Loud, brazen and hot. And that's just her music. Nevermind that this talented young new artist known simply as Lennon is also attractive, smart and funny. "Yes, they're real!" she exclaimed to me backstage at Chicago's Metro as I prepared to start my interview with her. Ever since her recent album 5:30 Saturday Morning debuted she's been creating quite a buzz in the press. This is probably fueled by the fact that her album is filled with emotionally charged lyrics, haunting melodies and the clangor of heavy metal thunder, all from a girl fresh out of high school who not only sings, plays piano and guitar but also pens her own songs. Of course, the fact that 'they're real' certainly doesn't hurt either.
Livewire: Why just Lennon?
Lennon: It was never a big deal to me. After I signed my contract we were walking out of the office. They say so you're just going to be Lennon. Well, that's what you guys told me. I don't care. It's like Lennon/Lennon Murphy. It's irrelevant to me. And then they started to get scared about Yoko Ono going to sue us. Let's go Lennon Murphy. I'm like no. We already decided Lennon. Fuck this. With Lennon Murphy [it's] kinda like the singer / songwriter and you think Alanis Morrisette and things like that.
Livewire: Where Lennon could be a band.
Lennon: And actually a lot of people think Lennon is the band. People come up to me, 'what's your name?' I never realized I was going to get 'what's your real name?' I pull out a CD and show the writer's credit. So it was never a big thing to me. I didn't care.
Livewire: Have you ever heard from Yoko?
Lennon: She actually has all the music. Someone in the company sent it to her. So she knows what's going on. There's never been a problem.
Livewire: So how exactly does a southern girl from Tennessee become a heavy metal rock chick?
Lennon: Um...I don't like country. Everything starts out as piano vocals. Every song except for "(Property of) Goatf*cker," 'cause it was co-written and that was done on guitar. But "Brake of your Car," "(5:30 Saturday) Morning," all of them were piano / vocals. So, I love songwriters - Harry Chapin, Barry Manilow, Jim Croce. And then I remember listening to Nine Inch Nails for the first time. And it was something I could never have. This could be anything and the amount of emotion he puts in, because it's harder, is incredible. I realized with the stage show I can trade more emotion being hard than I can being some pop rock act or with piano and vocals. I can actually emulate the words on stage.
Livewire: So I read in your bio that you carry your original handwritten lyric sheet to "5:30 Saturday Morning." Is that true?
Lennon: Yes, it's there. Do you want me to pull it out?
Livewire: Let me see it.
Lennon: I had to do this radio station and I emptied my entire wallet out to find it. So now I'm going to, no I know where it's at. Actually it's not the original. I use to copy lyrics over and over again in school.
Livewire: Cool, maybe it'll go into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame someday.
Lennon: Yeah. One of the originals I have to say. Not THE original. But I have those actually in books and stuff.
Livewire: Is there anything else that you always carry with you?
Lennon: Pictures. Pictures of my dog, Izzy. Baby pictures of him. He's actually on the bus. My little sister, my ex-boyfriend, who is also my best friend. My ex-roommate. Picture of my Mom. Picture of my manager. Some concerts and movies.
Livewire: Since your mother's death I understand that you've tried to gain custody of your younger sister. How is that going?
Lennon: I'm still in court. But she's with me right now.
Livewire: You've recently been receiving quite a positive push from the press. Are you emotionally ready for the fame?
Lennon: What fame?
Livewire: MTV has come calling and aren't you doing something with Mademoiselle magazine?
Lennon: Did something with Mademoiselle.
Livewire: You're kinda all over the place right now. There's a big buzz right now.
Lennon: Yeah, Rolling Stone. Seventeen magazine just announced that I lost my virginity at fourteen years old.
Livewire: Sorry to hear that.
Lennon: (Laughs) So was I. That I lost my virginity at fourteen, not that Seventeen put it out. See, if it was any other magazine I probably would have been embarrassed. But the fact that it was Seventeen magazine made it perfect.
Livewire: You've recently opened up for major acts like Tesla and Alice Cooper. How did their crowds respond to you?
