Becoming a musician had no real beginning for Ted Lennon, in the sense that music has always surrounded him. His dad, Tom, played rhythm guitar in the 60’s band The Other Half, which opened for Van Morrison (Them), The Yardbirds and The Doors. When Tom was drafted to the army, the band dismembered and he became a family man. His five children enjoyed evening sing-along’s and campfire serenades, plus family concerts with Tom’s cousins and America’s “Apple Pie Quartet,” The Lennon Sisters (who appeared weekly on the Lawrence Welk Show). When Ted’s uncles continued the musical legacy with their band Venice, music began to feel as accessible as any family business.
It wasn’t until Ted was in college in Santa Barbara that the seed of music planted as a child, would begin to sprout. He found himself becoming further and further engrossed in his music classes and songwriting, often skipping core studies to write songs on the bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Undiscovered fellow songwriter, Jack Johnson lived down the street in S.B. so they would get together for impromptu jam sessions, which then became intimate shows in downtown S.B. at places like Roy and SOHO.
As Ted neared graduation, he decided what he needed to learn could not be taught in a classroom nor found in a book. Nonetheless, in Spring of ‘99 he earned his degree in the Arts, then made a radical decision to move into an abandoned oil refinery to be alone with his mind and his music.
The nearby oil refinery, which belonged to a friend, had been shut down since 1976 (the year Ted was born). Amongst the creaking metal hardware and rusted oil tanks, Ted made his home in a stock warehouse, playing drums and piano and developing his voice. He spent his days in a state of timeless pondering, available to every whim and wind of inspiration. He recorded his first songs in empty water tanks, which provided natural reverb and a haunting stillness.
After three months of his sabbatical, Ted packed his guitars up and took his music on the road – a backroads summer tour that took him from the warmth of his Ojai, California hometown across the U.S. to ‘the capital of the world’: New York City.
Along the way, he slept in his Volvo station wagon and played street corners, learning the art of busking from a 70-year-old banjo player named ‘Old Man Joe’ in Madison, Wisconsin.
When he arrived two months later in NYC not knowing a soul, with no home, no money, he was immediately taken in by pianist Leon Gruenbaum (whose apartment happens to be featured on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s album Physical Graffiti). Shortly thereafter he met bass player Henry Schroy, who gave him a room rent-free in his Brooklyn apartment as well as some fundamental lessons in jazz and how to get around the city. He then lived in Manhattan rent-free, in exchange for watching a 10-year-old boy. Once again he was afforded more time to craft his music without the burden of paying rent. He played shows at The Sidewalk Café, Baby Jupiter, and The Living Room amongst a circle of other upcoming acts like Regina Spektor, Norah Jones, Kimya Dawson and Adam Green (The Moldy Peaches).
On a fateful visit back to California, Ted was awakened to a deep-seeded need to come home. He yearned to be surrounded by the Ojai mountains instead of skyscrapers. A month later he brought his music back to his native land and began playing out at local venues in Ojai, Ventura and Santa Barbara. Jack Johnson’s tremendous success by this time afforded Ted a new level of exposure in the community when he opened for Jack at the first ‘Food For Thought’ benefit concert at the Libbey Bowl in Ojai, CA in 2005.
Soon after he was approached by Universal Music Japan for a record distribution deal that put him on the map in Japan. He toured Japan with his father on ukulele for his first Japanese release Water & Bones, which sold over 30,000 copies. The album was recorded in Ted’s living room on a reel-to-reel with his dad on ukulele and harmonies. The single ‘Face Up’ topped the charts at #3 and soon Ted was recording a new album for Universal, this time with his New York friend and bass player, Henry Schroy and drummer Carter McLean. The album’s sound was diverse, including rock, pop, rap and calypso. Jack Johnson and upcoming artist, Colbie Callait, appeared on ‘So in Love,’ which charted at #15 on itunes “Top Selling Songs of 2008.” (top itunes)
Ted Lennon and Brett Dennen did a Bob Dylan cover of ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright’ which was released June 2007 and charted on itunes top 40. Ted joined Brett on the southwest leg of his ‘Love Speaks’ tour in 2007, and in 2008 Ted opened for Jack Johnson in Tokyo, promoting Ted’s third Japanese album release entitled The Calm (Buffalo Records).
Today Ted is preparing for a formal U.S. album release, titled Orange Will Follow, working alongside engineer/producer Jeff Peters (The Beach Boys, KCRW favorite ‘Goldspot’). The single, 'Helio' was released April 3rd through itunes featuring special guest Adam Topol, drummer/percussionist (Jack Johnson, Culver City Dub Collective). Scheduled release date for the full album is June 21, 2010—Summer Solstice, in honor of the sun and its important role in our universe.
Ted will be playing several festivals in California this year, in addition to his other full-time job of parenting two young children.
Ted Lennon’s voice comes through soft like water and saturates the listener with soulfulness and depth. What distinguishes Ted isn’t the flashiness of modern day pop (although songs like ‘Face Up’ will call even the harshest pop-skeptic to the dance floor), and it isn’t a lyrical cynicism that commiserates with these difficult times. Ted’s music wells up from some ancient source, an ever-flowing spring that makes us feel on some cellular level that we are known and we are loved.