An Easy Hang: Julian Lennon Talks Life, ‘Everything Changes,’ and His Unique Interactive App
Making music with the shadow of a Beatle dancing in your wake is a double-edged sword. But it seems preposterous that any critic would question Julian Lennon’s ingenious songwriting skills, uniquely attuned ear, and innate talents that seem to have fallen down not far from the family apple tree. Make no mistake though; this Lennon has marked his own musical stamp on the industry.
In 1984, Lennon had his debut album Valotte that spawned two hit singles, the title track “Valotte” and “Too Late for Goodbyes,” which subsequently led to his Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist in 1985. Despite the clear path to further success, he took a step back to just live life and pursue other interests. After having disappeared from the music world for 15 years, the Liverpool lad released his sixth studio album Everything Changes, a reminder that he has indeed not lost his touch. Fourteen mellow-toned ballads with hopeful lyrics, unique guitar-chord refrains and sitar accompaniments make it the most musically honest album for this smooth-talking, quick-witted artist.
On iTunes fans can experience his work hands on via the new and groundbreaking Julian Lennon App ($11.99) that makes listening to Everything Changes a uniquely interactive experience. Music this accessible only adds more appeal in such a digitally dominated world. Acoustic versions of all the songs, like the hit “Someday” co-written with Steven Tyler, along with lyrics, his personal photography (with special footage of his exhibits) and the documentary Through the Picture Window — directed by Dick Carruthers as an insight into the artist’s creative process — are all available digitally and online as a better way to stay connected to Lennon.
Jules, as friends often call him, has so many different passions other than music. Not only is he a chef with a robust palate, but he also discovered after accompanying his half-brother Sean on his music tour that he is quite a good photographer with a keen eye for fine art — his first exhibit, Timeless, premiered in 2010. And according to the humble artist, the remainder of his time is devoted to fulfilling his duty as a human being by vouching for humanitarian causes via efforts through his White Feather Foundation, an organization aimed to help the environment and people in need, and the Lupus Foundation.
In talking with someone so brilliant and gifted as Lennon, and with an accent so familiar, it’s easy to see that music is just one facet to who he is as a person. His modesty shines through, as does his easy-going attitude and witty charm. Getting lost in conversation must be something that all who encounter him experience, and I personally feel privileged to say that I have. But for those who haven’t, Lennon and GALO give you a taste.
Starting with a simple “how are you?” leads to an explanation of a series of shots and the feeling of “being hit by a truck on crack” (Lennon, at the time of this interview, was traveling to Ethiopia and Kenya on behalf of his foundation), as well as insight into musical inspirations, the use of modern technology, creating this powerfully vulnerable album, and why despite what you may think, “musician” was not his first profession of choice.
GALO: With obvious influence, you started your career in music at a young age. I read that you had received a Gibson Les Paul guitar when you were five-years old as well as a drum machine.
Julian Lennon: No, my first guitar was at 11-years-old.
GALO: So that was around the same time that you played the drums on “Ya-Ya” from your dad’s album Walls and Bridges.
JL: Yeah, I think it was probably around the same time.
GALO: Did music come naturally to you and did you know at such a young age that it was a passion that you wanted to pursue professionally? And did your dad’s career only make it clearer?
JL: No, not at all. I actually fell in love with stage acting in school. I had myself a scholarship to the Shakespeare Company. I had an option to do that. My best friend at the time, Justin Clayton — who I still write and perform with — started taking guitar lessons at school, and I thought ‘wow, that’s pretty cool,’ so I started taking guitar lessons in school when we weren’t having classes. And one thing led to another, and a whole group of us put a band together. And in these English schools, at the end of the year they put on performances, whether it was plays or musical performances, and I think we were probably the first band in the history of the school. But we got up and used to sing a lot of rock ‘n’ roll stuff like “Roll Over Beethoven” and all the 50s classics, really. So that’s where the love of that came from initially.
And I did love acting. But when I found out that you’d have people standing on their feet screaming and clapping after singing for three minutes as opposed to spending an hour and a half to two hours in a play, the idea of being a musician appealed to me far greater. It was a lot easier. It was the easy way out, but it was also the most fun, no question about that. And that’s when Justin and I started writing — we weren’t even teenagers at that point, maybe 13-years-old. It was all about trying to write, play and perform, and do what we could.
Video Courtesy of: Julian Lennon.
GALO: I know that people have always compared your music to that of your father’s and The Beatles, but you’ve had a lot of success in your own right over the years with your albums Valotte, Photograph Smile, and Everything Changes, as well as some great hit singles like “Too Late for Goodbyes” and “Someday.” Could you explain your influences in terms of your song content and melodies, and were there other artists that you idolized or looked to for inspiration?
JL: Song content is life. That’s all there ever is in song content, in my mind. For me it’s all about the experience you and I both share — the emotions we go through, the ups and downs, the good and the bad. But the idea being that at the end of the day, hopefully, there is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, and that it’s not all doom and gloom — although we are surrounded by a lot of it — but that there is also an incredible amount of beauty that we must remember and hold on to.
As far as influences musically go, you can be influenced every day. I tend to have the radio on, and the station I have been listening to for the past year (this is not a plug for them) is KCRW Eclectic 24. I’m inspired every day by stuff I hear on there that you just do not hear in the mainstream marketplace. Probably what most sincere and serious musicians and writers would agree upon is that today’s “Top 10” is not a real representation of the real talent and heart that is out there. Sadly, it’s shunned by the same old routine of three or four chords with the same melody over it, with a bit more lipstick and a bit more leg instead of true orchestra, in my mind. But in regards to other inspirations musically, I look to people like (one of my favorite singers/songwriters in the world) this guy called Paul Buchanan from a band called The Blue Nile. He would be number one on my list or close to it. Steely Dan I’ve always loved; and The Beatles, obviously. There’s too many. It’d probably be easier to mention the people that don’t inspire me, in all honesty [laughs]. There are some incredibly talented [artists] and great music out there. It’s difficult to say that one overshadows the other, because there’s something special in most great music that’s out there.
(Interview continued on next page)