After a decade-plus hiatus, Julian Lennon is making music again and on his own terms. The singer/songwriter is prepping a new album for spring 2010, and on Dec. 15, his company theRevolution will release a 4-track EP featuring the charity single "Lucy." The song pays tribute to Lennon's childhood friend Lucy Vodden, who also inspired the Beatles classic "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."
Vodden, who died in September of complications from lupus, was famously depicted by Lennon in a watercolor painting that prompted his father, John Lennon, to write the surrealist "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" tune. Julian tells Billboard.com that his charity single came together immediately in the wake of Vodden's death, as 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 recalls. "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 entitled "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 89-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, available only at iTunes from Dec. 15-Jan. 1, will go towards the St. Thomas' Lupus Trust in Great Britain and the Lupus Foundation of America. The EP will be worked by RED Distribution at retail at radio. Its additional three tracks are an acoustic version of "Lucy," a song entitled "Sober" from Cook's upcoming album under theRevolution, and a track entitled "Beautiful," from Lennon's new album "Everything Changes."
"It's actually the slowest and most emotional track on the album," Lennon explains. "It was written about people I know and my friends know that have passed on in life.
"Everything Changes" will be Lennon's first album since 1998's "Photograph Smile," which came 7 years after "Help Yourself," his last release before parting ways with Atlantic Records. He's since spent the past 12 years focused 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 says. "I'm almost plagued by it...so I figure, I've got to get it out my system."
While "Photograph Smile" was recorded with a full orchestra, Lennon says the instrumentation on his 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 explains. "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 says it was crucial for him to 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 says. "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 the music services like tour logistics, marketing and distribution. He says 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 says. "I think we have more maneuverability within the market than many other companies. Should we need to change something on the drop of a hat, we can do that."
Lennon adds that the type of artists that 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."