Opening of 'Valotte'
Acoustic Café: That's
the title track from 'Valotte' the best selling 1983 
debut by this week's in studio guest Julian Lennon. When the
record came out just three years after his father's death people treated
him like John reincarnated. The fact that he looked and sounded a
lot like his dad didn't help and there was even talk of a Beatle reunion
with Julian taking his dad's place. Julian wasn't too happy with the
situation. He felt like the music industry was trying to package him
in his father's image instead of letting him be himself. And after
another few albums he went into semi-retirement.
Then last year he came out with the critically acclaimed
'Photograph Smile' - his first album in seven years - and the
public reaction was totally different. European critics fell all over
themselves praising it and the German Edition of Rolling Stone called
it 'a mature work of genius.'
The album just came out here in the states in February
and Julian talked about his long musical journey on a recent visit
to Acoustic Cafe.
Julian: Finally for me, it's what
I feel is the true beginning of my career. Because I felt a lot
of it was very manipulated beforehand you know, there was a lot
of influence whether it was from - you know - managers, record
companies, or even producers to a certain degree. And I just felt
that there never truly was a full body of work that I was happy
with as far as an album before.
There were moments. But after being in the industry
for so long and being so frustrated by the people I was working
with and what I felt was happening to me and I felt disrespected
as an artist in my own right as far as the people I was working
with and they were supposed to be nurturing me! (laughs) which
was NOT the case. After too many broken promises and what I felt
was truly a lack of support on their behalf - I don't think they
knew what to do with me really. You know, I had just had enough.
Time to get out of here.
It was a blessing in disguise having this break
because it allowed me to stand back and look at what had happened
to me. And also figure out who the hell I was outside of the
industry. Because I had had no time to myself to really
think about ME - you know. And it also enabled me to actually live
and breath and you know sort of reflect on what had happened and
also I felt that I had problems not only on a professional level
but personal level there I needed to solve in order to continue.
And a part of that was not having balance in life. Because before
it was always 100% music or the industry and no time for anything
else or anybody else. Because there are other things in life you
know that are as important if not more important these days and
obviously as we get older we realize these things. And you know,
I just don't want to do that thing anymore. I want to be
able to write and to record and get out and play sometimes but there's
so many other things in life that I want to achieve as well. I mean
the main motivation I think for coming back was not only having
written the songs which were not particularly for an album. They
were just for the challenge of writing because I've always considered
it an art form, a craft and I've always considered myself a serious
songsmith so to speak. And after having written you know, up to
20 or 30 if not more finished - pretty much finished tracks you
know and hearing friends and other people around me saying 'you
can't just put this on the shelf.'
I mean the main motivation was that I - that if
I was going to say goodbye to the industry that the last four albums
were not a good enough legacy to leave behind. I didn't want to
walk away with that. And I wanted to have put something out that
I felt in control of. That I had overseen the whole project basically
and was the final yes - no man at the end of the day. You know.
'I Should Have Known' Acoustic
Acoustic Café: That's Julian Lennon
joined in this week's appearance by Matt Backer and a song from the
album 'Photograph Smile' called 'I Should Have Known.'
You ended up doing 30 some songs right?
Julian: 30 something songs yeah.
Acoustic Café: That's a whole 'nother
Julian: Yeah, that's a whole 'nother
Acoustic Café: And actually what got
left off and for what reasons? Was it too similar to what was already
there? Or different?
Julian: Well some of the stuff
was a little similar to what we - what is on this present album.
I think next time around the - as well as still approaching it from
the raw side - there will be a slightly harder edge on one or two
of the tracks you know. But still - still writing the very intimate,
warm, solo stuff as well you know.
Acoustic Café: This record has been
out in Europe for almost a year.
Julian: Almost a year. Yeah.
Acoustic Café: Right? Spring of '98.
Julian: That's correct. Yes.
Acoustic Café: I heard about this the
second it came out. I got an email from Germany. Someone said 'you
know there is this new Julian Lennon record.' So being a good
music fan in the late 1990s I did what everyone does you go to the
web. And I found this on your website.
Julian: The birth of the record
company site. Yes
Acoustic Café: It looked like - It
looked like you where intending this perhaps as just a European project.