Lennon: Surprisingly well. Actually, both first dates with Tesla and the Alice Cooper crowd we were told if the crowds start booing you or doesn't like you don't get upset. They don't like any of the opening acts. They loved us. With the Tesla crowd and The Cult shows people come to those shows repeatedly. So there's some people that maybe seen us six times in one tour. We hit a larger group. The Alice Cooper crowd was very diverse. People my age, younger and up. Tesla a little older but still there. And the thing is it's hard music. There not normally going to buy the CD because it's considered hard music. But if they see the show live seeing the diversity of the album and they're like... 'I like this.' My fans...I have one girl [who told me] 'My dad loves you and I love you.' I can't deal with this! (laughs) We don't limit out the audience and that's what I like.
Livewire: There's a difference between your live sound and the album.
Lennon: Everyone says it's a lot harder live. Which I thought was very surprising.
Livewire: It seems more melodic on the CD. Maybe it's just the relationship you're getting live? The band seems to be rocking out more and maybe it's watching you too.
Lennon: Yeah, I get into it. I realize I sing a lot better when I have I have an audience opposed to the studio.
Livewire: You feed off the energy.
Lennon: Yeah, and I think the live shows help because we're actually living the music out. Instead of one of us at a time playing.
Livewire: So that's how you recorded it? Not a live feel at all?
Lennon: Yeah, drums we did all together but nothing was technically recorded. Everything was done over it.
Livewire: You've been writing songs since you were seven. What type of things did you write as a young girl?
Lennon: Same things. A lot more dark and depressing. A lot more death.
Livewire: Back then?
Lennon: Yeah, kinda eased up on that. I always did the shock value stuff. Being fifteen years old and making comments about sex always got their attention.
Livewire: So who were you addressing this to...your Mother?
Lennon: No, my Mom actually encouraged it. She's like shock value. It pays off. She's the one that taught me to wear tight little things to show off the body. Catch them with your looks and keep them with the music. And it works. You can see I wear very...
Livewire: No, I haven't noticed at all.
Lennon: (Laughs) Yeah.
Livewire: I'm being very conscience of eye contact.
Lennon: (Continues laughter) But it gets their attention.
Livewire: I think that definitely was a factor at the House of Blues show that I saw. It was a factor with me.
Lennon: A lot of people have MtV on but the volume down. They'll be watching and they'll be like, 'God she's hot.' So then luckily they'll turn up the volume. That's what I'll get a lot. I saw you and I decided to turn the music up and then it just totally went away. You look gorgeous but the music is what kept me.
Livewire: I've read that when you were growing up in Hendersonville you met quite a few country legends.
Lennon: Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty...
Livewire: Any great stories?
Lennon: I use to get into pillow fights all the time with Johnny's son. My Mom worked at a country bar in Hendersonville. So I grew up with like Bill Monroe. He use to give me quarters to go play games. That's what I grew up with.
Livewire: Not a bad little childhood.
Lennon: That's also the main reason I did not want to get into the Country business. It destroys people.
Livewire: Johnny Cash has definitely lived a harsh life. How do you feel about the comparisons and the labels that have linked you with the likes of Alanis Morrisette and Fiona Apple? They're pretty obvious of course.
Lennon: Yeah, we have tits. That's it! You know people always need to compare stuff. You can't describe my music. I can't describe my music. People ask what kind of music do I play? Hard rock but with piano and I sing. I don't scream.
Livewire: Melodic metal maybe?
Lennon: I've gotten Goth, emo, metal. Every single thing you can think of. I got this "Goth Babe of the Week" thing now.
Lennon: I f*ckin' got a shit-load of emails from that and album sales. Now I'm "Hottie of the Week" for www.Plainmanly.com. Along with a bunch of porn stars. (laughs) But you can't figure out what to label me so you pick what is the easiest thing - female artists. The only mainstream artists that are out there is, Alanis Morrisette... People are like, 'what would you say you sound like?' Different. 'Any other words?' No. Someone once emailed me a question, 'In ten words what would you describe your sound as?' I wrote 'different' over, ten times. I wrote 'em back and said you know my answer on that. Don't even try that one.
Livewire: Someone once said, 'A life can have a theme song’ and I believe that every worthwhile one has. Mine is [best] expressed in one word: Individualism.' How do you feel about that statement? Can you relate?
