In the studio
Driving Rain was produced by David Kahne, who selected a number of session musicians to perform on the songs. Two of the musicians – Rusty Anderson and Abe Laboriel Jr – would become members of McCartney’s long-term band.
The main bulk of the album was recorded in Henson Studios between 16 February and 2 March, when at least 17 songs were recorded: Lonely Road, From A Lover To A Friend, She’s Given Up Talking, Driving Rain, I Do, Tiny Bubble, Magic, Your Way, Spinning On An Axis, About You, Heather, Back In The Sunshine Again, Riding Into Jaipur, Rinse The Raindrops, You Are Still Here, Always Be There, and If This Is Wrong. The latter three songs were left off the album.
It was a little bit of a voyage into the unknown. It started with a guy in my New York office, Bill Porricelli saying, ‘Who’s going to produce your next album, can I give you some suggestions?’ He sent me a bunch of suggestions of possible producers. They were all very good, high-level people, and out of all of them David Kahne was the one I liked best. I liked his approach; he’s very musical, but modern. I met him, liked him; he’s very quiet and very on the ball and in talking it became clear that what he wanted to do and I what I wanted to do were very similar. Because I didn’t know him, I didn’t want to get into any big heavy breathing relationship, committing to four months on an album.
So I thought I’d just do two weeks with him to see how it worked out. He normally records at the old A&M studios in Los Angeles. The Henson Studios. We both had some free time in February so I came out to see if we could do anything.
A strict work ethic was adopted for the recording sessions, which normally lasted from 11.30am to 6.30pm.
During some of the interviews I’d done around Run Devil Run, I’d been talking about the old way we used to record with The Beatles around the time of the early albums … The band for that album had said to me, ‘Can we learn up what songs we’re going to do, like a week before we go into the studio?’ And I’d said, ‘No, no homework.’ So we did it the same way with this new album, following the same technique.
We came in on Monday morning, I’d show them a song and we’d start doing it. We didn’t know what was going to happen and it was a little bit into the unknown for all of us. The band on this album is a new band who I’d never worked with before, never even met before. It was into the unknown too for David Kahne and consequently it started to be a little bit different than what any of us would have done. All of us were having to think on our feet, and that process led us into something different from what we normally do. So for me, that’s what I mean by this album is not necessarily what you expect from me, because it’s not what I was expecting. But by going into the recording freely, not dictating, things just evolved.
The intention was to keep the production simple and unobtrusive, and also retain a live feel.
When I played some of these songs in early February to Ringo, he said, ‘You’re not going to add anything on them, are you?’ That’s always the risk with music, you get a perfectly good song and then you think you’ll put some strings on it and you totally mess it up. Over-producing a song is a well-known way of over-complicating it, so I’ve tried to underdo it. There’s been one or two tracks on which we’ve added a little something, but generally we just recorded it live, quick and simple.
Recording resumed in June 2001, again at the Henson Studios in LA. The songs recorded were: Your Loving Flame, Vanilla Sky and Washington, the last of which remains unreleased.
We recorded 18 songs in the first two weeks, in February, and then I came back to LA in June and recorded another couple of tracks and mixed the album. So making the whole album from beginning to end has taken about five weeks. That’s still pretty good going, but that is the kind of work rate we’d do in The Beatles.
The final recording for Driving Rain took place in October. Freedom was given a studio vocal performance, overdubbed onto the live backing tracks recorded at the Concert for New York City at Madison Square Garden on 20 October.
The overdubs were recorded at New York’s Quad Studios. During the sessions a studio version of Freedom was also recorded, and was released as a single.
The front cover of Driving Rain featured a black-and-white self portrait by McCartney. The photograph was taken with his Casio Wrist Camera watch.
The watch was also used to take a series of 28 smaller photographs, which appeared on the rear cover of the CD case. Seven of the images were enlarged when reproduced in the accompanying booklet.
The vinyl edition featured 35 watch camera photographs, seven of which are unique to that release. It also contained two vinyl discs in a single outer sleeve, with lyrics on the inner sleeves.
Driving Rain was released on 12 November 2001 in the UK, and the following day in the US.
Despite containing a number of fine McCartney compositions, and being one of his strongest releases of that era, it was not a commercial success, failing to break the top 10 anywhere in the world.
In the US it peaked at number 26, whereas in the UK it only spent one week on the album chart, at number 46.
In 2007 Driving Rain was released on the iTunes store, with a bonus track. From A Lover To A Friend (David Kahne remix 2) had previously been issued on that song’s UK single (it was withdrawn in the US), and on a version of the Freedom single.