As Sir Paul McCartney prepares to take the Millennium Stadium by storm this summer his son James is set to play a more intimate Cardiff gig. Dave Owens quizzes McCartney Jnr about life in the shadow of a famous father
On Saturday, June 26 Sir Paul McCartney will be playing to 60,000 frenzied fans at the Millennium Stadium in one of the most eagerly-anticipated shows of the summer.
Rewind three months and tomorrow night his 30-year-old son James will be playing in front of 58,800 fewer punters at Cardiff’s 200-capacity Barfly venue.
Having to live in the shadow of a father whose image looms as large as The Beatles’ all-encompassing legacy, it’s not hard to feel a little sympathy for McCartney Jnr.
Forever to be compared with a legend whose back catalogue is the most treasured in rock history is a cross enough to bear, but when you’re the offspring of a Beatle to boot, making a career out of music may not immediately be the wisest or most sensible move.
Just look at Julian and Sean Lennon for ample proof of potential rock ‘n’ roll longevity.
Still that hasn’t stopped George Harrison’s son Dhani forming a band – newno2 – who peddle a fine line in elegant psych rock, while Ringo Starr’s son Zak Starkey has followed his father into the tub-thumping business to great effect as a gun-for-hire bashing the skins for The Who, Oasis and Kasabian amongst others.
So what persuaded James McCartney to follow suit?
“I have been playing music all my life really, but specifically when I was nine my dad brought me a three quarter size little Martin junior guitar, with four strings,” James explains. “He taught me simple chords and I was able to start playing from that point. But I think I have always been inspired to be a musician from when I was a little baby or for as long as I can remember.
“Music has always been a big part of my life, with my mum and dad’s influence, being on tour as a child and my whole family being very artistic and creative it was just a natural thing for me.
“Even my grandfather was an art collector, he inspired me as well; I have been inspired by everything. All music and everything outside of music, my heart, my family and artists like Picasso and Miro.”
For the offspring of a Beatle, the fab four are obviously a key influence, however he admits his music is inspired by “The Beatles, Nirvana, The Cure, PJ Harvey, Radiohead – and all good music.”
“It is rock ‘n’ roll, clean sounding, heartfelt and vocal,” says James. “The words on the (forthcoming as yet untitled) album refer to spirituality, love, family and many other things.
“I have written the songs on this album over a 10-year period and am just making the final touches. We are mixing the record in Sussex and New York and it’s exciting to see the record coming together.”
At 30, he’s come to the rock arena relatively late, however he admits the performing bug took hold in his late teens.
“There was a particularly conscious point when I was 16 and I played a gig at school with a bunch of friends,” he remembers. “I was playing electric guitar, my red Silhouette, and we did a cover of Should I Stay Or Should I Go by The Clash. From that point on I knew I wanted to play on stage and had found something I was good at. That is one track I might revisit on this tour actually and cover again.”
The tour, his first proper jaunt around the UK, climaxes in Cardiff tomorrow.
Does he have any expectations of how he will be received?
“I just want to get out there onstage, feeling good and getting more experience playing my album live.
“I guess just enjoying myself and honing the live performance. Hopefully seeing people enjoy the music and having a positive effect on them.”
Although he admits his dad has had a great effect on him as a live performer it’s late grunge icon Kurt Cobain who has left a sizeable imprint on James’ rock ‘n’ roll consciousness.
“Obviously first The Beatles, my dad, John Lennon, are inspirations as a live performer but I’d say Nirvana have had a big influence on my music and live performance too. I love the music, I love the art, it’s intense.”
Despite the tiny nature of the gigs on this tour, McCartney admits to aspiring to the sorts of enormodome shows his dad excels at.
“Yes, I like playing small intimate gigs,” he says.
“They are a bit more personal and I enjoy them but I would like to play all kinds of gigs.
“I’d like to play Wembley, I’d like to play festivals, huge free concerts, everything.”
And his hopes for the future?
“I just want people to become more aware of my music and enjoy it, and maybe get some crowds totally rocking!”
James McCartney, The Barfly, Cardiff. Saturday, March 20. 7.30pm. Tickets, £7 from 084 4847 2424.Last Updated: 03/19/10 09:21