Producer extraordinaire Mark Ronson recently hopped on Zane Lowe’s Apple Music 1 show to promote his upcoming docuseries Watch The Sound With Mark Ronson. Ronson shares stories on some of his most famous collaborations, including Amy Winehouse, Daft Punk and Queens of the Stone Age, but saves his most awe-struck moment for the man himself: Sir Paul McCartney.
According to Ronson, working with McCartney was intimidating not just because of Macca’s own formidable reputation but also because of the legendary litany of producers who had worked with him before. “I think usually, it’s like the first moment that you do something in the studio that you can tell they’re excited about,” he told Zane Lowe. “Because if you go in the studio with Paul McCartney, not only are you working with one of the greatest minds, musical minds of all time, producer, songwriter, arranger, musician, all of it. You’re also in the room with the ghosts of George Martin and Nigel Godrich and Elvis Costello and anyone who ever produced a Paul McCartney record on top of it.”
McCartney was the highest-profile example of Ronson’s ethos that every artist needs a day or two to get fully acclimated to his specific production style. Ronson himself also admits that he requires the same amount of time to get over the nervousness that inherently comes with working for the biggest names in music.
“That’s a very intimidating place to be. So you always have a day grace period, I feel, with him, where everything in the studio looks like it’s made from kryptonite,” Ronson adds. “And you’re just breaking and dropping. And then I think you have to get on with it. The first time that I have something that I can just tell that I’ve engrossed them or turned them on. Same thing with Josh from Queens of the Stone Age. I just did something that they wouldn’t have done by themselves. So now I know I’m in the room, and they’re confident. We’re all confident that I deserve to be here.”
Ronson also explains how working with McCartney was part of the larger inspiration for Watch The Sound. “He was going to put acoustic guitar down on this song, ‘Alligator’ [from 2013’s New]. And I said, ‘I had it on mic, so it started playing.’ And he was like, ‘It sounds like an acoustic guitar, but I want it to sound like a record as if you just put the needle down on the dah, dah, dah.’ So we ran it through this other mic and through the fair child and whatever, but that quote has stayed with me more than anything.”
“That quote from Paul McCartney was almost the ethos of ‘Watch the Sound’ as a show because we talk about sound is this thing in music that, of course, in music, the most important thing is always going to be the song, the vocal, the performance. But then you go to that next level where you talk about arrangements, sonics, the kick, the snare, the 808. And that’s the thing that makes the difference between a really good song and an iconic recording, something we remember forever. Like when the needle goes down on track one, you’re like, ‘Oh, shit’. So that quote from Paul definitely, even though I hadn’t thought about it before, is kind of like the symbolic fortune cookie statement of the show almost.”
You can listen to part of Ronson’s chat with Lowe down below. Watch The Music With Mark Ronson is available exclusively through Apple TV+.