By Ray Shasho
Exclusive Interview with Julian Lennon:
Julian Lennon is passionate about his art and empathetic to the perplexities of mankind. Lennon’s ability to actualize consequential lyrical content with enchanting voice and melody is what exemplifies Julian as a pure and gifted artist. Combing those amazing attributes with virtuoso multi-instrumental ingenuity and a reputation for engaging legendary songwriters and musicians is the prescription needed for the perfect album. Lennon’s latest release entitled Everything Changes is pure genius and a musical masterpiece.
Lennon’s unquestionable perception and endearment for music and humanity was clearly felt on his debut release Valotte in 1984. The album became certified platinum and spawned the hit singles “Valotte” (#9 Billboard Hot 100 -1985) and “Too Late for Goodbyes” (#5 Billboard Hot 100 -1985). The album was produced by Phil Ramone. Lennon may have inherited certain proficient genes from his famous dad, but his musical and humanitarian pilgrimage was solely spearheaded by Julian.
Valotte was a great album but Everything Changes is Lennon’s best album to date.
Everything Changes is perfectly arranged and produced. I actually compared the essence of the recording to The Beach Boys Pet Sounds album. The album was initially released in the UK in 2011 as sort of a test run on an Indie label. Lennon purchased all the rights under the original agreement and then released it independently worldwide.
‘EVERYTHING CHANGES’ the worldwide release has additional tracks including the Beatlesque “Someday” featuring Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. There are also inspiring songwriting collaborations between Lennon and Mark Spiro including … “Just for You” and the metaphysical psychedelic voyage of “Disconnected” which also spotlights the proficient songwriting of Peter Vettese (Jethro Tull). Vettese also collaborates with Lennon on the title track “Everything Changes,” a very beautiful song that actuates Lennon’s persistent message which always seems to be on-target with what’s going on in the human race … portraying the chaos that’s amongst us but also offering simple solutions if we all just listen and practice love and peace. Vettese also co-wrote the haunting “Lookin’ 4 Luv” an incredible tune that highlights Lennon’s superb key strokes and vocals with additional Beatlesque overtones, including an electric guitar that emulates reverse tape effects or backmasking, an effect reminiscent to certain Beatles tracks from their psychedelic era. “Touch the Sky” is yet another brilliant Lennon/Vettese co-writing effort. “Always” is an extraordinary penned partnership between Lennon and longtime friend and guitarist Justin Clayton. The track rejoices powerful lyric and magnificent melody.
Lennon also collaborates on the album with singer-songwriter Paul Buchanan (Blue Nile), singer/producer/composer Tim Ellis, Gregory Darling and Guy Pratt (Pink Floyd). The album was jointly produced by Julian Lennon and Grant Ransom.
The “Someday” and “Lookin’ 4 Luv” official videos can be watched on You Tube.
… I gave Everything Changes the latest album from Julian Lennon (5) Five Stars!
JULIAN LENNON was born in Liverpool, England. He is the only child of John Lennon and Cynthia Powell (John’s first wife). His half brother is Sean Lennon (Yoko Ono is his mother). Yoko was John’s second wife.
In 1966, Julian brought home a drawing that became the catalyst for The Beatles classic “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” In 1968, Paul McCartney was driving out to see Cynthia and Julian after the marriage separation. He began singing … Hey Jules, don’t make it bad, take a sad song …make it better. Paul felt sorry for Julian regarding the situation between his mom and dad. Later McCartney changed Jules to Jude because it sounded better. "Hey Jude" spent nine weeks at the number #1 spot, holding the title for The Beatles longest stretch for a single at the number one position. The Beatles tune “Good Night” (1968) was said to be a lullaby written by John for Julian when he was five years old.
On December 8th 1980, Julian’s father John Lennon was gunned down outside his home in New York City. John Lennon was forty years old.
Julian’s incredible debut album Valotte was released in 1984. The majority of the songs were written at Manor de Valotte, a French chateau near Nevers. He would later embark on a North American tour and included dates in Japan and Australia in support of the new album.
In 1986, Julian Lennon released his second album entitled The Secret Value of Daydreaming. The album also produced by Phil Ramone spawned the hit single “Stick Around” (#32 Billboard Hot 100). Lennon launched his second North American tour from Miami, Florida.
