At 50, Julian Lennon feels as though his creative career is finally within his control.
The artist, who described himself as label-averse, in so many words, said he's never been interested in "striving for the limelight" or exhaustive promotional touring to support his work.
That's why he took his time with Everything Changes, his first solo effort since 1998's Photograph Smile.
"I just felt that I’d rather pull myself out of the situation and rethink the situation and look at all my options," Lennon said.
He describes the album as a mix of social commentary and personal expression. If it’s a bit open-ended—and it does have "a dreamy, floaty quality," he said—it's communicating “my version of a way to think about things without shoving it down people’s throats."
“I never learned to read or write music in any shape or form,” Lennon said. “I literally only sit down to play an instrument when I have an idea and I want to record it.
“For me, the music of a song has to portray a given emotion, and that has to be the same emotion that the lyrics give, and the same thing with the melody.
“Once those three elements come together and say exactly the same thing, that’s when I get goosebumps, and that’s when I feel inside that I’ve nailed it.”
'Everything that happens to you is your fault'
The title track, “Everything Changes,” reflects Lennon’s hope that despite the darkness of life “there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.”
“I got to the point where, turning 50, I just thought, ‘I’ve got to start considering what I feel is correct and not be listening to what the media told me I should be,’” he said.
“A friend of mine many, many years ago said to me, ‘Everything that happens to you is your fault. I kept saying, ‘Bugger off, how dare you say that!’ Well you do; everything you do; even our breath affects everything else in this world, in this universe.”
In many ways, that epiphany helped Lennon to let himself off the hook for a life lived forever in the shadow of one of the most famous people in history.
Being able to shake off the weight of public opinion enabled him to connect with the things he really wanted to communicate in art, music and photography.
“If you’re a real artist, get on with the work and move forward,” he said. “When you allow yourself that freedom to be you, you can achieve so many things in life.
In a nod to that freedom, or the feeling that he’s earned the ability to acknowledge his legacy with a bit more equanimity, the album even includes a musical moment that reflects Lennon’s confidence creating a work he feels is fit to stand beside that of his famous father.
On the song “Someday,” Lennon samples The Beatles’ “Baby You’re a Rich Man,” as co-performed by rocker Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.
The product of a fair bit of kismet—Lennon says he and Tyler heard the same refrain in their heads independently—it remained on the album “regardless of what Sony Publishing wanted from my hienie and everyone else’s, which was beyond steep,” he said.
“Whether that was divine intervention, our spirits or our minds were aligned at that point in time, something happened just then and it freaked both of us out,” Lennon said.
It’s a move Lennon said he couldn’t have made earlier in his career; one he believes reflects his desire not to put aside his past, but to make his own future.
“I think I’m at the beginning of what my life’s really about,” Lennon said. “The last 50 years has been a good schooling.”
Everything Changes is Julian Lennon's sixth studio album. Produced in 2011, it came to the United States this summer.