Paul McCartney guitarist Brian Ray said he’s spent the last 20 years being one of the ex-Beatle’s “paintbrushes,” but he doesn’t mind all the waiting.
The session man and musical director had already worked with Etta James, Peter Frampton, Smokey Robinson, Shakira and many others before hooking up with McCartney in 2002, when McCartney sought a player who was comfortable moving between guitar and bass. He’s held the role ever since, appearing on several McCartney live albums and four studio LPs, most recently 2018’s Egypt Station.
“A gig isn’t a big enough word for what happened to us as individuals, and as a band,” Ray told Kylie Olsson in a recent interview, which you can watch below. “It really is about him and his trust in us … because obviously [he] could have anyone he wants. And the fact that he continued to call us back, and still does, is just very touching to me.”
Ray described McCartney as a “great leader” and an “inspiring cat” and detailed their live sessions, which usually involve securing “the biggest room in a professional big studio” and filling it with all the instruments the boss might want to play: several pianos, synths, guitar and bass. After that, it’s often a case of hanging around as McCartney moves around the room, exploring some of his ideas.
“So it requires everyone to be on their toes,” Ray continued. “As far as it affects the band, we’re there to serve at his pleasure as a paintbrush on the palette. You know, he’ll use us if he wants to. He doesn’t need any of us — he can do anything that he’s looking for himself. But he generously has us do stuff. … Sometimes we’ll play on a whole basic track as a band. Sometimes we’ll just do a guitar overdub, or a dulcimer, or a solo.”
Admittedly, this process sometimes involves a lot of downtime. “There’ll be some waiting because he wants all those paintbrushes to be ready, just like he wants all the instruments to be ready,” Ray explained. “Hey, man, who would you rather be waiting for, Paul McCartney or some rando? It’s so fun, and his ideas are always so cool. … He’s something very special, that guy.”
Ray, meanwhile, just released a video for his single “On My Way to You,” which can also be seen below.
Watch Brian Ray’s Kylie Olsson Interview
Watch Brian Ray’s ‘On My Way to You’ Video
The Best Song From Every Paul McCartney Album
Picking the best song doesn’t always mean checking the ‘Billboard’ charts. In fact, a scant four of Paul McCartney’s big hits are here.
Was Paul McCartney’s ‘Give My Regards to Broad Street’ Doomed to Fail?