I love contests. I love the feeling of thrill that comes with imagining yourself as the winner. Whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, trying to win a Gibson guitar (which is only $739 on Amazon by the way), or getting the chance to meet someone remarkable, the fantasy that comes along with entering is invigorating.
Earlier in the month, Omaze ran a campaign to fund the David Lynch Foundation, which we happily contributed to by donating 50% of site revenue. The prize was one of the most remarkable experiences any music fan could ever dream of: perform a soundcheck with Sir Paul McCartney.
Gregg Anderson from British Columbia, Canada was the lucky winner, and after speaking to him, I can tell you he fully deserved it. Omaze flew him out all the way from Spokane, put him up in a Brooklyn hotel, and gave him the experience of a lifetime. Did Gregg confront Sir Paul about Yoko Ono or demand a lock of hair as a keepsake? No. Instead, he genuinely thanked McCartney for the music that helped him through mourning and emotional stress.
I, on the other hand, would have had a prepared list of 20+ questions to direct at Sir McCartney, and then use the information selfishly to promote this site. Being that Gregg won, he was the one who has to endure my questioning and self-promotion.
Here’s what it’s like to meet Paul McCartney, the man who changed the course of music for centuries to come…
Steve/HMPYG: You had a hell of a week.
Gregg: It’s been crazy. It’s been absolutely crazy. I wasn’t prepared for the media attention afterwards.
Steve/HMPYG: Who’s been talking to you?
Gregg: A lot of local Canadian media (I’m from Canada). CTV, Major networks, the 60s radio…it’s been crazy.
Steve/HMPYG: Did they track you down on Facebook like I did?
Gregg: Yeah, you were one of the first guys, and then after you, it just exploded. I really like your blog by the way.
Steve/HMPYG: Thank you!
Gregg: I used to have a blog, I actually reposted one of my posts the day before I left to go see Paul McCartney in NY. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about it. I just reposted an old blog posting. There’s a British singer, Billy Bragg. Behind Paul McCartney, he’s my favorite singer. I actually got to meet him. He’s the only guy (I’ve met quite a few people) that I choked up and lost it with. I just started mumbling (laughs).
He just went, “Yeah..um..ok..well thanks.” I think I came up with the words “pop sensibility.” To this day, my brother never lets me forget it, he’ll just say “pop sensibilities.”
Steve/HMPYG: (laughs) So you did this contest, and I forget, it’s one chance per dollar?
Gregg: I think it’s 50 entries per $10 or something like that.
Steve/HMPYG: Yeah, I forget how it breaks down, but did you donate thousands of dollars to get a higher chance or did you just get a lucky break?
Gregg: No! (laughs) I got the lucky break. I donated $50, and I was only going to do 20. I read about the foundation. I suffer from anxiety a little bit, so what they’re doing sounded really cool. David Lynch is cool, so I upped it to 50 and I’m glad I did.
Steve/HMPYG: Yeah it resonated with me because I’m a therapist, and I feel meditation is one of the most effect therapeutic tools one can use. I was all about that cause. You were flown out to Brooklyn right?
Gregg: Yeah, they flew us out on a Wednesday morning. We had a car meet us. It was awesome, the car had a piece of paper taped to the side with my name on it. They drove us out to Brooklyn and we spent two nights there. That’s when I first talked to you. The day of the concert, they had a whole itinerary made out for us. The itinerary said we’d meet a girl Emily at 3:30 in the lobby, so the first half of the day is all for you to travel around Brooklyn. I found a cool little record shop, and Brooklyn’s really, really cool.
Steve/HMPYG: Yeah it is!
Gregg: I wasn’t prepared for the density of New York City. I knew it was big, but you don’t realize how dense it is. It just spreads forever.
Steve/HMPYG: There’s no place like it. So you got to Brooklyn, and the big day comes…
Gregg: Yeah, when we got there–getting there was actually pretty cool–we just walked up and it literally said “VIP DOOR.” We just walked right through. Emily, the Omaze girl, who was awesome, dropped some name, and boom, it was like the doors of Oz opened up for us. And then we got to meet Paul’s stage manager, his road manager, and they were all great. Basically, they were all kind of winging it, because they just said “we’ll come and get you when Paul’s here.”
Paul was late because Justin Trudeau was at the UN that day, which shut down the roads. So, my own prime minister almost caused me to miss meeting Paul McCartney (laughs).
They had the VIP section, where people get the open bar, they get a meal, and they get to watch the soundcheck. You’re quite a ways away from the soundcheck. So, all these people paid to do that, but I got all that, and I had all of Paul McCartney’s guys coming to me.
They said, “Okay, when we bring you into the soundcheck, you’re going to stand over to the far left, and when he starts playing ‘Lady Madonna,’ we’re going to come get you.”
Then, a guy came up to me, a British guy with a camera, he goes, “Hey, I’m with Paul’s team, I wanna bring you over here and interview you.”
So during the soundcheck I was interviewed by this guy. He talked to me for quite a while actually. He led me back to the sound check, and I’m standing there watching it, and there were some deep cuts on that soundcheck man. He played “Ram On” from my favorite Paul McCartney album Ram. He played some obscure ones.
Steve/HMPYG: Did he mess up at all?
Gregg: No! No, no, no. Those guys are amazing.
So they were taking pictures of us, the cameras were following me around, he’s getting different shots of us watching the soundcheck. And then boom, “Lady Madonna” kicks in. I said to myself I should be a lot more nervous than I am.
And Bob Ross, the CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, puts his hand on my shoulder, and says, “No Greg, don’t be nervous. You know why? Because you’re a good person. And you do good things, and you’re going to be awesome up there.” Not that I was super nervous, but I was even more relaxed after he did that.
