The lyrics on the album are kind of quite simple; there’s nothing deeply deep. I’m not trying too hard, I’m just spinning them out, not worried if I’ve heard a phrase before and just gone for it. There’s a couple of songs on this where I’ve just put two songs, or fragments of songs, together. I just thought, ‘That will go with that.’ It meant at times that instead of getting a 4/4, four beats to the bar, in slamming them together you’d get a 5/4, but I thought that’s OK, I’d fix it later. But when I played it to the band and to the producer, they loved those little odd bars.
The final song, ‘Freedom’, was written in response to the 9/11 attacks in America. On the morning of 11 September 2001 McCartney and Mills were on an aeroplane waiting to leave New York for England, when terrorists truck the Twin Towers and all flights were grounded.
I witnessed the last moments of the World Trade Center twin towers. Out of the window of the plane I could see the towers smoking and in flames and, like everybody, I could not believe what was happening.
As the airport was then closed, I stayed in New York for a week after the attack and I was able to also witness the tremendous heroism that has come out of the city, including the bravery of the firefighters and police officers. I have great admiration for the courage all of those guys showed. I feel a connection with the firemen because my father was a volunteer fireman in Liverpool during World War Two.
‘Freedom’ was first performed at the Concert For New York City at Madison Square Garden on 20 October 2001, which McCartney helped organise. The song was later given studio overdubs, but as a late addition to Driving Rain was not listed on initial copies of the album.
A number of the other songs had been written in Goa, India in January 2001. They included ‘Lonely Road’, ‘I Do’, ‘About You’, and the lyrics of ‘Riding Into Jaipur’; the music had been written some time before in the Maldives.
Three of the songs were written in India. ‘Your Loving Flame’ was written on the 36th floor of the Carlyle Hotel in New York, just because I thought I was walking into a Cole Porter movie. ‘Driving Rain’ was written in Los Angeles – there was a lot of rain and so on our day off we went off for a drive in this little corvette that I hired, we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway and went up to Malibu and had a bit of lunch. In the evening, feeling great after a nice day out, I was sitting around at the piano and I just started writing something half based on that day out. People say ‘how do you get your creativity’ and I think the answer is you just have to be open to stuff.
paulmccartney.com, November 2001
McCartney’s Indian holiday had affected his voice during the sessions, as he later recalled:
When I was in India some carpet salesman ripped me off with a purchase that I made. He told me that this carpet was like the rarest thing ever; but then I got to the next town and found about twenty of them. So I rang him up and I was telling him that he was a rip-off. And as I was doing it, that and probably the weather, I started to lose my voice. The following day my voice really went, I couldn’t talk. It took a while to clear and I was thinking ‘shit, it’s only a week to the recording sessions’. I was in my car, practising singing and I couldn’t get the high notes. I thought oh my God, never mind, don’t panic. So I came to LA with my voice in quite a rough shape and decided to do the easy songs first, just to get the tracks down. But then I ended up just letting loose on one song, this monster ten-minute song called ‘Rinse The Raindrops.’ where I really ripped it, and it all came good. It’s a nice quality, if you can get it, a rawness. The opposite of it is a trained thing and the one thing that my voice has never been is trained. It’s been trained by Beatle tours, trained on the road. But I never had any vocal training, I never got into any vocal warm-ups that people do. I just cross my fingers and just go for it – and I’ve been very lucky that through the years it doesn’t seem to have altered much. Again, I don’t know why that is; and again I’d rather not know and just be glad if it comes good on a take. I just wing it every time, like I always have done. If it’s a shouty song, I just jump it out of the top of my head and just hope that it makes the right noise.
paulmccartney.com, November 2001
At 10 minutes, ‘Rinse The Raindrops’ was McCartney’s longest released studio track since 1980’s ‘Secret Friend’. He and the band jammed the song for around 30 minutes, from which producer David Kahne edited the final version.