While performing "Dance Tonight," the first track on his new album, "Memory Almost Full," Sir Paul McCartney youthfully bopped around stage. His voice was easy and familiar, but the instrument he was holding, a mandolin, is something new for the legend.
McCartney started working on the album last Christmas, six months after his marriage with Heather Mills ended. McCartney said that music is "the great healer," and this time he turned to an instrument he had to teach himself to play.
"I went into a favorite guitar shop of mine and talked to the guy about left-handed instruments. And he told me that he had a left-handed mandolin. So I looked at it and was intrigued, bought it, took it home at Christmas," said McCartney. "Then the great thing was I realized I had no idea how to play it, which took me back to being a teenager in Liverpool …"
While he was practicing with his new instrument, McCartney's daughter Beatrice helped him finish the song.
"[As] I was playing [the mandolin], I have a 3-and-a-half-year old daughter who came running into the kitchen … and she came running in dancing," he said. "It was so lovely and I just thought, I've got to finish this up and this had to go on the album.'"
As the "Nightline" interview began, the former Beatle learned that his new album, "Memory Almost Full," was debuting at No. 3 on the Billboard charts.
"No. 3 in America -- the great United States of America -- No. 3, that's not bad," McCartney said.
In fact, it is the highest debut for a McCartney record in the last decade, quite impressive for a man who turns 65 next week. And retirement is not yet on the horizon for the man who has written and recorded a stream of hits in the 50 years since he first met up with another young fellow from Liverpool, John Lennon.
"It would be nice to be 25 again for the looks and for the physical thing but, brainwise, I wouldn't want to be. I am happier now in my head," McCartney said. "I think you know a little more. I'm not as worried what other people think as I might have been once."
These days McCartney is trying to "live without fear," something he said he didn't do when he was younger. He also said that he's "learned it's OK to be yourself."
"You know, things like crying, for a guy -- when I grew up you didn't do that," he said. "So you spent a lot of time … just pretending all the time. Now I just bawl."
There has been plenty for McCartney to cry about this past year, including his very public, very messy divorce from Mills and a custody battle over their daughter.
"[I] don't really like to talk about it," McCartney said. "It's a very sort of personal thing, divorce. And it's something I've decided not to talk about in interviews."
Despite the difficulties of the last year, McCartney said he feels good.
"I'm enjoying my music. You know, music is the great healer. … It was always something that saved you. It's a great sort of therapy," he said. " A lot of writers I know will be having a bad day and will go off into the corner with a guitar and sort of write it out. I think it's very helpful."
Perhaps the most arresting song on the new album is "End of the End." Though it is about death -- McCartney's own death and how he'd like to be remembered -- it is not a sad song.