We met singer, actor and author Julian Lennon at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Union Square, Manhattan, recently. The second book in his trilogy, “Heal the Earth” (Sky Pony Press), is about ways we can help make our planet a better place.
Your new book teaches us about Earth and the diversity and our ability to make a change. When do you think the world will receive its white feather?
I think it is a continuing process because, unfortunately, there are always bad people in the world that will do bad things. So that means it is going to take twice as much time to get the good out of the bad. I think one should be congratulated along the way as you do good things. It is the right moral choice for everybody’s lives. I think we all deserve a white feather — they are for anyone who does something good.
Why did you start a music career and not something else?
I wanted to be a chef. In school I actually did quite a few plays and I fell in love with acting. That was a lot of fun. I remember taking a lot of time learning my lines for the stage shows. One of my best friends was learning to play the guitar, and I knew how to play a little bit, and we started playing together, and so we thought we should form a band. At school they had an end-of-year show. My friends and I had our band enter and when we finished the first song, which was 3 1⁄2 minutes, and we got the applause, there was no feeling like it. It was fantastic, and we thought, well, this is it. It was relatively easy, but we didn’t know it was a lot harder in the end. That was when I fell in love with it and knew that was the direction I wanted to go in. I still love to do other things. I have done a little bit of acting. I am a photographer, and I have the White Feather Foundation. I work on children’s books and I do a lot of work on documentaries on the environmental issues we are facing.
What inspired you to write a children’s book about trying to save the environment?
Bart [Davis], the co-author. He was the one who triggered the inspiration. We were going to do a book together — a biography — about all the work that I have done in my life. He was researching everything that I had been doing and he read up on the White Feather Foundation and he asked, What have I done with the children? Outside of campaigns that we had for children in Africa and for kids here in America and other countries where there is literally no clean water, no education. So I have done things that way but not in a written way. I did a song called “Saltwater,” which came out many, many years ago, that was environmental. Bart said, What about a children’s book and tell a story inviting children into another world through an adventure but also bringing up the conversation about the problems that we face. If we don’t want the ocean to be filled with plastic, we have to do something about it. The next generation that we have seen in the news recently is really empowered and really strong and brave and standing up for what they believe in. It is really important for your future and it is really down to you.
Are the passages in the back of the book song lyrics?
Possibly! Initially they are poems, but I think every lyric is a poem. It is likely that I will put some music to that.
If you were to describe your book as one color, what would that color be?
Green, obviously. The first one was blue, and that predominantly dealt with water. The next book, which is the last of the trilogy, which is titled “Love the Earth,” will be purple. That represents to me heart, honesty, truth and love. That is what purple means to me. It is probably the warmest and nicest color there is.
What is the most important lesson your dad taught you?
Not to do what he did! That is a tough one. In all honesty, it is probably that. I think he made some bad choices in his life, and through that I have tried not to do the same things. I have tried to be a better person in this world and to treat people with love and respect, not that he didn’t, but he had a few misgivings here and there.
Do you plan to write more books in the series, and do you think you would expand it into writing books for older kids and adults?
I think it is likely. There is more to come. The response to these two books has been so immense, so beautiful. Fantastic. To have a first book out of the gate become a New York Times bestseller is beyond heartwarming. That is important and inspiring me to continue. As for adults, I don’t know. I think the only way I would say yes to that is whether it is a biography about my life, or believe it or not, a cooking book, because I love to cook.
If you had a nickel for every time someone said to you your father was great, what would you do with all those nickels?
Nice question! They would go to the White Feather Foundation to help other people.
What do you think your dad would want you to do to carry on his legacy?
I am doing it, in part. I carry on with me his desire for peace in the world. I think most people would want to. And also to follow my own desires and goals about peace as well and try to bring harmony into the world, whether it be through books or documentaries or music.
What has been your inspiration for the songs that you have written?
Life. Emotions. The relationships we have had in life — good and bad. It is all a learning process. I think it is everyone’s purpose in trying to become a better person. You have to look at where you have been to see where you are going if you expect to grow and move forward from that. Even if I write a song about a particular situation, even if it is not about a particular person, it is still all about relationships.
You have been famous since birth. Was it difficult to gain your own fame and was it difficult to make real friends?
I would say that I was noted since birth, but not famous. It was difficult in school. People thought that I grew up with Dad, and it would have been a different situation in life. My dad separated from my mother when I was about 3 years old. I didn’t live with him at all, and I only saw him on rare occasions. A lot of people thought my mother and I had a lot of money from Dad and all of his success, but that was not the case. We worked for our money. There were some tough times in school. There was a lot of bullying. I am actually putting together a whole campaign and documentary against bullying, and that is coming out soon, called “No Joke.” Getting knocked back as you do from time to time only makes you stronger in the end, and you learn from all of that.
Do you like living in Manhattan or London better?
I haven’t lived here for 30 years! I actually live in France. I love traveling so much. I love meeting people, and observing other lives and cultures around the world is one of the best things you can do. It is an education in life. If I had to give that up, I would be very unhappy. I feel very fortunate that all the jobs I have had enable me to travel around the world, and at the end of the day, it is worth it.
What do you consider your biggest accomplishment is?
I don’t think I have done it yet, but if I had to choose on what I have done, it would be the White Feather Foundation. That is the most important thing to me. And, for all that I do, a portion of that goes to the White Feather Foundation.
What are some things that you do on a daily basis to help the environment?
Recycling — always. I tend to walk a lot if I can. If I don’t have to take cabs and cars, then I am walking. No plastics. And I see that “no plastics” movement becoming stronger and stronger.
Meagan Miller’s students, Ivy League School, Smithtown