For Julian Lennon, the reason behind naming his latest album Jude was two-fold.
For one, it's an indicator of not only Julian's legacy as the son of rock 'n' roll royalty — but also, it represents just how far he's made it as he comes to terms with what that means, both to himself and to the rest of the world.
"It was very much reflective, looking in the mirror deeply and trying to find that place of peace," Julian, 59, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "I found it one or two times before, but it got lost in the muddle of life. Working on the album was about getting in touch with myself and who I am."
A reference to the Beatles classic "Hey Jude," written by Paul McCartney in 1968 as a means of consoling young Julian as his parents, John Lennon and his first wife Cynthia, went through a divorce, Jude (out Friday) lays bare all that Julian has grappled with in carving his own path.
The musician says that despite a difficult relationship with his late father, who died at age 40 in 1980, he "resolved many issues way back when" with John, and has long let go of any negative thinking (After John and Cynthia divorced, John went on to marry Yoko Ono, and welcomed son Sean in 1975; Julian says that after John left, they only "saw each other a couple of times," and he and his mother lived a "normal" life together).
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John Bellissimmo/AP/Shutterstock Yoko Ono, Julian Lennon, Sean Lennon, Cynthia Lennon
"When you hold a grudge or when there's negativity in your life, it doesn't necessarily hurt other people, it hurts you. And when you feel that damage on a physical and emotional level over the years, it can break you down," he says. "I haven't carried any negativity with me for a long, long time. But you still have to work through a few knots here and there, just to relax properly. And I think probably the last few years have done that for me."
Working through those knots — which he says came in part by embracing a healthier lifestyle during the pandemic — has taken time and effort. In addition to being a musician, Julian also pursued careers as a photographer, documentary filmmaker, children's book author and philanthropist in an effort to establish himself on his own terms, away from the shadow of his father.
"I wanted to prove to myself that I'm so much more than John's son or being [fans'] version of John in a lot of people's minds," he says. "That was important to me, to build a foundation to myself outside of music, that I was capable of just about anything I put my mind and heart to. I can hold my head up high."
Helpful in that regard is his recent name change. Upon legally changing his name from John Charles Julian Lennon to Julian Charles John Lennon earlier this year, the star says now is "the first time I've really felt like me."
He'll dive deeper into that contentment on Jude, which consists of mainly new songs and a few he wrote more than 30 years ago, only to rediscover them while combing through old demos.
Though Julian previously said that his 2011 album Everything Changes would be his last, discovering the demos moved him to think about his music differently, as did a meeting with BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch.
"Never say never is obviously the learn on this curve," he says. "I just thought, 'I still love music and I still love writing and recording'… I'm thankful [to Hartwig] because I think it's some of the best work I've ever done."
Julian says he's at the best place he's ever been in life, and naming the album Jude is his way of confirming that he's "absolutely comfortable" with the legacy he's built for himself.
"I'm good all the way down the line these days," he says. "I'd always hoped I would get here. How long is the journey going to be? That was the question… It's finding that place of peace and I think I've achieved that."