An interview with James McCartney Reflections on his latest album “The Blackberry Train”

Photo Courtesy Of | James McCartney discusses his recent album “The Blackberry Train,” his father Paul McCartney’s legacy and his creative process.


Marissa Hank ‘20
Arts Editor

On April 7 James McCartney, the only son of former Beatle Paul McCartney, performed at Iron Horse Music Hall in downtown Northampton. For many years, he has been working in the music industry creating his own musical style. Currently, he is on tour for his latest album, “The Blackberry Train.” McCartney has built a robust international profile by tirelessly touring the UK, Europe and the U.S. His most recent album is the follow up to his 2013 album, “Me.” “The Blackberry Train” was engineered by Steve Albini. In his press release, he describes his latest album as “both a diverse and cohesive album with an eclectic mix of delicately crafted songs.” It opens with the jangling rocker, “Too Hard” which features Dhani Harrison on guitar and vocals. The album also includes “Alice,” “Waterfall,” and the rough-edged and urgently melodic “Unicorn.”

Recently, The Sophian had the opportunity to conduct an brief interview with McCartney in regards to his international tour and his new album. Some of the topics discussed include his opinions and ideas regarding creative process, what working on his own music is like as the son of a former Beatle and advice he gives to young aspiring musicians.

What was your creative process like while working on the album “The Blackberry Train?”

Playing mainly. Having fun. I don’t know. Mainly instrumentation/ melody first. I have an issue with lyrics. I ‘need’ to write constantly to never let that ‘muscle’ weaken. Any method really. At the moment I’m ‘trying’ to take a step back to write/ finish better songs/ the best songs I can. Songs that I actually like. But not to leave it too long so as to waste time. Trying to rationalise time at the moment. Time is a part of reality. It’s also based on different calendars throughout the world. And I think time is an illusion.

Did you come across any road blocks during your creative process? If so, how did you overcome them?

Organising “The Blackberry Train” was a little difficult at times. There was a session which didn’t get used which was a nightmare. Other than logistical stuff, creatively, it was more of an issue of finishing songs and doing it myself. Other than that there were no major roadblocks, if any at all.

How do you go about creating songs? Do you work on the lyrics first or the instrumentation?

I wrote riffs, lyrics, melodies etc…. demoed them with Youth. Went into a studio in East Sussex with Stephen Howard, Jeff Wootton, Jay Sharrock and engineer Steve Albini. Did most tracking of 11 songs in a week. Added some additional tracking. Final mixes. Mastering. Finished Art work. Credits. Then the album was finished.

If you had to pick, what is one song from this album that speaks to you the most?


What is your artistic vision about the meaning of the album as a whole?

The “Blackberry Train” title comes from a dream I had. Generally and specifically it is about writing songs that are exactly how I want them to be. Dreaming. Waking up. Moving forward. Living in the here and now. The power of now. The present.

What was your inspiration for creating the song “Unicorn?”

Basically I wanted to shove every little bit of discombobulated prose into the song. Mythology. Third eye. Mind’s eye. It’s inspired by the song ‘Doused’ by DIIV. It reminds me of the chord ascension/ progression/ choruses of ‘ Magical Mystery Tour’.

While on tour, do you ever become tired of singing the same songs? Or do you explore them in new ways each time you perform?

Yes. I do explore them in new ways sometimes (harmonies, vocal melodies, variations on the same chords). Sometimes I leave them exactly the same. More the same than not.

As a musical artist yourself, how has it affected you being the son of Paul McCartney?

It’s inspirational.

How has your father’s music influenced your work as a musician?

My father’s music is the greatest music ever written. It’s taught me about everything.

What was one piece of advice, musical or otherwise, that helped you along your career thus far?

Keeping at it.

You can visit McCartney’s website at to find out more about his international tour and inspiration for the album “The Blackberry Train.” Don’t forget to check out The Iron Horse website to find out more about local live performances in downtown Northampton.

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