Was that the intent? Was there an intention..
Julian: Oh yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Because as an artist when you are releasing an album you know the
majority tend to release you know, an album - I mean most major
labels tend to release an album worldwide all at one go. And as
an artist having to go on a promo tour you're dealing with insanity.
You can't physically be everywhere in the world at once. So just
from a logical point of view I said "Whoa hold on. Let's just
do Europe first or parts of Europe first lay a foundation there.
Move slowly on to the far east and Japan and Australia. Try and
get some chart positions over there. Try and get some great reviews
and build up a great foundation for eventually coming into America.
Acoustic Café: You're doing your own
Julian: Exactly. Exactly! (both
laugh) Well the most natural one possible.
Acoustic Café: Sure
Julian: And that was the approach
all the way is to have it run as smoothly and as naturally as possible.
The idea is - well at least how it worked here and in a lot of countries
was a lot of word of mouth.
Acoustic Café: Well that's exactly
how I heard about it a year in advantage.
Julian: Exactly. And I think that's
- you know it takes longer obviously but I think that in the long
run that affords me a better foundation you know. And it re-establishes
me a bit more from a grounded point of view than from an image/marketing
point of view. Which was the point really - you know - it's all
about the music. I mean for me from day one it's been all about
the music. It's never been about having an image - a facade - you
know, 'the son of' or this that or the other. You know, as I've
said before, it's an art form and it's a craft and the music is
what's most important to me.
Acoustic Café: That's the first stateside
single from the album 'Photograph Smile' it's called 'Day After
Day' from our in studio guest Julian Lennon.
On your - lets call it your first career or your pre-music
career if you want to call it that (Julian laughs) of - we know -
we know what Atlantic's expectations were we know what their whole
angle was what were your - but your were A LOT younger...
Julian: But they were the cause
of my demise as well.
Acoustic Café: But what were your expectations
going in at that time. Did you say this - 'It is all about the music
Julian: Well you know the first
album was comfortably put together you know. It wasn't - it wasn't
really a pressured situation it was only after. You know and
I felt pretty good about the whole thing. I was obviously naive
and nervous and ignorant to many degrees but after finishing my
first ever world tour and being totally overwhelmed by it and enjoying
it and thinking 'oh wow! That was fantastic! But ok. Now I'll get
a chance to breath a little bit and then I'll be able to start writing
again naturally as I've always done. And then we will be able to
put the album together.' That wasn't the circumstance of course.
It was you know the president of the company at that time saying
'Ok where is he? He's coming off the road? Get him back in the studio
we need another hit.' And you know that was done within two months
and it was - 'This is insane! What? Are you crazy?' It was pretty
raw and rough and I was more pissed than you can imagine at you
know - having to pretend that this was one big happy family with
Atlantic yet being forced into a business positions which I - you
know, because I was contractually obligated that I had no control
Not that I didn't have some fun doing some of the
other albums you know, but none the less it was still not my ideal
Acoustic Café: One final note that
just occurred to me today when listening to the new record and balanced
against my memories of the first record
Acoustic Café: And it occurred to me
there are people who were born when your first record came out that
are just now hitting their music - that peak music buying, music loving
stage of life.
Acoustic Café: 15. Who can approach
your music entirely without filters that somebody my age/older/and
even a little younger has - is just always going to have. There is
just - there is always going to be something churning. But these people
can just approach you as Julian Lennon and Sean's work as well. Same
Julian: Absolutely. Absolutely.
See I always felt that was going to happen at some stage it was
just a question of time. And I'm a man of great patience and you
know there are still the critics out there that the change will
never happen but it will. And the most interesting was the first
interview I did in the seven years in Germany was a kid who was
in his - I guess early to mid- twenties who actually got turned
on to the Beatles due to listening to my work. So I a happy camper
with that. I said 'Finally. It's about time but it's starting to
happen and that made me very, very happy.'
'Good To Be
Acoustic Café: 'Good To Be Lonely'
another one from our in studio guest this week - Julian Lennon and
he is joined in the appearance by Matt Backer. Julian's new album
is called 'Photograph Smile.'
©1999 Acoustic Café