We got to catch up with Julian Lennon and talk to him about his first new musical release in 15 years, the album, Everything Changes. Find out about his upcoming SXSW engagement and which music albums were the very first that he bought as a kid…
PZO: As a musician, what do you think your best qualities are?
Julian: Well, I strive to be as good as songsmith as I can possibly be, as good of a producer as I can be, as good as a lyricist and as good as a melodist as I can be. That’s what I believe my strongest qualities are.
PZO: What’s a common compliment that people give you?
Julian: I think the most frequent that I’ve heard at least in regard, probably, to most of the work that I’ve done, is that people tend to think that I’m one of the top melodists there are, which I am very happy with it. I mean, I can generally listen to any piece of music and come up with a melody or a good melody, I think, very very quickly—more quickly than most. That’s probably the one thing that people would most say about me in that regard.
PZO: Who do you go to for advice and inspiration?
Julian: I don’t. [laughs] I’m one of those people that just go for it and hope for the best and learn from my mistakes, in all honesty.
PZO: What is one life experience that you would like to re-live?
Julian: There’s two really. One of them, I am definitely going to do [again]. I’ll tell you one of them. On my thirteenth birthday, at six in the morning, I decided to drive out to the desert and jump out of a plane. [laughs] That was one of them, not done it since. I’ve done bungee jump and everything else, but that’s one of them.
The other one, which I am going to do again without question, is fifteen years ago I played in a festival in Hong Kong with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. For me, as an artist, that was the best show that I’ve ever, ever, ever, ever done. I hope to recreate that, redo that, starting with SXSW in March. To do limited engagements as sort of ‘one night only’ in a few major cities across the US to start with on behalf of the White Feather Foundation with a full or partial orchestra in performing arts centers. That’s the plan.
PZO: Have you been to SXSW before?
Julian: It’ll be my first experience there. I actually went there about, oh I don’t know, twenty or thirty years ago when it was just lots of record execs just getting really drunk and it was really quite annoying for an artist. But it’s turned into something really quite magical and a real showcase and platform for people who want to show their wares.
I have a documentary that’s being released and I do a lot of photography these days, so we’ve been talking about doing screenings, fall galleries, acoustic sessions with Q & A and finishing all off with full production performance with an orchestra. Those are the plans for the moment. I’m keeping my fingers crossed we’ll be able to follow through with that and I think we will be able to.
PZO: Do you have any tour plans in the works?
Julian: There are no plans as yet. Initially, I had no thought about going on the road at all. It’s only because of how this idea of SXSW arrangement came about that I thought, well, maybe if I do that then maybe I’ll consider taking it on to the next level. The reason I haven’t programmed anything else at the moment is because I am doing a lot of photography work and I am involved in several film projects as artistic still photographer and there’s a whole bunch of stuff coming up behind that. I’ve got a lot of exhibitions I’m working on too.
For the moment, my passion for photography is at the forefront of everything I love in life. But I still want to follow through with the work in music and the idea of doing those particular kind of shows with the album and with previous work is what appeals to me. I’m going to see how things go with these shows. If a couple of these shows go well, I’ll take it to the next level and I’ll come back and probably most likely do a much larger tour encompassing other potential festivals, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
PZO: What was the first album you bought as a kid?
Julian: Oh, the first album. I remember the first single I bought which was….Oh, God I can’t remember the band name…it was a song, [sings} “Whoa, Black Betty, bam-a-lam. Whoa, Black Betty”. That was the first single I bought. Likely, one of the first albums I bought would have either been—Ram Jam was the name of the band with “Black Betty”. But the album would have either been Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, or Rush or even Steely Dan. Quite possibly, Steely Dan.
PZO: What is the best lesson that you’ve ever learned?
Julian: Interesting. Likely, is that I should always listen to my gut instincts. That’s the lesson that I have learned over the years. The more I stick to my instincts the better things are and the more organic and the more real things are for me and the happier I am for that.
PZO: Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Julian: There are many out there really, that’s a tough one though. That’s a tough one. Off the top of my head that’s a difficult one to answer, it really is. I guess Neil Finn from Crowded House is someone I would have loved to have worked with at some stage. The guy, the main writer—well, there’s only one guy—in a band called Aqualung. I love his work and maybe even U2 at one point would be a nice consideration.
PZO: What was the last meaningful thing you did?
Julian: The last meaningful thing I did was probably the first White Feather Foundation event in which we raised money to help those in need who don’t have clean water. So we work with NGOs on the ground and places in Africa, in Kenya and all over, to help those who don’t have clean water. That was probably the last that was significant.
PZO: What is the most rewarding part of your charity, White Feather Foundation?
Julian: Aside from what I just mentioned, probably would be the relationships that I have been beginning to build with other people, like Scott Harrison from Charity: Water, that we’ve worked on campaigns together and we continue to grow as teams almost, that work together for the better of all mankind, all living creatures. That’s probably one of the most amazing things is meeting like-minded people that just want to do good things.
PZO: Tell us about your new album, Everything Changes. It’s your first new release in fifteen years.
Julian: It’s probably the most organic album I have ever written, probably my best work to date. [laughs] All artists say that, but there’s no question about it. It’s absolutely true in my mind and it seems so in most reviewers minds as of the moment. It’s probably closer to the real me than ever before, primarily because it was an organic process. It wasn’t about having to be in a situation where you were worried about time constraints or financial constraints with management or labels, record companies, studios, because the majority of it was done at home.
I started writing again without the intention of doing an album. It was mainly for the enjoyment and for trying to be as good as a songwriter as I can be. It was only after having more than an album or two worth of material that I thought maybe I should do something with this and not leave it on the cupboard shelf and put it out there. That’s really what sort of happened. I just decided to do it totally independently and it’s been a bit of a tough road. [laughs] It’s all good. At least in the end, something goes wrong it’s my fault and I can’t blame anybody. But I have to say so far, so good and it’s been nothing, but a pleasure.
PZO: Is there a song on there that you are most proud of?
Julian: No, they’re all my babies. That’s almost impossible, it really is. I can never consider one above the other because I love them all in some way, shape or form.
PZO: What would be your pitch to get people to listen to your music?
Julian: Oh, interesting one. Number one, I have always been considerate of environmental and humanitarian issues. Not that that’s at the forefront all the time, but I believe that the work that I do is very—I have to empathize with everybody in regards to the fact that I really do feel and see and understand the situation that we’re all surrounded by, all the issues, all the problems. Not that I have the answers to those. It’s about my social commentary on what I see that goes on around the world.
If we get ourselves together we can make this world a better place for everybody and that’s on every level. That’s on a personal level within relationships, within working relationships, and with our relationships with the world. [laughs] That’s my pitch.