Paul McCartney cut most of his new album, Egypt Station, in Los Angeles and Sussex, England, but for the finishing touches, there was only one place to go: Abbey Road in London. For producer Greg Kurstin, stepping into the studio where the Beatles recorded the vast majority of their music was an overwhelming experience. “I was pinching myself constantly,” he says. “The Mrs Mills piano [a 1905 Steinway Vertegrand] that they used on so many Beatles cuts was in the corner. At one point he played ‘Lady Madonna’ on it in the hallway and everyone gathered around.”
The impromptu hallway performance was just one of many surreal moments Kurstin – who has worked with everyone from Adele to Beck and Foo Fighters – had during the two-year period it took to record Egypt Station, which comes out September 7th. He phoned up Rolling Stone to talk about his childhood love of the Beatles, his first meeting with McCartney and how he wound up producing the LP. He also reveals new information about many of the songs they created together.
Were you a big Beatles fan as a teenager?
Yeah, definitely. The Beatles are a band I’ve always loved. There was so much variety there and the music was so complex. With the Beatles and the Beach Boys, there was so much more going on than with the other music I was listening to. There would be a rock song and then something referencing some sort of older music, like a jazz-influenced thing or early English pop music. The complexity of their music always appealed to me.
What was your favorite Beatles album back then?
Revolver has always been the one I’ve gone back to. At different phases of my life I’ll listen to different Beatles albums, but Revolver is the one I really loved and kept returning to.
Let’s flash forward. How did you first meet Paul McCartney?
We did a session together for this film. I’m still not sure if it’s happening or not, but we spent one day live in the studio with a full band, a brass section, background singers and everything for this song that Paul had written for an animated film. I don’t know what the status of it is, but I think it was a trial for Paul and me. I think he wanted to see what it was like working with me. That was the first time.