Interview: Julian Lennon on living the dream

In this Q&A with creative Julian Lennon, Monaco Life explores his passions, achievements, dreams and place in the world. 

Julian Charles John Lennon, aka Jules to his friends, was born 8th April 1963, in Liverpool, England to the legendary singer/songwriter John Lennon and Cynthia Lennon. He later moved to L.A., but has been calling Monaco home for several years now.

Julian is a talented and accomplished author, singer, songwriter, musician, photographer, and philanthropist. The multifaceted artist opened up to Monaco Life about his passions and aspirations.

Monaco Life: You have many artistic pursuits; what art form do you most identify with?

Julian Lennon : It depends on the day. Recently, I had a photo exhibition in Portugal and spent over a month cataloguing and organising thousands of photos in my archives, so lately my focus has been on my photography. Also, I still plan to release further music early this year too.

But I’ve also begun to work on my memoir, so writing is about to take centre stage again.

What inspired you to start playing and making music? Can you describe your creative process when you write new music? And can you tell us about your favourite performance in your career?

When I was 10 years old, my dad bought me a guitar for Christmas. That certainly inspired me, but it was seeing my friend Justin Clayton learn during school breaks that first made me want to really join in, and then of course, when I did get to visit dad, he would teach me a few of the classic rock and roll songs.

The creative process for me is quite random… I can have an idea in my head, then sit at a piano, or pick up a guitar, and work the ideas further, until they come together as a song idea, or I’ll sit at a piano, or guitar, and start noodling. There is no pattern. It’s like the aether gives you a starting point, which you kind of feel like you have to follow through and finish.

My favourite show ever was in Hong Kong, at a High-end Music Festival, put on by Heiniken. Boyz II Men were playing, as was the number one female artist, and myself, and we rotated playing, over two nights, but the most beautiful thing about it was that it was with an 80 piece orchestra, it was the most amazing show, because I was touring with an album called Photograph Smile, which was completely orchestral.

Photograph ‘Salt on Sea’ by Julian Lennon

Who was your first music teacher(s)? What lessons did you learn that you still use today?

My first music teacher was actually a gym teacher – Mr Wynn at Kingsmead School. He was an old rock-and-roller who would give us lessons in the pool storeroom in between classes.

The only ‘lessons’ learned were the original rock and roll chords, that pretty much resonate through every R’n’R song ever written!

What is the best piece of advice another musician ever gave you?

Believe in yourself — be yourself — be original.

Which instruments do you play? Which is your favourite?

I just play by ear, and I’m not a practising musician, as such, so I only play when I write, and then record. I have to seriously rehearse, if there’s any question of playing live ever.

Favourite instrument? It’s like asking, which is your favourite cloud, or favourite sunset…  they are all magical.

What role does an artist like you have in society?

I think an artist’s role in society is to share what they creatively feel moved to put into the world. If the art inspires action or positive change, that’s wonderful – but I don’t believe it’s an artist’s responsibility to go in with that intention or it could result in something contrived.

What motivated you to publish the trilogy of bestselling children’s education books: Touch the Earth, Love the Earth and Heal the Earth?

It was actually my co-author, Bart Davis, who asked me “what are you doing for the kids?”. So, we thought that writing something educational, but not preachy, would be a great way to reach that age group, but also remind the parents too, that the issues we face in environmental and  humanitarian terms is not going away, any time soon, until everyone gets on board, as we’re all in this together.

What are the current projects of The White Feather Foundation that you created in 2007?

We are in our 16th year and our current projects include:

A new community piped water system, which the team has just begun construction on, to bring clean water to the people of Uttar Pradesh, India. We are working on that with our long-time partner charity: Water.

A campaign to help the tribe that inspired our charity, The Mirning, win the native title to their sea country, in a court case in Australia, which is currently underway.

An ongoing campaign for The Cynthia Lennon Scholarship for Girls, which I named in honour of my late mum to help girls in underprivileged communities worldwide get access to education.

We also just last month completed a campaign to raise funds for World Central Kitchen, which is currently feeding refugees displaced by the Israel-Hamas war.

‘Play time’ by Julian Lennon

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

I’ve been very moved by the letters, photos and videos from those who have benefitted from our charity, and shared how their lives have been helped by our community of supporters.

It’s also very humbling to hear about how my music has helped some fans get through tough times or illness, or played some of my work, during weddings, etc.

What superpower would you like to have and why?

I would love to have a perfect memory that could remember every detail of every day, and be easy to conjure those memories up – if I wanted to recall them, as I have an awful memory!

Aside, maybe a healer, because sometimes the work that I produce, in whatever medium, does help and heal.

Photograph of Princess Charlene by Julian Lennon

Do you have faith in the future?

I do. I believe where the big issues are concerned that the younger generation really gets it.
The young activists challenging world leaders to wake up to the climate emergency just may be our Saving Grace.

Do you have a dream project?

I’m living it…

What is your guiding motto in life?

I don’t really have one as such, but if I were to say anything, it would be about gratitude, about being thankful, for the good and the bad, as we need lessons in life to learn, to grow, and find balance in life, as best we can. And last but not least, love one another.

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Photo of Julian Lennon credit: Marilyn Clark