I can’t think of anything more enjoyable
than getting paid to learn Beatles songs.
Exactly. It was a really fun time. I’d only
come out for a quick lunch, go back and
rehearse, grab a little dinner, come back and
rehearse, and then fall asleep thinking about
Paul McCartney songs. [Laughs
.] We had five
days together as a band before Paul got there,
and that really helped us. We got a good
vibe—we bonded. And we worked on vocals.
By the time Paul came in, we were ready to
go. I still hadn’t announced to anyone that
I was going on tour with Paul McCartney.
I didn’t really believe it, yet. So, after the
first day of rehearsal, Paul said, “Okay guys,
sounds good. I’ll see you tomorrow.” That’s
when I said, “Oh, my god! I think I’m going
on tour with Paul McCartney!”
The biggest joy has been playing bass
on Paul’s songs alongside him, standing in
for him because he’s on guitar or piano.
That apprenticeship is something I’m super
grateful for. Also, his patience with me to
improve as a bass player as we went on, and
the trust he’s given me to play these bass
parts. Honestly, these are the coolest bass
parts ever written. He’s probably the best and
most important bass player in rock music,
period. So it’s a real pleasure to have that
Did you go on a shopping spree after you
got the gig?
Oh, yeah! [Laughs
.] I opened up my computer
and found a ’59 Gretsch Double
Anniversary—it’s the two-tone-green guitar I
play. And I found what I thought was a great
bass for Paul, which was a Guild M85 from
the early ’80s. I ordered both of those guitars,
and they arrived a couple of days later. I
stood up at a mic stand and sang and played.
I blew my voice out the first day, because I
was so excited. I sang for six hours, woke up
the next day, and couldn’t talk. So that was a
How about amps?
I’m using a reissue Marshall JTM 45 head on
top of a pair of 2x12 closed-back Marshall
cabs. That, with the goldtop Les Paul, is a
pretty great sound.
How about effects?
Ray grabs his Gibson—and some sweet air—at the Consol Energy
Center in Pittsburgh on August 18, 2010. Photo by MJ Kim
I’m pretty stripped down on my side of
the stage. I have some Guitarsystems stuff
that’s great. Also, I’ve got some Divided By
13 pedals, a Demeter Compulator, a Boss
VB-2 Vibrato, Line 6 DL4 Delay and MM4
Modulation pedals, and an MXR Micro
Amp. I also have a couple of random fuzzes
that I’ll change out here and there, depending
on my mood. It’s a very straight-ahead
Tell us something about Paul McCartney
we’d be surprised to know.
He’s a really sweet, regular guy that’s not
too far from the Beatle we’ve all come to
know since we were kids. He really lives
and breathes music. He is music. He walks
around whistling a song. He’s always being
creative, and he’s always being productive.
Okay, let’s move on to your own solo
material. What was the inspiration for
your latest album, This Way Up?
My first record, Mondo Magneto
, came out
in 2006. It was a combination of four or five
newer songs and five or six older songs that
had been reworked. They had new lyrics or
a new bridge, and sometimes a new title.
The other ones were brand new, just written
in that moment. The newer songs were
somewhat cathartic for me. I was writing
about some of the things that I was going
through, which were sort of internal personal
things, even though they didn’t come out
like confessionals or like reality-series lyrics.
.] They weren’t soap opera, but they
were a little bit personal. With This Way Up
I’d decided we’ve all had a tough time of it in
this world lately. The economy is down and
the war has taken a toll. What we really need
right now is an escape vehicle and something
fun to take us out of all of this. So that’s the
inspiration behind This Way Up
to do something more fun.
Something to take us up and away from all
the depressing aspects of the recession.
Yeah. All the negativism about a downturn.
A lot of it is just stuff the media seems to
feed on that doesn’t help a thing. It just
continues to sell newspapers and magazines
and attract people to websites. So they write
about the problem and they make the problem
bigger. So I thought, “Hey everybody,
let’s lift up our chins, quit looking down at
our laptops and our cell phones. Look up to
the sky and get out of that.”
The record has a sunny, power-pop feel. Is
this style of music closest to your heart, or
is this part of a larger palette of influences?
When I write music these days, it’s very
much what you hear on This Way Up
more on the rock and power-pop/modern
rock side, through a classic-rock window
that’s somewhat rooted in American blues
and R&B. Deep in there, there’s swing and
soul that I was raised on as a little kid, but it
all comes through a guitar-attack approach
with modern-rock lyrics. That’s what I feel
when I write and play guitar.
What guitars did you use on the record?
My main guitar when I’m playing my solo
stuff has turned out to be my favorite. It’s
a 1958 Gibson Les Paul TV Model. I also
use a host of vintage Les Pauls. I have a
’57 Gibson goldtop that’s sort of my baby.
That was my one guitar when I only had
one guitar, which I got when I was 18 years
old for $850—and we all know what those
are worth now. It’s a great guitar, and it’s
my main guitar with Paul McCartney right
now, too. As for the album, a Duesenberg
is on there, a Gibson ’63 Dove acoustic, an
old ’57 Danelectro for all the small bits, a
’61 SG, and a lot of a ’65 Epiphone Casino
that I bought last year. The whole thing with
recording guitars is to try not to be lazy:
When you’re going for a second guitar part,
my philosophy is always choose a different
guitar and a different amp—unless you’re
going for that doubled guitar sound. I wanted
to make a guitar-driven record that has a
lot of color on it.
How much has Paul McCartney rubbed off
on your songwriting?
It’s the kind of thing that sneaks up on you.
Paul’s influence is deep and great. I’m old
enough to have witnessed the Beatles as a
kid. For me, it goes back a long way, but it
hasn’t necessarily been a huge influence on
my songwriting in the past. It has been greatly
accentuated by being with him personally
for almost nine years. It’s been such a joy and
such a great apprenticeship for me and all the
guys. Through osmosis—just through being
around him—you sort of start thinking and
dreaming in a more melodic fashion. He’s
so free melodically, so developed, and such a
natural. He wrote “Yesterday” when he didn’t
even have a yesterday! [Laughs
.] He’s just a
remarkable, genius savant, and it’s bound to
rub off on you when you’re around him as
much as I am.
It sounds like you’re drawing more from
his creative energy than theoretical songwriting
Oh yeah. His influence on me is more on the
magic end. I’m very flattered that you would
recognize any sort of influence, but it’s not
something I try to do. I don’t go, “Now,
what would Paul do with these chords?”
[Laughs.] I would never do that. It’s just happenstance
if it ends up sounding anywhere
near Wings, Paul, or the Beatles.