Paul McCartney And Me!

My introduction to Paul came via producer David Kahne in 2001 when I was asked to play on the Driving Rain album. We were shooting the s**t on the phone and David told me he'd be doing the new Paul McCartney record. My initial reaction was, 'Great--it'll be awesome to hear what you bring to that.' Then he mentioned he might need some guitar playing, and I said, 'Count me in.' Two or three months later I found myself at Henson studios in LA. I walked in, met a few English blokes, and then I met Paul. I was in hyper-stimulated mode, as you can imagine. I'd been listening to my sisters' Beatles records since I was five and they were the reason I picked up a guitar.

Paul was very gracious. He's beyond a legend--more like an archetype--but he has a way of putting people at ease. That's his natural deal and he's used to having to do that. Even still, it took me a while to get used to being around him eight hours a day. We played music together within half an hour of meeting, so that was a bonding thing and it took the pressure off. Playing music is like having sex with someone--it's very push and pull. My favourite song on that record is "About You," which was the very first thing we did.

Since then, I've been playing in Paul's live band for almost a decade. By this point we're like a band of brothers. We just played The Hollywood Bowl. I grew up seeing bands there, and it's obviously a place that has historical significance for Paul. Friends that I'd grown up with came to the show; it felt like everything had turned full circle. Then before I could bat an eye we were in The White House playing "Hey Jude" for Barack Obama. Touring with Paul is a whirlwind experience--you don't have time to take it all in. I never thought I'd get to meet The Queen and I never thought I'd learn that traditional Japanese bathtubs are square and made of wood.

Paul obviously has a million great stories to tell, and I think I was a little brazen at first. The whole Beatles history is so 'out', that it seemed okay. I never dreamed I'd meet Paul McCartney, far less play in a band with him, but it's funny how things turn out. When I was maybe seven years old I had multiple dreams that The Beatles would come to my front door with their guitars. They'd be like, "Is Rusty home? Does he want to come and play?" That's especially weird, because after I'd been working for Paul for about two weeks, he walked into the studio and said, "I had a dream about you last night, mate." I thought, 'Wow--that's too bizarre!'

I'm too close to Paul to know how the media presents him. What I do know is that, when I'm walking down a hotel corridor sometimes, I'll hear him talk on the other side of the wall and know it's him. His voice projects very clearly in all directions even when he's talking quietly. It's an amazing instrument that resonates in a unique way, and that famous sense of melody he has seems to finds its way into every sentence.

Paul's been very supportive of my career. He sang and played bass on "Hurt Myself" from my first solo album Undressing Underwater. He played his Höfner, and when he made a mistake he'd curse himself, which I found charming. I gave him free rein and he had some great ideas. He has this name for that bit of the song you're still trying to work out: 'the rescue bit.' He phoned me the next day and suggested I try trumpet or flute on the rescue bit. I had Probyn Gregory who plays multiple instruments in Brian Wilson's band come put something down. It worked great.

Paul has his different moods, as we all do, but he's still got a wicked sense of humour. There's always a birthday gift, and at Christmas we get a load of this delicious beer called Old Stinkhorn from his brewery. The label has this very phallic mushroom.

Paul is either very forthcoming and says what's on his mind in a direct, simple way, or he can seem sort of filtered, and you're not sure what he's filtering. You can tell the difference between when he has a lot on his mind and when he's very present, though. You have to remember that he has a very different reality to most people: this position that's almost like nobody else on the planet--and it's been that way since he was 20. I think he's had to make up his own set of rules and boundaries and his own way to diffuse things.

What we're doing next I'm not quite sure. Paul has had a whole different touring schedule since he's been sharing custody of his daughter, and he's a very family-orientated guy. Last night we had this huge family party on the bus, everybody just hanging out and enjoying themselves. It was like the Magical Mystery Tour.

California-born musician Rusty Anderson is currently co-lead guitarist in The Paul McCartney Band, and he has previously worked with Elton John, Willie Nelson and Gwen Stefani. His splendid, Macca-approved solo album Born On Earth is out August 3 on Intrigue Music.

As told to: James McNair

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