The Musical Landscape of
Julian Lennon

By Russell Hall
Performing Songwriter December 1999
Page 3 of 5

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l to r: ?, Justin Clayton, Manny Elias, Julian Lennon, Robbie Blunt, Gregory Darling, Matt Backer

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At what point did you decide to utilize an orchestra?

Bob was the person who introduced me to live orchestra. After he had written one or two arrangements, we went into the studio and I heard the live orchestra, and I absolutely flipped. Even the orchestral music, on its own, was so engaging, and so emotional, and added so much more to the track. From day one, the idea was to make an album that was so honest, so simple, and so straightforward, that the songs themselves would tell Bob and me how to produce them purely from their nature or style. The idea was to use the natural ambiance of the room, and to avoid going the route of modern technology, with digital effects and so forth. We wanted the album to be warm, honest, and truthful.


When I first started teaching myself how to play piano - God knows how many years ago - I found that I loved the expression of the instrument, because it got me into an emotional grove.


The album is beautifully produced. There are lots of subtle things going on that don't get in the way of the song, and yet they would be missed if they weren't there.

Absolutely. That was one of the problems I experienced in the past. I felt a lot of the songs on earlier albums got swallowed up by the production. There was way too much going on, to the point that you could barely hear the vocals half the time.

Was there a deliberate decision, at some point, to stay away from rock-oriented songs, and stick to a lush sound?

Well, obviously, I find that the older I get, the truer to myself I become. And I'm sure that on future albums there will be [even] more classically oriented, ballad-type stuff. When I first started teaching myself how to play piano - God knows how many years ago - I found that I loved the expression of the instrument, because it got me into an emotional groove. Long before I began writing actual songs, I was writing improvisational, 20- or 30-minute classically oriented pieces. My main influences were - and still are - people like Keith Jarrett.

A bit later, though, I started thinking, "Well, if anyone's going to listen to me, then I had better try to create a song.' It was a matter of teaching myself to knock a 30-minute musical piece into something with lyrics and hooks and so forth. So this album is really the first chance I've had to show the other side of these things I've always loved. This kind of material touches me more deeply than up-tempo pop stuff, and I find it more challenging as well.

Does that mean that 'I Don't Wanna Know,' which has obvious Beatlesque qualities, was a kind of concession? Were you thinking, "Well, I'll give the Beatles' fans something?"

Oh, very much so. It was actually a last minute decision to put that song on the album. After I felt I had proved my self-worth as a writer - and felt comfortable and happy about what I was doing - I thought, "You know, after all these years of critics saying, "He sounds just like the Beatles," or "He sounds just like his Dad," and my shying away from that ... I mean, it was an impossible situation. People were comparing one album of mine to the Beatles' entire catalog. So I just decided, okay, I'll sit down and write a mid '60s Beatlesque song, and sing it as close to Dad's nasal, throaty style as possible.


People were comparing one album of mine to the Beatle's entire catalog. So I just decided, okay, I'll sit down and write a mid '60s Beatlesque song, and sing it as close to Dad's nasal, throaty style as possible.


And part of it, too, was that this time around, when people say, "You know, you sound just like the Beatles," or "You sound just like your dad,' I wanted to be able to say, "Well, yes I do. Now that we both recognize that, can we move on?" I mean, the comparison bit has been done for over ten years now. The similarity is obviously there, and I've come to terms with my influences. So the song was done specifically for that purpose, and it was fun to do, really.

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