The Strange Backstage Rituals of Paul McCartney

The Strange Backstage Rituals of Paul McCartney | I Love Classic Rock Videos

Paul McCartney - CBS Sunday Morning / Youtube

Performing in front of an audience, whether it’s a small gathering or a stadium full of screaming fans, can be a nerve-wracking experience. From sweaty palms to full-blown panic attacks, stage fright is a real phenomenon that affects even the most seasoned performers.

Some resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, while others find solace in meditation or distracting activities. But surely, a musical legend like Paul McCartney, with decades of experience under his belt, wouldn’t be susceptible to such anxieties, right?

Think again. Even the iconic ex-Beatle has his own unique set of pre-show rituals to help him manage his nerves and prepare for the spotlight.

These rituals, while seemingly unconventional, offer a glimpse into the mind of a musical genius and the lengths some go to in pursuit of peak performance.

Pre-show jitter and rituals

While Paul McCartney may not experience full-blown stage fright anymore, he still admits to feeling “not too bad” jitters before performances. 

He attributes this early-career anxiety to the fear of rejection, of not being well-received by the audience.

However, despite these diminished fears, McCartney has developed pre-show rituals to ensure he’s in the right headspace and physically prepared for the show.

He learned this routine from Little Richard “back when we were kids,” and it involves a simple yet effective vocal warm-up: inhaling hot steam with a towel over his head, followed by a saltwater gargle. This practice helps loosen his vocal cords and prepare him for belting out his iconic tunes.

A sold-out show “gives you confidence”

Steam inhalation, a simple practice of breathing in moist, warm air, offers a surprising range of benefits for both children and adults. For those suffering from respiratory issues like bronchial infections, allergies, or even the common cold, inhaling steam helps loosen mucus and clear congestion, making breathing easier.

Singers, too, swear by its power. Steam helps keep vocal cords flexible and reduces irritation, leading to clearer, stronger vocals. So, if you don’t have a personal sauna, the next best thing is a DIY steam session: simply hold your face over a bowl of hot water with a towel draped over your head.

McCartney incorporates this pre-show ritual, along with a traditional saltwater gargle, an hour before taking the stage. Interestingly, he also mentioned that checking ticket sales helps ease his nerves.

A sold-out show, he says, “gives you a confidence and I think I can probably relax, they probably like me.”

Family Feud also helps McCartney relax

Macca’s pre-show rituals extend beyond vocal warm-ups and checking ticket sales. To unwind and lighten the mood, he sometimes enjoys watching a bit of Family Feud, as he revealed during his 2019 tour. 

Unlike a typical viewer glued to the screen, McCartney uses the show as a casual distraction, dipping in and out, even leaving the dressing room at times. He emphasizes keeping things light, avoiding anything too serious before a performance.

The former Beatle also prioritizes physical and mental well-being in his pre-show routine. During tours, he counteracts the confined travel environment by exercising and spending time outdoors.

Additionally, he indulges in “a bit of pampering” with massages to stay relaxed. As showtime approaches, the routine transitions to the usual pre-performance activities like showering, dressing, soundchecks, and the final preparations before taking the stage.

Of course, Macca also has a post-show ritual

The legendary performer’s pre-show rituals aren’t the only habits he adheres to. As his daughter Mary revealed in a GQ interview, Paul McCartney also has a dedicated post-show routine.

Once the final note has faded and the goodbyes have been exchanged, McCartney unwinds with a signature backstage meal: a sandwich and a margarita.

This light pre-performance approach extends to his dietary choices as well, as many singers avoid heavy meals before taking the stage to optimize their vocal cords.

Following the well-deserved indulgence, it’s safe to assume that McCartney prioritizes rest and recuperation. With the adrenaline rush of the performance subsiding, he likely transitions to some well-earned sleep to prepare for the next show on the tour schedule.