The song, a driving rocker which served as a perfect opening song, was co-written with Paul Epworth, one of three producers on the New album.
The Epworth sessions were the first to be held for New. McCartney reportedly brought 20 new songs for consideration, but Epworth’s preferred way of working was to jam and improvise to see what would emerge.
The basic track was recorded in January 2012 at Epworth’s Wolf Tone studio in Queens Park, London, with overdubs later added at AIR Studios in London, Henson Studios in Los Angeles and McCartney’s own Hog Hill Studio in Sussex.
I feel like I thrive as a producer from getting in a room with somebody, and making music from scratch. He came down for a meeting, to sit down and have a chat, and within an hour we were in the live room with him on bass and me on drums – that was definitely a pinch yourself moment! – and within 20 minutes we had this riff together, which became the first song on the record.
NME, November 2013
Once the riff and feel for the rhythm section had been established, McCartney moved to piano to continue work on the song.
We worked out the basic vibe for ‘Save Us’ with the bass and the drums. Then I said, ‘Why don’t we try it on the piano?’ So McCartney sat down on the piano and moved between these chords and gave it a sort of pounding rhythm. I watched him playing that piano and taking the chords I’d been playing, shifting the fingering around a bit and suddenly it sounded like a McCartney song. I was pretty astonished – it was like a big reveal!
NME, November 2013
With the bare bones of a song in place, Epworth encouraged McCartney to lay down a vocal take. The singer was reticent, telling the producer: “How can I try? There’s no song!”
He relented, however, in keeping with the spirit of experimentation and serendipity. According to a fans’ Q&A held by Bang & Olufsen, McCarrtney said: “I gave a disclaimer to the engineers, ‘This is maybe 100 per cent crap! Please excuse me if it’s rubbish!'” The results, however, were the makings of one of McCartney’s most thrilling album openers.
A month before the release of New, ‘Save Us’ was given its live premiere in Las Vegas at the iHeartRadio music festival on 21 September 2013. The same show also had first live outings for the songs ‘Everybody Out There’ and ‘New’.