Julian Lennon may happen to be the son of John Lennon, but he has several projects in the works and has definitely become an artist in his own right. In addition to photography and his own music, he is very active with the White Feather Foundation, which he founded to conserve life, specifically helping those without access to clean water and sanitation.
It’s a cause dear to Julian’s heart and he touched on it while chatting with TheCelebrityCafe.com on Wednesday. He also spoke about his recently released album, Everything Changes. Topics from the interview include his favorite causes, social media, the music industry and his influences.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Everything Changes is an optimistic title and the lyrics are certainly looking to the future. Since you’re really into environmentalism and helping the environment, it’s something I notice on your Facebook page a lot, could you talk about more changes that you’re looking forward to in the world? What are you hoping could get changed soon?
Julian Lennon: Listen, there’s a million and one things! (Laughs) We might as well be sitting down here for a week if we’re going to talk about all the things that need changing and fixing in this world. Obviously, there’s a lot of greed in the world. We all see that. There’s a lot of injustice in the world. Obviously, there’s a lot of misinformation in the world. So, there’s a lot to be doing and dealing with.
Fortunately, I think there are a few brave knights, so to speak, that are standing up and trying to make, not only great awareness but some serious changes in the world. I’m talking about in the entertainment industry, now, the likes of [George] Clooney, the likes of [Angelina] Jolie, the likes of Bono... [Matt] Damon. These are people who are out in the public forum and in the media, whether it be overblown in the public eye or not, more so in Damon’s case. People who have a sense of caring for the world.
We all seem to forget that if we don’t take care of the world, we’re out of here. We’re done. The world is not an endless source of goodness and badness for us to screw around with. It’s far more complex than that.
For me, I just try to do as much as I can, my own little bit. Predominantly, I am a musician and now photographer, but I certainly am putting more than my two sense in regards to trying to do something good, trying to do some positive things in the world. Whether it’s with my own White Feather Foundation and slowly, but surely, we’re working with other great charities and NGOs around the world to do some good. ... When you’re dealing with so many issues in the world, even our human basic rights, which are having clean water...and medicines... It’s ridiculous that in a world where so many levels have so much money and the other end of the scale has none... I’ve always thought that it was the most ridiculous thing in the entire world.
I guess what some of us are trying to do is balance that out and even it out a little bit however we can.
TCC.com: With the White Feather Foundation, what’s your personal cause? Like the one thing that drives you insane...that you really wish you could change right this very moment?
Julian: Again, I think there are a couple of headers here. Obviously, clean water is crucial first and foremost for survival. It absolutely is. On the next level is obviously medicine, in my mind, and the ridiculous cost of it. The pharmaceutical companies are really raping and pillaging most of us... in fact, most of anybody. It’s truly disgusting. It’s widely known that there are certain...I won’t go into saying that there are complete cures for major diseases out there, but certainly, drug companies are withholding just to make a buck. It’s pretty widely known and quite sickening.
But, First and foremost, I’d have to probably say water and there’s a lot of injustice as well. What can you say?
TCC.com: It’s like you have to pick the battle you want to fight. As you said before there’s so much going on...
Julian: I’ve got to tell you that most things I’ve dealt with are projects that have come to me... So in many respects, how I’ve worked with the White Feather Foundation is in a very organic approach. Because once the foundation was set up, I’d get lots of people like... Well, this is how the foundation got started. I was on tour in Australia and I was at the hotel and I had this group of Aboriginal tribe elders calling to meet me down stairs. I’m saying, “What’s this about?” Then they approach me and give me this white feather and say can you help us? You have a voice. So, I really took that onboard.
Most of the projects that I’ve worked on, or what the foundation has worked on, have come to us. People who have really been in need, have no other options, that nobody else is willing to help. It can be anything from working with already established NGOs in countries around the world to dig for pumps and wells...etc., etc. Even simpler are the projects like rebuilding an orphanage or supplying wheelchairs to people in the middle of nowhere who just don’t have wheelchairs. And the list goes on in that regard, whether it’s supplying papers and pencils for schools for education.
One of the main things that I really like to keep on top of is the work we do with an organization called ACT, which is the Amazon Conservation Team, which basically tries to maintain the cultures that have come before from the indigenous tribes in the Amazon and trying to keep those alive. Trying to further educate the future generations so they’re culture isn’t lost in today’s world because obviously it’s decreasing yearly, if not in less time than that as the modern world is encroaching and changing for everybody. It’s trying to hold on to a few of those very important, very special things that may in the long run - and I think may have already - taught things about the future. There’s certain ways of doing things and it’s called respecting people around you and mother earth. And it you’re going to screw with that, you’re screwing with yourself really. That’s what it comes down to.