In 1988, The Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, Sean and Julian Lennon attended.
Mr. Jordan Julian’s third album was released in 1989. Lennon also embarked on a mini-tour. His fourth studio album Help Yourself was released in 1991. The album was produced by the legendary Bob Ezrin. The album spawned the hit “Saltwater” (#6 UK) and (#1 on Australian single charts).
After a seven-year hiatus, Lennon released his fifth studio album entitled Photograph Smile in 1998. The following year he embarked on a U.S. tour in support of the album.
In 2001, Rhinos VH1 Behind the Music series released The Julian Lennon Collection featuring all of his greatest hits.
On September 16th 2010, Julian Lennon’s first photography exhibition, “Timeless” opened at The Morrison Hotel Gallery in Manhattan, New York. He officially launched his photography site www.julianlennon-photography.com later in 2012.
The first edition of Everything Changes was released in the UK and Ireland in October of 2011.
The second edition of Everything Changes was officially released worldwide on April 8th 2013 and featured additional tracks and guest artists.
Julian Lennon is 50 years old. Lennon continues to contribute his environmental and humanitarian efforts with the White Feather Foundation, the Prince’s Trust youth charity, and the Lupus Foundation.
I had the rare pleasure of chatting with Julian Lennon recently about his brilliant new release Everything Changes, his photography, humanitarian efforts & contributions, and very exciting future endeavors. Julian is also one of the nicest guys that I ever had the pleasure to interview.
Here’s my interview with singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, humanitarian, and son of Beatles John …JULIAN LENNON.
THE INTERVIEW… (September 25th)
Ray Shasho: Hello Julian!
Julian Lennon: “Hi Ray, you sound about a thousand miles away, maybe even two thousand miles away … but that’s alright, I’ll just turn the volume up on my phone a little bit. Shasho … that’s an interesting name, where’s that from?”
Ray Shasho: My grandfather on my father’s side was from Syria. They were actually Syrian Jews. My mother was born in Cuba but her family was from Spain. So I grew up in an eclectic household. As a matter of fact I wrote a book about the entire experience.
Julian Lennon: “Really, that’s an interesting mix … it’s a great name though.”
Ray Shasho: Julian, I knew immediately in 1984 that you were a gifted singer, songwriter and musician after the release of your debut album Valotte. The title track is actually one of my all-time favorite songs. And now in 2013 … Everything Changes is an absolute masterpiece!
Julian Lennon: “Now you’re talking my language. (All laughing)
“Honestly, that’s very kind of you to say.”
Ray Shasho: I think it’s your best album yet, I’m giving it (5) stars; the arrangements and production work on the album remind me of the Pet Sounds album by The Beach Boys.
Julian Lennon: “I get where you’re at with that, there’s a quality and smoothness to it I guess. The thing I can equate it to would be the many layers that are there which compliments each other, thank God; otherwise it wouldn’t make sense at all. But yes, I appreciate that too.”
Ray Shasho: Julian, you actually released an earlier edition of the album?
Julian Lennon: “I released it in the UK and did it almost like a test run with an Indie label; it was more of a partnership. I found it very difficult to work with other people that eventually change their thoughts and prospective on what we were planning to do. So I decided to walk away from them and get out of that partnership. I bought all the rights back and all the stocks back and decided that I wanted to rethink this situation. I always envisioned doing it completely and utterly independently but these folks had some good talk and I listened. I was swayed a little bit but decided that I really needed to look at the big picture and see if I could really pull it off just myself.”
“It wasn’t originally an idea to add anymore tracks to the international release outside the UK, but I’ve been out in LA talking to different management groups and different PR and marketing to try and work with for the release of the album. It really was happenstance that I bumped into Steven Tyler. One thing led to another and I thought it would be great if we could do a song and throw on the album for the rest of the world. My old friend Mark Spiro was out there as well and if there’s a bit of spare time and you’re not doing the meetings 24/7, then occasionally you get the chance to do a little bit of writing. I just felt very fortunate enough that both guys were available and wanted to do something a little extra for the international release. I think the two tracks complimented the album and gave it a little bit of a different edge and angle from where it was at. So I was more than happy to make those changes.”
