While James McCartney notably played on the acclaimed Flaming Pie and Driving Rain albums of father Paul — also co-writing two songs on the latter studio release — 2010’s Available Light was his first crack at recording his own solo effort. Since that debut, James has put out two studio albums and one EP. His latest release is 2016’s The Blackberry Train, as helmed by Steve Albini, a man well-known for his work with Nirvana, The Pixies and PJ Harvey.
In support of The Blackberry Train, James will be performing at Rockwood Music Hall on Apr. 5 on the Marshmallow Maiden Tour. James spoke to Downtown about a variety of topics, including his history with New York and how he likes to spend his non-musical time. More info on James McCartney can be found at www.jamesmccartney.com.
Where was the first live gig you ever played in New York? What do you remember about it?
James McCartney: Rockwood? I think. Can’t remember. Atmospheric.
Did you spend a lot of your childhood in New York?
James McCartney: Not really. Went there for Summer holidays.
Do you have a favorite restaurant in our city?
James McCartney: Not really but love all the veggie and vegan ones. Hampton Chutney Co.?
I remember watching you perform on Letterman. Was that performance one of your proudest moments? Or is appearing on television not the biggest deal for you?
James McCartney: Not one of my “proudest” moments but was cool exposure. Love appearing on television, if it’s the right thing to do! Loved being on Letterman though. He’s a cool guy too.
How did you wind up meeting Steve Albini?
James McCartney: Called his studio, Electrical Audio, in Chicago. He came to a gig.
What was the first album Steve had worked on that you were a fan of?
James McCartney: The Pixies, Surfer Rosa, I think that’s the one by Steve.
Steve is known to call himself an engineer, not a producer. But does he get involved with the arrangements or craft of the songs?
James McCartney: Not at all, really. The whole point is to do it oneself.
Dhani Harrison appears on your latest album. Have you two always been friends?
James McCartney: Yes. We grew up together, inadvertently.
I know that you played on the Flaming Pie album. Had you recorded anything in a studio before that? Did you play in garage bands growing up?
James McCartney: Demos but not professional recordings which have been released. Didn’t play in garage bands growing up. Wish I had, but also kinda glad I didn’t and was thus different.
Touring aside, what’s coming up for you?
James McCartney: Everything? Yes, everything!
When not busy with music, how do you like to spend your free time?
James McCartney: Doing Art! Yoga. Being in nature. Going to gigs. Traveling. Reading. Learning. Studying. Practicing in my own way. Living.
What was your favorite album of 2016?
James McCartney: None of them? Seriously, I don’t really listen to loads of music, but to give you an answer, A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead.
Finally, James, any last words for the kids?
James McCartney: Be strong, wise, stay true to yourselves, learn, have fun, enjoy, be peaceful, listen to your heart, be open-minded. Play, write, don’t think about it all too much, but keep at it! Play, play, play — write, write, write!