.
Kurstin – a lifelong Beatles fan – spent two years working on the record with McCartney and his band in Los Angeles, Sussex in England and London’s Abbey Road Studios.
Responding to the observation that “It must have been odd telling a Beatle how to improve a song,” the producer told Rolling Stone, “It was. It is strange, but I know that’s what he really wants from me. I just have to take a breath and say it. Sometimes it might not go over very well, but he was always really cool."
Kurstin recalled "a couple of times where I might have suggested something that might have been challenging." "I can’t remember specifically, but I remember him just sort of carrying on, and I’m wondering, ‘Did he hear me?’" he said. "Then maybe half an hour would go by and I’d say, ‘Hey, Paul, what about that idea I mentioned a little while ago?’ He said, ‘Oh, I heard you. I was just pretending to ignore you.’ We’d just laugh about it. Then sometimes two days later he’d try the idea, and I’d be like, ‘Wow, okay.’ I thought I failed miserably with the idea, but he came back to it and really tried. I think he’s always listening, always absorbing.”
The producer noted that McCartney recorded more than just bass and vocals in the studio. “His touring band is on the album, but I’d say a lot of it is him playing a lot of the instruments," he said. "He’s a great drummer. He played a lot of the drums on the record. … There was a lot of time where it was just me, Paul and the engineers in the studio, and I would occasionally play here or there. The bass, obviously, is pretty much all Paul. He also played piano a lot of the times and sometimes guitar. There’s a few songs that have his band and there’s a lot where Paul is playing most of the instruments.”
One of Kurstin’s favorite memories is the experience of working in Abbey Road. “I mean, it was amazing,” he said. “He’d tell stories and you could visualize him and John [Lennon] and the band there as kids. … He told countless stories about the echo chamber. He said he’d hide out there with John, kind of giggling and laughing when there would be another session in another studio. If you soloed any of those tracks, you’d probably hear them laughing.
“There were also lots of stories about the console. There’d be a setting for classical and a setting for pop. They’d have the switch set to pop when the Beatles recorded and John and Paul would be like, “Why do they get classical? What do they do that we don’t?” They thought they were getting short-changed or something.”
McCartney added three U.K. dates to his Freshen Up tour, in addition to the four Canadian dates previously announced. You can see the dates below. Egypt Station will be released on Sept. 7.
Paul McCartney 'Freshen Up’ 2018 Tour
9/17 – Quebec City, QC – the Videotron Centre
9/20 – Montreal, QC – Bell Centre
9/28 – Winnipeg, MB – Bell MTS Place
9/30 – Edmonton, AB – Rogers Place
12/12 – Liverpool, U.K. – Echo Arena
12/14 – Glasgow, U.K. – SSE Hydro
12/16 – London, U.K. – The O2