Every Little Moment: Julian Lennon Interviewed

"I like the unexpected aspect of making music..."

For a while there, Julian Lennon had laid his music career to rest. Undeniably successful – he scored trans-Atlantic hits, and chalked up six acclaimed albums over three decades – label politics and press intrusion simply took their toll. So, he claimed his exit, with the English-born and now Monaco-based artist pouring his energies into other fields. Perhaps better known to younger observers as a documentary film maker and photographer, 2022’s surprise album ‘Jude’ saw Lennon reverse a decade-long trend, laying a few elements of unfinished business to rest in the process.

“In all honesty, I never thought I would do another album,” he tells Clash over Zoom. “I was quite happy working on documentaries, photography projects. That was my life. I had fun in the music business, but I was out of it all.”

The spur for his album came from the chance discovery of an archive of tapes, featuring seemingly ‘lost’ material. “I separated from my business partner, and as a result of this we found ourselves looking through some old, old boxes. And lo and behold, there were about three or four boxes just packed with old demo tapes! Reel to reel stuff. I lined them up, and the first track we listened to was ‘Every Little Moment’. And I thought, this actually sounds alright!”

“It’s not that I had forgotten the song, it’s just that it never quite fit into any of my other projects… so we just decided to leave it.”

Written over the course of 30 to 40 years, the songs fell into place quite naturally. Playing each tape, he would stumble across another gem, and this process also spurred him on to begin writing again. Inspired album highlight ‘Freedom’ is one such song that emerged from the ether, spun out of a sketch found on a reel-to-reel. Pausing at the memory, he says: “I heard it, and immediately fell in love with the soundscape of it all…”

“As we continued the process, I started getting the buzz back,” he enthuses. As luck would have it, a certain globe-halting pandemic stopped the album in its tracks, with Julian then using the internet to connect with his collaborators. This simply increased his tenacity to see the project through, however. 

“I feel like a painter that stepped away from the canvas,” he comments. “Ever since I’ve been a child, music has moved me. It can comfort me. It can act as a guide. When I’m working on visual art, or a documentary, it’s about channelling the message. And my songwriting is the same, it’s about showing life in certain circumstances.”

“Music just keeps drawing me back! I mean, I’m not a practising musician. I can’t read or write music. But I like that, I like the mystery. If I knew what I was doing half the time, I’d be screwed!”

A gregarious, infectious figure, Julian beams at the camera as his enthusiasm surges. It’s clear that music holds a very central role in his life. “I like the unexpected aspect of making music. When you sit down at a piano, you’re never sure where you’re going to end up. Sometimes it’s something good, sometimes it’s nothing at all. You know, you can’t always catch that fish! But sometimes you do, and I’ve been very fortunate with this album.”

The finished results speak for themselves. ‘Jude’ is arguably the strongest, most coherent album of his career – take the wonderful closing statement ‘Gaia’, featuring Elissa Lauper and Blue Nile hero Paul Buchanan. Pieced together from separate cities, Julian first tracked down Elissa, urging her to contribute. “She sent me a demo over email the next morning, and oh my God I got goosebumps. It was perfect. Perfect.”

As for Paul Buchanan, their re-union is something the songwriter cherishes. “I wrote the part, and said: just sing it! Sing that part for me. He did it on iPhone in the end, as all the studios were closed. And that’s what you hear at the end of editing and mixing. We love working together – we wrote a song called ‘Other Side Of Town’ years ago, which is one of my favourite things I’ve ever done. He’s a good lad. And one of the best there is, no question.”

The lyrics themselves deal with eco-politics, and the need to look after our planet. Julian Lennon has been espousing green policies for decades now, long before it entered the mainstream. “The thing is, I shouldn’t have to keep saying these messages,” he points out. “Writing more songs about the situation is just driving me nuts. It’s a hard fight, as you’re still dealing with issues of government, and commercial manipulation of all these arguments.”

There is, of course, the small matter of the album name. ‘Jude’ is a reference to ‘Hey Jude’, the song Paul McCartney famously wrote about John Lennon’s divorce, and the impact it had on Julian’s youth. A Beatles classic that generations around the globe have fallen in love with, it’s easy to forget that a person – a child, at that – lay at the centre of it all.

“I’ve taken ownership of the name,” he says simply. “I lived that life. I took that sad song and I made it better.”

“I’ve said everything I have to say on Dad or the Beatles, there are no more questions left to answer. So I’m kind of done. It’s kind of over now. And I just want to get on with my life, the way I’ve been living it over the past few years; working, working hard, and getting on with it… trying to be happy. Trying to find peace of mind.”

His work ethic is certainly to be admired. Whether that’s writing books for children or guiding documentaries about the hardships facing Native American women Julian Lennon’s CV is emphatically broad. Cutting himself loose from the music industry seemed to ignite a certain creative fire in him. “One of the reasons I stepped away from the music industry was due to the sniping… people saying, oh he only gets to where he does because of John! And it’s like, excuse me, have you seen the work I’ve done in the past fucking 10 years?!” he laughs. “Do a little reading! Educate yourself!”

As for his next step, it could involve a glance over his shoulder at the past. “I’m talking about a memoir of sorts. I don’t think it would be a traditional one, but then I don’t want to write a traditional one! I’d like it to be more visually oriented, as you can tell so many more stories that way. It would be a combination of both, I think.”

Right now, though, he remains in service of his album, in service of ‘Jude’. “I’d forgotten how demanding a promo tour can be,” he laughs with a grimace. “It’s all been on Zoom or Facetime, and I haven’t been in front of a camera for such a long time!”

‘Jude’ is out now.

Words: Robin Murray
Photo Credit: Robert Ascroft

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