Ray Shasho: You certainly have some great guest artists on the album. Besides Steven Tyler, Mark Spiro, Peter Vettese, Paul Buchanan and Tim Ellis to name a few … I noticed Pink Floyd’s Guy Pratt is also on the album?
Julian Lennon: “Guy and I used to live in LA together and that’s where this came about. Many-many moons ago, he and I used to hang out quite a bit. He came back to the house and did the original bass part for “Just for You” in the very wee-wee hours of the morning, after a very late night and a few drinks … no comment (All laughing). I always loved the song, but it never sort of fit on any of the other albums or work that I’ve done before. So when I re-recorded it again and literally he was in the neighborhood. He was with his family on holiday and learning to swim. He took time out of his swimming lessons to come over and record initially on “Just for You.” It sounded so great I said listen; will you stick around and consider playing on some of the other tracks? So he did and it was great! Again, he’s one of my all-time favorites.”
Ray Shasho: Guy’s married to Richard Wright’s daughter. I saw Guy perform on several occasions with Pink Floyd, he’s an incredible musician.
Julian Lennon: “He’s one of those guys that just plays choice notes and for me that was absolutely beautiful and perfect. I knew he’d be able to come up with things that I was missing here and there or things that we both agreed on and thought about.”
Ray Shasho: Some of my favorite tracks on the new album include “Always,” which embrace powerful and important lyrical content. For example…
And as we disgrace the truth …Love has lost its way to greedy rules … Sometimes this world’s so cold … Where is all this hatred coming from?
The album is so on-target with what’s going on in the human race, portraying the chaos that’s amongst us but also offering simple solutions if we all just listen and practice love and peace.
Julian Lennon: “It’s a constant theme through most of the albums that I’ve done, there’s always been socially minded tracks. It’s really my opinion of my social commentary of the world as it is today. I’ve never been one for shoving ideas down people’s throats, but it’s about recognizing the issues and having empathy, and trying to work with people to make a better life for everybody. That’s why I started the White Feather Foundation, not only to try and be a better person myself, but to help the world be a more healing place.”
Ray Shasho: Another favorite track is “Touch the Sky.”
Julian Lennon: “It was either “Everything Changes” or “Touch the Sky” that I first met Peter Vettese who I adore as a songwriting partner. He always seems to fill-in or come up with the missing blanks if I hit a brick wall with certain chords and arrangements. But it just flowed and came out very-very easily working with him. No question about it, that’s also one of my favorite tracks on the album. But listen …what can I say, they’re all my favorite children on this album. I’ve got to say, I do love them all. This is probably the first album that I’m happy to play over and over again, even for myself, which is a bit modest and a bit mad. (All Laughing) But I’m partially right because its music that I don’t hear out there.”
Ray Shasho: You’re absolutely right Julian … unfortunately the music industry has been in a sad state for some time now.
Julian Lennon: “At least in regards to the charts or what’s left of the charts. It’s pretty horrific I think … it just churns-out the same three-four chords on crack basically with a slightly different melody. You could pretty much roll off the first top ten or top twenty in the charts. It’s sad really … just sad. There’s no room left in the mainstream for artistry. It’s a rarity anyway, it does exist but it’s rare.”
Ray Shasho: I believe the biggest problem is that the people who run the music business just don’t give a damn about the music.
Julian Lennon: “It’s a sad situation, but at least independent artists like myself can get the work out there. It’s tough getting heard in the world the way it is at the moment … not that it always hasn’t been tough to a certain degree but I think it’s been even tougher now. There are so many independent artists and to be heard you either have to be in that sort of commercial vein of the major labels and that sort of pop charts success or really have some good quality music. It’s a tough one but people like myself will keep on keeping on until we do get heard.”
Ray Shasho: Julian, you are also an amazing photographer as well. Do you carry your equipment around everywhere and start shooting as you get inspired …or are they somewhat staged?
