You are heading over to the UK to perform at International Beatles Week, it sounds like it will be a great occasion?
I haven’t been in Liverpool since the early ’90’s, so I’m really looking forward to it. On the Sunday I’m being interviewed by Mark Lewisohn who is the ultimate Beatles expert. On the Friday night, I’m playing a McCartney tribute concert with Wings’ sax player Howie Casey’s band, as well as playing a solo set of some of my Beatle’s arrangements.
What was it like growing up listening to Beatles records and then getting to play with Paul McCartney in Wings and other members of the band later on?
When I was in my early teens, I would daydream about playing with the Beatles….. I never imagined that I would play with three out of the four. Being in Wings was a fantastic education, like getting my Masters degree from ‘McCartney University.’
You’ve released a photo memoir Guitar With Wings, can you share with us some memories of that time?
Wings wasn’t only Paul’s band, it was Paul, Linda and Denny’s. I refer to it as the ‘Indian Summer’ of the group, when the McCartneys were getting ready to scale back the touring, but there was still artistic work to be done.
Drummer Steve Holley and I had been brought in by Denny Laine and we were encouraged to consider ourselves band members rather than simply backup musicians.
Paul’s co-producer Chris Thomas and engineer Phil MacDonald were both veterans of the later Beatles album-making. Chris had just done The Sex Pistols and would produce The Pretenders next, so the ‘Back to the Egg’ recording started off with an edgier more rock-driven vibe than the recent Wings releases like ‘Mull Of Kintyre’.
My book has many pictures of those sessions in Scotland on the farm, at Lympne Castle and Abbey Road studios – each a very different environment for creative work. It covers the ‘Rockestra’ recording with Pete Townshend, John Bonham and host of other Brit-Rock luminaries.
There’s background on how I started on guitar and my prior work as a studio musician in London. I think it adds some dimension to the Wing’s story that has been missing in the recent biographies.
You’ve recorded with a whole host of artists over the years from Ringo Star and George Harrison to Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks and Sylvie Vartin, do you have a favourite memory from recording in the studio?
I’ve done thousands of recording sessions, so it’s tough to pick a few:
Working with Paul and Ringo together on the Stop And Smell The Roses album was a unique experience.
The session with George for the Shanghai Surprise version of ’Someplace Else.’
Recording ‘She’s Like The Wind’ with Patrick Swazey for what was, at that point, a low-budget movie that became known as Dirty Dancing.
Movie sessions like ‘Colors Of The Wind’ from Pocahontas with a huge orchestra and chorus.
The opening sequence of Good Will Hunting with Danny Elfman.
You’ve also released 23 studio albums, do you have a favourite or is it like choosing between your children?
My Christmas album Holidays & Hollynights is being released in September, so that will make 24, I think. Although, if you include the four albums I’ve produced for Al Stewart and the recent digital release Musings of improvised duets for piano and guitar, it’s approaching 30.
My favorite is the next one……….
I’m typically working on multiple projects at a time and it takes me years before I can listen to one of my releases objectively. My two albums of Beatles tunes are faves, as is I’ve Got the World on Six Strings which is all Harold Arlen songs like ‘Over The Rainbow’ and ‘Stormy Weather’. My own romantic compositions are well represented on Soul Of Light.
Over the years you must have played at 100s of venues do you have a favourite venue, a favourite performance?
I play venues from folk and jazz clubs to recital halls and performing arts centers. The Albert Hall is very cool and historic. The last night of the Wings’ ’79 tour in Glasgow was exceptional – there is a bootleg of the whole concert and a few of the songs have been released as bonus tracks on the Wings reissues. the live version of ‘Coming Up’ was a big hit in the USA.
I saw that you composed the soundtrack for Diablo 3, I love Blizzard games. Is it quite different creating a soundtrack for a game than what you usually do, is it similar to a movie or TV show?
Typically the narrative in a movie is linear, so the music works to underscore the action and help move the plot forward. In a game, music has a different function – it’s more ambient and mood setting. the process is more collaborative too. For Diablo 3, there was a team of composers and sound effects engineers and the music gets integrated in a different fashion.
You’ve had an amazing and varied career, is there any dreams you’ve still got to fulfill?
Being a professional musician is a dream gig!
I was able to fulfill my early ambitions as a musician and I’ve learned that sometimes the most fulfilling things are those that come up unexpectedly. I’m deeply absorbed in making music – the guitar and the acoustic guitar in particular are my primary focus, but there are some long-term projects like stage musicals that are in progress.
On this site we interview a lot of unsigned musicians do you have any tips for them?
Practice your craft, take care of business and be persistent. Being unsigned means something very different now compared with the era when it was virtually impossible to be heard without a deal. Now anyone can release music, but the challenge is to be noticed and very few artists are lucky enough to have something go viral. YouTube for example is a great forum for exposure, but it is horrible as a revenue source.
What do you think is missing from today’s music scene?
When I was a teenager, opening Melody Maker on a Thursday morning was all I needed to get a snapshot of the current music scene. Now with the proliferation of genres and the instant access in cyberspace we are presented with an overwhelming array of musical choices and I’m not sure that the curators and gatekeepers have entirely figured out the most effective presentations of new music……
At Artistic Echoes we are always on the look out for new musicians, do you get a chance to check out new artists, is there anyone you would recommend?
I don’t get to see many new artists except occasionally on a festival stage. My daughter Ilsey is a current songwriter – she wrote ‘Powerful’ for Major Lazer, ‘Unhinged’ for Nick Jonas and Shawn Mendes new single ‘Mercy’ among others. She also had a hit last year that she sang for German DJ Robin Schultz ‘Headlights’.
Tickets for international Beatles week are available from https://www.internationalbeatleweek.com/