I can see the stage manager walking down, this burly Scottish guy. I think his name was Charlie. He says, “Alright Gregg, it’s time. Let’s go.” [Editors note: Gregg pulled off a killer Scottish accent telling this story]
He asked me, “How ya feelin’?”
And I go, “I’m okay!”
He says, “You’ll be great, you’ll be great.”
He takes me up there, to the side of the stage. They had a huge mixing board on the side of the stage. The stage manager goes to the sound guy at the board and asks, “Do you know exactly what we’re doing?” (laughs)
The sound guy goes, “I don’t know. I don’t know what we’re doing. Let’s rock and roll.”
And at that point, Paul McCartney starts talking about me on stage.
I don’t know exactly what he said, because I was talking to these two guys, but I realized he mentioned my name. They call me out, and Paul says, “Let’s hear it for Gregg!”
I walk out there, and they say, “When Paul sings ‘get back,’ you say ‘get back.’ You just repeat what he says in the chorus.”
Charlie, the Scottish stage manager moves to the side and just points to Paul.
So I walk out there, I walk all the way to the middle of the stage, and there’s Paul. He shakes my hand, thanks me for my donation, and that’s where it gets a little blurry for me. I’m not sure what I said, or what he was saying. I know I talked to Brian, the guitarist. Paul asked me questions, like “where are you from?” on the mic, things like that. It comes into focus for me more when the music started.
“Get Back” starts. (Gregg imitates the opening guitar line)
As soon as “Jojo was a man” (the first line) kicked in, I started singing with Paul. And Paul looked a little taken aback that I was singing with him. You could see it on my face, I went Ohh shit. I just screwed up.
Gregg: I think he just expected me to sing along for the chorus. He saw my reaction, just shook his head, and his eyes just go keep going, keep going! And I did. I sounded like I was yelling, but everyone said I sounded okay. I sang it all with him, and he was right there, kept pulling me in, like get a little closer to me.
There’s that one little point if you know the song where he sings “Get back, get back, get ba-aa-aack.” The little Paul McCartney thing. I did that out on stage, and he looked at me, gave me the big eyebrows, and went Yeah man! Yeah! (laughs)
It was at that point we started the second verse, and I just started singing it, and he smiled, and he walked away and let me sing it all by myself.
Steve/HMPYG: Man, I would’ve fainted at “Lady Madonna.” I probably would’ve just passed out.
Gregg: Yeah, I don’t know why I wasn’t more nervous. I don’t know. I should’ve been, but I wasn’t. The day before I was tense, but it wasn’t a bad tense. It was a real amped-up, ready to go kind of thing.
But yeah, we finished the song. Everybody applauded. That’s when I got to thank him.
I said, “Thank you so much Paul. Thank you for all the great music.” Stuff he’s heard probably a million times. He probably heard it 50 times that day alone.
I said, “I want to thank you for all the great music. You got me through some really bad times.”
I had a really bad year, my dad passed away a few months ago. A really bad year. I didn’t mention that to him, but I told him it was a bad year, and that he got me through some really tough times.
“I can’t thank you enough.”
And for a guy that’s heard this a billion times, he was humbled. He was genuinely thankful that I felt that way. And that’s when he shakes my hand and gives me a big hug.
Steve/HMPYG: That’s powerful.
Gregg: Yeah. And then I asked if I could touch his bass. The Hofner bass. And he just throws it on me. Gives me the strap and just tells me to put it on.
Steve/HMPYG: That’s amazing!
Gregg: Yeah. That thing is insured for something like four million dollars. And he just throws it on me like it was nothing! He’s used that since 1964. It’s not the original one he had, that was stolen. But he’s used this one on tour since 1964.
Steve/HMPYG: Well here’s a question: Are you sure that this is the real Paul, and not an imposter that took the place of Paul back in Abbey Road years?
Gregg: (laughs) Yes, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is indeed not–what’s his name? William Campbell? This is the real Paul McCartney.
Steve/HMPYG: And he’s 75 years old. Did he show it?
Gregg: No. I definitely got the grandfather-ly vibe from him, but my dad was 75 and he didn’t look half as young as Paul McCartney. He put on a three-and-a-half hour show almost. No intermission. He goes flat out. It’s impressive. Really impressive.
Steve/HMPYG: When you have a catalog like that, there are 50 must-plays.
Gregg: You got so many songs, you’re not going to play all of them. I actually got to see him before in 2012. I actually used my rent money. I paid a whole month’s rent for my ticket in Vancouver.
Steve/HMPYG: Whoa! Did he play “Oh Darling!” at this show?
Gregg: No, he didn’t do “Oh Darling!” He did do my all-time favorite Paul McCartney song, “Maybe I’m Amazed.” He also did “I Gotta Feeling.” Another all-time favorite of mine.
Steve/HMPYG: So was it mostly Wings songs or was it a mix?
Gregg: No, he does a really good mix. I’d say it was a 60-40 mix Beatles/solo songs. Maybe even closer to 50-50. He hits the highlights, “Hey Jude,” and wraps up the show with “The End.” They do the whole drum solo/guitar battle.
Steve/HMPYG: Were there any surprises?
Gregg: The surprise for me was how much contact I had. I didn’t know he was going to be so personable. “Fantastic” and “amazing” are the only two words I could use to describe the whole experience.
I don’t hold stars up on a pedestal. I don’t think they’re better than us, they’re just talented people. But, Paul McCartney, I will say he has some sort of–aura is the wrong word–but he just has a calming influence. It made you chill. He’s just a great man, comes off as down-to-earth.
Gregg hasn’t been contacted for the next tour yet. But who knows?