A Twist of Lennon
Eight years separated the release of singer-songwriter Sean Lennon's first CD from his second. Why such a long gap? "I think it had more to do with finding the part of myself that was ready to deal with the sort of public fiasco of releasing music and less to do with being able to make an album," Lennon says in a halting manner that's both thoughtful and wary. "Because, really, making records isn't that hard. But dealing with the process of putting records out is very hard."
That's especially true for Lennon, who, as the only son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, bears burdens of legacy and expectation that would convince most people to find a less public occupation. Instead, he formally took up the family business in 1998 with Into the Sun, an often lovely CD on the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal imprint. He then laid low until last year, when he issued Friendly Fire, a highly personal disc inspired by a love triangle involving himself, ex-gal pal Bijou Phillips and onetime best friend Max LeRoy, who died in a motorcycle accident after a fling with Phillips. Lennon doesn't need to air such episodes to put bread on his table; his rarefied financial situation is exemplified by Fire's companion DVD, which looks as if it cost as much as a Hollywood feature (Lindsay Lohan is among his co-stars). But from an artistic standpoint, he feels compelled to pick at the scabs.
"Metaphorically, it would be the same as just growing up," he maintains. "Taking responsibility for life and yourself and your emotions, and not being able to avoid responsibility anymore. That's kind of how I feel about taking responsibility for the songs that I write and the music that I make. Eventually you have to realize that life is not going to be easy, and you're going to have to do the thing that might be the hardest to do."
Lennon insists that revisiting painful moments from his past isn't a form of self-flagellation. "I think of it more as nourishing to connect with something emotional," he says. "I don't think it's draining in any way. I wouldn't do it if it was."
The same goes for touring -- yet he makes it clear that he's not hungry for fame on the level his father achieved. "There's something really great about sharing your music with people," Lennon acknowledges. "But I wouldn't say I want to share it with as many people as possible, because that sort of implies the horizon of millions, and that definitely isn't my goal. I like to share it with the people who are worth sharing it with -- the people who like it."
That's one way of minimizing a public fiasco.
For more of our conversation with Sean Lennon, visit www.westword.com/blogs.
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