Musician Julian Lennon had his musical debut with the hit album, “Valotte” which was produced by Phil Ramone. He has since released 5 albums and has enjoyed a career as a photographer. He’s also a dedicated advocate for several charities and causes. Julian stopped by the SiriusXM studios recently to talk with Ron Bennington about his new album, “Everything Changes.” Excerpts from the interview appear below, and you can hear him perform two songs of the album following the excerpts. The interview can be heard in it’s entirety exclusively on SiriusXM satellite radio.
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Ron Bennington: First of all, congratulations on this. It’s actually a beautiful album. Are you happy with the album?
Julian Lennon: Yeah, it wouldn’t be out there if I wasn’t. For me, it was probably the most organic album that I’ve done so far. For me, it was really songwriting for the sake of songwriting. And then having enough material and finally saying, “Well, what’s the point in doing this if I don’t put it out there?” It was a bit worrying because with the label situation, I wasn’t really willing to work with labels anymore, and I’d worked with a couple of indie labels. So, it took me a few years to really figure out that I really had to do it myself this time around, completely independent. That’s the route I ventured down. It’s a bit of a scary road, but so far so good.
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Ron Bennington: It’s always interested me, you hear things in your head. The song will kind of start to appear?
Julian Lennon: The strange thing is, even before I’ve finished a song, if I have an idea, whether it’s lyrical – but more so if it’s melodically orientated or it’s a piece of music on guitar or piano – I generally can hear a finished production in my head of what that could be, regardless of whether I’ve got the words or lyrics to it at that point in time. It’s kind of backwards, the way I do things. Sometimes I get the song first and that’s it, and then I go into production. But more often than not, I’ve always loved production, and I kind of let loose on this album with old school and new school types of production. But as always, the songwriting has to be as solid as ever. That’s why I wanted to make sure that I could do all of this acoustically if I ever really had to, which is cool on a full-produced album like this.
Ron Bennington: Absolutely. Particularly when you’re thinking from a production point of view, and then when you’re going up and doing like what you’re going to do for us today, the song itself, just the skeleton of the song has to be there.
Julian Lennon: Yeah, absolutely no question about it. If you can’t whistle it, then you shouldn’t be doing it.
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Ron Bennington: Now, when you say you think production first, it is certain producers that you grew up listening to?
Julian Lennon: No question, Phil Ramone was number one on my list, because initially I fell in love with his work because of his work with Billy Joel. Because that encompassed quite a few different production styles, varying from album to album. I guess this album is a culmination of everybody I’ve ever listened to, really, and liked, one way or another. Again, old school production, traditional recording, analog and acoustic, and real instruments, and also a plethora of homemade samples and other weird and strange electronic sounds here and there and everywhere.
Ron Bennington: It’s strange, though. There’s people – Largo in Los Angeles that has Aimee Mann and Jon Brion and those types of things. I see this album fitting in perfectly with Fiona Apple… and all those people are kind of working independently.
Julian Lennon: Very much. Yes, yes, yes.
Ron Bennington: So there is this thing of singer/songwriters who also have this love of production.
Julian Lennon: Yeah, I guess so. I think how a song is produced relates to how it actually gets out there, and how it’s expressed to people. I think the material kind of dictates the way the production should be. And that’s why I say before that if I hear a certain melody or a few chords here and there on a piano or a guitar, I automatically think of how that should be produced, because it almost tells me what to do in reality.
Ron Bennington: Now, do you think this is a learned skill, or it’s just something that is someplace your head has just gone anyway?
Julian Lennon: I’ve always heard things. I’ve always heard things in my head.
Ron Bennington: It’s the mystery of creativity, isn’t it?
Julian Lennon: I think so. A lot of it comes from the ether, no question about that. I think grabbing it and translating it –
Ron Bennington: Right, there’s craft.
