After a decade-plus hiatus, Julian Lennon is making music again, and on his own terms.
The singer-songwriter is prepping an album for spring 2010, and on December 15, his company theRevolution will release a four-track EP featuring the charity single "Lucy." The song pays tribute to Lennon's childhood friend Lucy Vodden, who inspired the Beatles classic "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."
Vodden, who died in September of complications from lupus, was famously depicted by Julian Lennon in a watercolour painting that prompted his father, John Lennon, to write the surrealist "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" tune. Julian told Billboard.com that his charity single came together quickly after Vodden's death, when he was laying down background vocals for a song by one of theRevolution's new artists, James Scott Cook.
"I learned of Lucy's passing during the actual process," Lennon said. "I'd reacquainted myself with her through friends and businesspeople about two years ago, so I knew of her plight and was actually helping her to hopefully have a little more comfort in life."
Coincidentally, the song Lennon was helping Cook record was called "Lucy." Within a day the artists had reworked the song's lyrics and arrangement to make it a duet that celebrated Vodden's life, as well as Cook's 92-year-old grandmother. "She's also suffered from lupus all her life, and her name is Lucy," says Lennon. "The song was done in an evening. We thought, 'If we're going to do this, let's do it now in memory of Lucy, while we're all here and we have the energy.'"
Proceeds from purchases of the single will go to the St. Thomas' Lupus Trust in Great Britain and the Lupus Foundation of America, two nonprofit organizations working to fight the autoimmune disease. The EP also will feature an acoustic version of "Lucy," the song "Sober" from Cook's upcoming album and the track "Beautiful" from Lennon's new album, "Everything Changes."
"It's actually the slowest and most emotional track on the album," Lennon said. "It was written about people I know and my friends know that have passed on in life."
'CAN'T HELP IT'
"Everything Changes" will be Lennon's first album since 1998's "Photograph Smile," which arrived seven years after "Help Yourself," his last release before parting ways with Atlantic Records. He's spent the past 12 years focussed on business pursuits and filmmaking (he produced the 2006 documentary "Whaledreamers"), but eventually he felt compelled to start writing songs again.
"I can't help it -- I just have melodies and lyrical ideas that just come into my head whether I like it or not," he said. "I'm almost plagued by it ... so I figure, I've got to get it out my system."
In comparison with "Photograph Smile," which was recorded with a full orchestra, the instrumentation on Lennon's new album was put together in a more piecemeal fashion. "It was done mostly at home, in my own time and just by working closely with friends," he said. "Whenever they'd pop by for a cup of tea, I'd go, 'Fancy putting a bassline on this or doing some cello or backgrounds?' It was a pleasant process for me."
Once he'd pulled together an album's worth of material, Lennon believed it was crucial that he come up with a new business model for releasing it. "I finished my album about a year ago, but with the demise of the labels and everything that was going on, I just didn't see anything I quite wanted to sink my teeth into," he said. "I felt like there were potentially other ideas out there."
With theRevolution, Lennon has teamed up with digital entrepreneurs Michael Birch and Todd Meagher to fund artists like himself and connect them with music services like tour logistics, marketing and distribution. He said the company will provide most of these services through its subsidiary, the Artist Alliance, and its affiliates. "I'm hoping that it is revolutionary," Lennon said. "I think we have more manoeuvrability within the market than many other companies. Should we need to change something on the drop of a hat, we can do that."
Lennon added that the type of artists he'd like theRevolution to support are "damn good singer-songwriters ... I'm still very much old-school. I love an album that has its ebbs and flows and contemplates life."