TCC.com: One of the tracks on the new album that came off really strongly to me was “Somedays,” which is the second track on the new version of the album. I guess you had released it a couple of years ago and then it came out again...
Julian: Well, no, no. People have got to get this straight. I just released a version of it in England two years ago, that was it. And it was with an independent company that I partnered with and I fell out of love with them and they fell out of love with me and we decided to part ways. And so that was before we decided to release it anywhere in the world. So, I’d initially done the deal with this really small company in the U.K. to see if we could work together and it didn’t work out. I pulled away from that, thinking that well, let me think about this. Should I fully go independently on this, because I’d always talked about it and done that in principle but never actually really, really done it myself.
So, I sat back and I went to LA to meet with a few people that had been recommended to me in the PR and marketing and management. I literally ran into Steven Tyler and we got on lookout so far and he invited me to go sing on [Aerosmith’s] album and I said, “Listen, wanna do a bit of work? I’m releasing the album that I released in the U.K. Everything Changes, but maybe if we work together, I could consider putting it on the album out here and for the rest of the world.”
Mark Spiro, who’s a dear friend of mine and a co-writer, is based in LA, too, so we’ve all worked together before. And then, one thing led to another and I wrote another song with Mark and I thought, if it’s not too late, why not put these on the album for the rest of the world?
For me, they added a bit more light and shade compared to the U.K. release, which I was happier about, in fact, in the end. So, I guess in my mind, it was kind of meant to be. But, it really was a difference... this is really not a re-release as such, this is a the release of Everything Changes. The U.K. version is just a different version and that was a few years ago.
TCC.com: Do you have a preference?
Julian: No...the new or Everything Changes as it stands now...if I had written with Steven Tyler or Mark Spiro two years ago, maybe those songs would have been on the album two years ago. Obviously, I like the now or the updated version, otherwise, I wouldn’t have put [the songs] on the album.
TCC.com: I’m interested in how the music industry has changed over the past few years with any label... you could just personally release things online now. If you had the option of releasing Everything Changes by yourself, would you have done something like that?
Julian: Well, I did completely release it myself. Obviously, I’ve utilized the likes of iTunes and other social networking sites because otherwise, how are you going to be seen or heard? That is the key issue with today’s virtual world. You still need a really decent PR and marketing in that world to be seen or heard. Because of course, in this day and age, you’re dealing with - even compared to five years ago - millions more artists out there.
It’s a really, really tough place to be right now. Yes, you’ve got your independence as an artist and you can self release, but you’ve got to come up with some clever ideas to be seen and heard, whether that’s the promo campaigns that you do or the videos that you do or alliances that you set up and create through that. If you don’t have a major label behind you, then you’re in a tough place. You really have to work your backside off to be seen and heard.
TCC.com: I guess you could say that’s what separates the big boys from the ameteurs? The ability to have marketing machines behind you...
Julian: I think that people fail to realize that just putting something up on a website or on Facebook isn’t really going to cut the mustard. I mean, for me, I think I’m at about maybe 400,000 to 450,000 at the moment and that comes from on Facebook, the initial social media site, building those fans up. I mean, that’s because I’ve literally spent near enough... every day of my life for half an hour to an hour in the morning and half an hour to an hour in the evening, in between the other work that I do, in chatting and being in touch with fans and other social networks.
It’s been that personal element and actually taking the time and effort to be there and to communicate and to promo yourself that I think has made the difference. If you want to reach out, then you have to be there to do it. You can’t expect other people to do it for you or pretend to be you. It doesn’t work like that, you know?
TCC.com: Would you mind quickly chatting about any musical influences that might have popped up on Everything Changes?
Julian: I wouldn’t say that there were outwardly obvious influences, I mean, apart from the obvious. To me, my musical influences have always been the same, they’ve never really changed. They’ve expanded over the years to include some of the newer and latest artists, quite a few unknowns.
...For instance, there’s a song called “Disconnected” that leans a little towards Led Zep, who were one of my all-time favorite rock bands. But apart from that, I’ve always like the same musicians and artists. The likes of obviously, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Steely Dan, Keith Jarrett, the Blue Nile, the list goes on. It really does... It’s what influences you that puts a smile on your face when you listen to the radio, it’s the same thing really. It’s whatever tickles your fancy.