Lennon: Completely. My main thing with making this album was something people could relate to and I wanted it to be my own. I didn't want to sound like anyone else. I hate that. I hate listening to the radio... You can notice now. Bands have that one bald guy in the band. You (can) pick out one guy in each band that looks like the same guy. In like ten bands.
Livewire: Maybe it is?
Lennon: That's what I'm worried about sometimes. I just wanted to be me. I didn't want to try and impress anybody. I didn't want to sound like this (or that) for radio.
Livewire: Do you feel you were successful?
Lennon: For my own state of view? I don't know but from my emails and from what people tell me...and that's what I trust. So basically I'm happy with how the record came out except for maybe one song. And that's my own personal demon. And I have to be honest, I've never listened to the record since it's come out.
Livewire: The person that actually said that quote was Ayn Rand.
Lennon: I thought the Individualism thing sounded familiar.
Livewire: I've done my research. I understand you're a fan of Rand's work. What is it in her books that you find intriguing?
Lennon: The individual against the collective. Howard Roark (main character in "The Fountainhead") going against all the odds. Basically wanting to do his own thing. Doesn't care how he got to it. Doesn't care what he destroys. Dominique Francon (also from the same book) destroys everything she loves so no one else can destroy it. Many of times I've said people want the song a certain way. I said, 'you know what, song doesn't exist anymore. Forgot how to play it.' The song never comes up again. It's never played again.
Livewire: Wow, you're scary.
Lennon: (snickers) I've read too many of her books.
Livewire: Have you been working on any new material on the road?
Lennon: Problem is I only write on piano. So if I don't have a piano around...
Livewire: Kinda hard to have a piano on the bus.
Lennon: Yeah. But lyrics when they come to me I write them down. I have a collection of those.
Livewire: A little notebook?
Lennon: No, on scraps of paper. I don't deal with notebooks.
Livewire: So you have to keep these scraps of paper...
Lennon: I DO! I have them all in my wallet and in my purses and other compartments. It's weird, but my ideas are with me. Basically when I write I don't intentionally sit down to write. It's like I'm screwing around on the piano. Suddenly I come across a chord and I'm like this could be that. And then I sit there and write. I've never sat down and said I'm going to write a song. I don't believe in that. I think every music has it's own lyrics. I never write lyrics down at first. If I can play a song a couple of times remembering them then they're meant to be. If I forget them they weren't that good to begin with.
Livewire: Do you have a goal of where you'd like to be in five years - like headlining LennonFest or perhaps even opening up a metal themed restaurant? What are you looking for in the future?
Lennon: Credibility. Still able to do what I love in five years. Still playing live. I hate recording. I love being on stage and I don't like talking in front of people. So it's like two different personalities.
Livewire: But you like playing live. Isn't that a contradiction?
Lennon: I know, it's crazy.
Livewire: But it works for you.
Lennon: Some how it works. If you notice I'm fine just as long as the music's going. I'll be a little bit shaky in my words when I'm talking. But if there's music playing I'm fine.
Livewire: You hide within your music.
Lennon: Kinda. It's almost like a music box thing. As soon as the music stops I close down. I love being onstage. I can't describe it. I never wanted to be onstage. I got pushed onto it and I fell in love with it the first time I did it.
Livewire: Pushed by your Mother?
Lennon: Yeah, she said she was tired of me hanging out at home having no friends, being a miserable bitch.
Livewire: So why aren't you a John Lennon fan? And I'll warn you, I am.
Lennon: (Laughs) I don't know. I've never been a Beatle fan. I just could never get into it. I respected him but I love his paintings more than his music. I love his art and his ideals more than his songs. It's not my thing. The only John Lennon song I like is "Not a Jealous Guy".
Livewire: It's, um...called "Jealous Guy," because, well, he WAS a jealous guy.
Lennon: Yeah, okay. Sorry.
Livewire: So you're a piano player. Who would be your favorite pianist? (silence) You don't have a favorite do you?
Lennon: No... Beethoven (flippantly and laughs)!?
Livewire: Is there a future for heavy metal?
Lennon: I don't know. Everyone says rock is gone. I don't think it died. It's just changed. Do I think there's going to be a classic rock station twenty years from now playing Linkin Park? I hope not.