Paul McCartney Shares Songwriting Secrets in College Lecture

"We were a boy band," McCartney tells the audience. "It's not a bad thing, but after a while you felt like you wanted to move on"

Billy Collins and Sir Paul McCartney at Rollins College on October 23rd, 2014 in Winter Park, FL. Credit: Scott Cook

One day before Paul McCartney played a career-spanning concert in Jacksonville, Florida, the former Beatle made an appearance at Winter Park, Florida's Rollins College for a career-spanning lecture. Two-time U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins led the discussion with the singer-songwriter, who shared songwriting stories from throughout his career and a performance of the Beatles' "Blackbird" with a few hundred students on October 23rd. His appearance was announced only that morning and demand was so high that the school implemented a lottery system for tickets.

"I'd say, 'It's getting better all the time,' and he'd say, 'It can't get much worse," McCartney told the students in regard to John Lennon. "I would have never thought of that."

When he was asked about how he writes songs, the singer-songwriter claimed that he doesn't have any set process. "I tell students all the time, 'Look, I don't know how to do this,'" he said, mentioning that "Yesterday" came to him in a dream. "Every time I approach a song, there's no rules. Sometimes the music comes first, sometimes the words – and if you're lucky, it all comes together."

Other topics of discussion included his youth in Liverpool, the way he discovered blues and country through records that English sailors brought back from the States and how excited he felt to learn jazz chords at a young age, according to the Rollins website. He also discussed the "nerve-racking" feeling McCartney got reading his own poems to a group of scholars in New York, how he was not bothered by all the different covers of his song and the Beatles' growth. "[It was through] a natural growing up we developed," he said. "And drugs."

"At the beginning of the Beatles – you've got to remember, we were a boy band – it was all really fan-oriented," he said. "It's not a bad thing, but after a while you felt like you wanted to move on."

Currently, McCartney is readying reissues of two Wings albumsVenus and Mars and Wings at the Speed of Sound – that will both feature a number of outtakes and B-sides when they come out in November. Among them are a version of "Beware My Love" that features Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham and a long-lost snooker-themed TV ad. The singer is also putting out a three-disc collector's version of his most recent record, New, due out October 28th. He's also the subject of a tribute album, The Art of McCartney, which features artists ranging from Alice Cooper to Bob Dylan singing his songs. That record will come out November 18th.