Pictured: Filmmaker Dick Carruthers. Photo Credit: Dick Carruthers.

The ingeniously creative mind of Julian Lennon has just barely been tapped into. We all know he is no stranger to the music industry — he grabbed a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist in 1985 for his debut album Valotte. But Lennon’s cool-talking, easygoing, affable disposition, and knack for flying under the radar, adds almost a mysterious element to this fascinating artist. He hides his complexity within his music and lyrics, drawing in those keen enough to listen in. Only musicians lucky enough to collaborate with him, like Bono and Steven Tyler, get close enough to see “Jules” (as friends call him) in action, and witness the raw talent and passion that’s there.

After approximately 15 years out of the limelight, the 50-year-old Liverpool lad shows that he has more juice left in him — something he didn’t need to prove — with his latest album Everything Changes. Lennon is someone who truly appreciates his fans, and so he offers an exclusive look into his creative work and other interests (like his photography exhibit Timeless) with the innovative Julian Lennon App. It is a direct line to the artist that lets you not only listen to his trailblazing album (as well as an acoustic version of it) in a fantastic audio and visual interactive format, but it’s also a portal to the feature-length documentary Through the Picture Window.

Filmed by award-winning director Dick Carruthers, the app’s centerpiece explores the music-making process behind Everything Changes and Lennon’s unique approach to it. The film is a reflection of this inimitable talent’s style and attention to detail — it’s packed with mesmerizing imagery (like ultra-slow motion of a photo of Lennon being developed) and exclusive interviews, with the album’s songs delicately weaved through to harmonize with each topic. Carruthers — who is known for filming other artists such as Oasis, Led Zeppelin, The Killers, and Aerosmith — gives the audience an elegant yet frank and honest insight into just who Julian Lennon is, and makes it all too clear why there is so much loyalty and appreciation that encircles him.

Carruthers, the creative mind (besides Lennon’s) steering the ship, took a moment to give GALO a second glimpse into what encompasses this musical savant. He details his attraction to the music-making process and the inspiration behind brilliant song making, why Lennon is courageous to put his music out there, and why his friends and collaborators feel the need to defend him against detractors.

GALO: You have filmed artists before, such as Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, The Killers and Oasis. In this case, Julian approached you about the film. Was your initial instinct just to say yes to his proposal?

Dick Carruthers: Well, we didn’t know what the proposal was — well, actually that’s not true. He had seen an old Gallagher documentary [Noel Gallagher: Somewhere in Between (2011)] that I had made and really, really liked it. He liked it because of the style of approaching old songs, and weaving a story voiced over around the songs and the inspiration behind the songs — and through that, a monologue almost. So that was the proposal. And we met up in London and really hit it off. He was also a very intriguing fellow, as I discovered straight away. So I thought this is going to be interesting. And actually, in fact, the idea of doing a documentary similar to the Noel one — where it’s kind of just him talking in and around the songs with various B-roll imagery — has massively expanded into the feature-length documentary with huge amounts of collaborators and fanciful imagery and stylish thinking that it’s now become.

GALO: What is your fascination with the music-making process, and why do you think it’s something that should be captured on film?

DC: Well, through all the stuff I’ve made over the last 20 years, I always find myself asking people what the inspiration was and how they wrote this particular song. There’s something unique and brilliant about music that moves you in the way that it does, and it’s impossible to actually describe what that is, except that it’s very tangible and you know what it is. You know, when you watch a band play live or you put on an album you love and turn it up, it really does work in a certain way that makes it, I think, the most valuable commodity on the planet, really. It just does something to the mind and the spirit. So, how that comes about, how somebody can create something like that, is inevitably a fascinating thing. Because if it’s something that they dreamed up or found or were inspired to create — you know the best songs sound like they’ve been there. They absolutely sound like they’ve always been there — and so, there’s sort of acceptance in this fact that that had to have come from somewhere.

If you listen to a piece of [Johann Sebastian] Bach’s, or any kind of variations that Bach would write, they seem so natural, like they just kind of already existed as a natural phenomenon. But he had to write them. A lot of musicians don’t know. A lot of musicians say, “It just came to me, and one chord just flowed into another, and before I knew it, there was this song.” And then other musicians have an awful lot of technique and experience behind them. They’re the more technical, classically trained ones. Some people just go from the gut, and it’s a combination of all of those [things] that is also interesting — particularly when you look at someone like Julian who collaborates a lot. He likes to have a collaborator to bounce ideas off of and share. Some bands sit in a studio and jam for hours on end and will come out with a song. To me, that’s a very interesting process in what you’re hearing, what you’re playing, and what your skill level is at playing to what you play next.

GALO: In the film, when Bono talked about the time Julian photographed U2 music rehearsals, he said that Julian was like a fly on the wall — that it was like he was invisible because everyone was so comfortable having him around. Did you feel that way when you were filming Julian? Like he could just do his thing with you there?

DC: Well, it’s significant that Julian doesn’t really appear in the documentary in a full interview setting. Obviously, I interviewed him and so did Ed — my collaborator on the creative front — but a key thing for the documentary was that it wasn’t Julian as a talking head. I think you read too much into that when you see somebody talking. He really liked the idea of his voice being used over the top of imagery. So, he’s in the documentary a lot, as you know, and there’s plenty of imagery of him. But a lot of that is him just hanging out, or just being either in L.A. or France, or wherever he happens to be — it’s just kind of him being him.

So, there’s this sense of a whispered sort of spoken monologue in your head while you’re watching these images of him. It’s also packed full of a lot of metaphorical imagery, a lot of graffiti, a lot of sloganeering over a sort of metaphorical twist to it all. Your thoughts and opinions are reduced to this almost graffitied slogan that sort of runs all the way through it, as does all the slow motion imagery, and again, the running imagery of him developing because he’s a photographer — so that one picture that starts and ends the film. We see that being developed throughout the film with the obvious narrative/metaphor of him developing as a person, as a photographer — his process of putting in all the right chemicals and soaking it for the right amount of time — you come up with this person.

GALO: Every person interviewed in your film that had worked with Julian seemed in utter awe of his raw musical talents, and described him close to a musical genius because he sees music in such a unique way. But Julian doesn’t seem to see himself as a true musician and is very critical of himself. Did you witness this kind of frustration and self-doubt often while observing his creative process?

DC: You’re absolutely right, I did. Although, I would say that it is not so much frustration, but definitely self-doubt. I think he’s got the confidence and the knowledge of when he’s written something or made something and it’s good. I think he knows it’s good. But he’s also got the humility not to brag about it. It’s a very foolish musician who says, “Wait ‘til you hear my new song, it’s awesome and amazing and brilliant!” That’s a bold claim and something that you can’t really make on behalf of anybody who listens to it. He has that self-doubt in a sense of not is something any good, but how is it going to be received? And that, of course, comes from the fact that, in the past, almost always when he’s made something, whatever it is — a photograph, a record, an exhibition — it gets sometimes deliberately misinterpreted or deliberately misconstrued by the more tabloid elements of the press, or detractors, or crazy people. If he sticks his head up, somebody will take a pop shot at it. Even if there are lots of fans out there, there are some people that will have a go.

And I think he’s grown wise to that, he’s grown used to that, and has to temper the way that he puts stuff out there. So, I think, it takes a lot of courage to do what he actually does. And he does it quite gently, because he doesn’t want to invite the wrong kind of scrutiny. He is a creative person. He feels a need and an urge to write music, to take photos and to just do stuff. He’s also a very philanthropic person — he’s got a whole charity thing going on — which again, he doesn’t brag about because he is a sensible, grown-up, balanced individual that just doesn’t shout about things.