Julian Lennon: “I’ve been very fortunate in working with the likes of U2 behind the scenes and working with Princess Charlene of Monaco, I shot her ten minutes before her marriage. Talk about insanity, anxiety, stress and complete and utter madness … nothing is staged as such but you got to try and in my mind at least to capture a moment in time that says something to you emotionally. For me it’s just a visual interpretation of what I try and do musically. It’s having that connection and that empathy with people that you can relate to what’s being said, seen or heard.”
Ray Shasho: One of my favorite images is your “Timeless” photograph.
Julian Lennon: “That’s probably the thing that started it off really. That was me on the tour bus with Sean in 2007, somewhere in Eastern Europe at six o’clock in the morning, and this was in the days when I used to smoke. The bus driver used to let me sit at the front of the bus while everybody was asleep and grab the ol’ ciggie. It was freezing! Again it was about capturing a time and a place and feeling that sort of emptiness …not knowing where the road was really going to. At the time it seemed timeless because it was just eternal. It was like … When is this going to end? When are we going to get somewhere? So that’s what started it all up, at least for the first exhibition.”
Ray Shasho: Julian, a very dear friend of ours was staying with us recently here in Sarasota. She has really been bothered by lupus. Thank you for your continued efforts to make everyone aware of the disease. She was actually searching for information about lupus when she got home and stumbled upon your YouTube video talking about Lucy Vodden.
Julian Lennon: “After poor Lucy …from “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” passed with lupus, I did a charity single for the Lupus Foundation of America and St. Thomas’ Lupus Trust in the UK. Every year it’s a continued effort to support them. Not only as their ambassador, but also on a financial front, doing these events and auctions and trying to raise awareness. I’m continually involved and will remain so until we do find that cure. This will be part of my life for the rest of my life. Hopefully it won’t be for the rest of my life, maybe we’ll find a cure sooner than later.”
Ray Shasho: Bless you Julian for donating your time and efforts and keeping people aware of this terrible disease. It doesn’t seem like much is discussed about the effects of lupus.
Julian Lennon: “It’s an awful disease because it can attack any part of your body, any way, shape, or form. This is what the issue is. It’s just not understandable in any way at this point of time. We realize that it goes in so many different directions and this is what the problem is. It affects everybody slightly differently, so this is a major issue. All we can do is keep working on it.”
Ray Shasho: Julian, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish like the movie, to play, sing or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
Julian Lennon: “Well I’m going to have to state the obvious here and say if there had been an opportunity to sing or work with dad …it would have been him really. He would be my number one choice.”
Ray Shasho: Is there anything we haven’t covered Julian?
Julian Lennon: “Well, I’ve been doing a lot more stills for feature films now. We are coming out with a full-featured documentary around Thanksgiving with fourteen videos for every song on the album and an acoustic version of the album. At the same time we’re developing an App that will deliver all that to you across all platforms. So that’s a pretty special one.”
“But most of the latest news, information and endeavors that I partake in these days I post daily on www.julianlennon.com and there are a lot of projects.”
Ray Shasho: What about touring?
Julian Lennon: “I don’t know about touring. I’ve stated many times that I’ve pretty much played most size venues around the world in one way, shape, or another. I’ve done the lowest to the highest. If I did go on the road again, it would really be in my mind sort of a one night only in major cities around the world for charity. The White Feather Foundation maybe in conjunction with another and with a full or partial orchestra. That is what as an artist and as a humanitarian I prefer to do.”
Ray Shasho: Julian, thank you so much for being on the call today, but more importantly for all the incredible music you’ve given us and continue to bring. Please don’t forget Florida if you decide to tour.
Julian Lennon: “Florida is on the list if we ever get around to it.
Thank you very much Ray, it’s been an absolute pleasure … Cheers!”
Purchase Everything Changes Julian Lennon’s brilliant new album at amazon.com and iTunes
Julian Lennon official website www.julianlennon.com
Julian Lennon photography at www.julianlennon-photography.com
Julian Lennon charities www.julianlennon.com/charity White Feather Foundation, Prince’s Trust, and The Lupus Foundation
Julian Lennon on Facebook
Julian Lennon on Myspace
Julian Lennon on Twitter
Very special thanks to Kim Estlund
Contact classic rock music journalist Ray Shasho at email@example.com
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