Julian Lennon: That’s where the craft comes in, and I think through pretty much almost 30 years of being involved in the industry myself as an artist, and now as a producer too, I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve listened to a lot of stuff. A lot material in those 30 years. So, I’m not a new kid on the block in that regard.
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Ron Bennington: Tell me about the guys that you’re on the road here with now, and what’s happening.
Julian Lennon: At the moment, I didn’t want to put a full band together because at this point in time, I’m not going on the road. I want to see and feel how the album is received, so I brought in Mark Spiro, who’s a great, great friend of mine and a gifted songwriter and performer in his own right. He and I have written many, many great songs together over the years – past couple of albums. Justin Clayton, of course, one of my oldest friends in the world. Known him since the age of 11, so that’s a few years. And Jason, who’s joined us, who’s a friend of Mark’s, who’s an incredible keyboard player and plays on that bloody box over there, which is fantastic. I always forget what it’s called half the time.
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Ron Bennington: Is it easier to write with someone or alone, has it changed?
Julian Lennon: I’m not one to rush a song. Generally, at least how this album came about was, I’d have ideas. I may have most of a song, but maybe missing a middle eight, or a little bridge, or something. And more often than not, would have friends like Mark or Justin stop by for a weekend or a bit of a holiday. They’ll say, “What’ve you been up to?” and I say, “Have a listen to this.” They’ll say, “You want some help?” or, “Should we work together on this?” or “Shall I play bass?” or – That’s how it worked. It was very, very organic and slowly but surely. So yeah, I enjoy working with other people. It’s great to be able to do stuff myself, which I’m absolutely capable of. But I enjoy the process of seeing what other people think, and what direction they may take me in. Even with one chord, you can go in a completely different direction. So, for me, that’s an interesting process to work with other people. I think it’s a joy.
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Ron Bennington: Well, as I said, it’s just a gorgeous album, and knowing that you were there with Phil Ramone from early on in life –
Julian Lennon: I tell you what saddens me the most, because I’m the ambassador for the Lupus Foundation of America, and Phil Ramone’s wife Karen has Lupus. So, I saw him at the last event last October, I believe it was. And he looked better than I’d seen him in years.
Ron Bennington: Yes, he was in that day.
Julian Lennon: He was more focused, more together, he was on the ball. And we hooked up, and we started talking about, “We should get together and do something again. It’s been too long already.” And we were both in the mood, and then the next thing I hear is that he’s passed. And I just, I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it, because it just seemed completely out of place, considering how he’d sort of turned around and was re-energized and was refocused again. It’s such a, such a sad thing that he passed.
Ron Bennington: And yet amazing that you had the opportunity to work with him. Because, like I said, he was in – the day he got that award, he came in and did the show with me, and when he left – he was just one of those people that I’m like, “Man, I’m just so glad I had the chance to talk to someone – “
Julian Lennon: You want to talk about a hero, and someone’s history, and the amount of work that that man had achieved over the years. He transformed the music industry in many, many regards. How the Grammies are operated, this, that, and the other… His ideas that came from years and years – the early days – are phenomenal.
Ron Bennington: Oh, yeah. Some of the stuff that he knows just about sound. Forget music, but just sound itself. Phenomenal.
Julian Lennon: Yeah, he was a genius. No question.
Ron Bennington: Very, very lucky for you to have had that experience, and I think it’s carrying through on this album. I can definitely hear –
Julian Lennon: Well, that’s too kind of you. I will take that. Thank you very, very much.
Ron Bennington: The album is “Everything Changes.” It’s available in stores and online. Julianlennon.com. Julian, thank you so much for stopping by, man. I really enjoyed it.
Julian Lennon: My absolute pleasure. I hope we did you proud.
You can hear this interview in its entirety exclusively on SiriusXM satellite radio. Not yet a subscriber? Click here for a free trial subscription.
You can learn more about Ron Bennington’s two interview shows, Unmasked and Ron Bennington Interviews at RonBenningtonInterviews.com.