Jack’s wave of success
IT’S hard to believe Jack Johnson was once a punk rocker. The soft- spoken Hawaiian surfer-turned- singer is best known for his dreamy, acoustic, folk- pop love songs and laid- back demeanour, but his first foray into the music world was in a high- school punkrock cover band whose primary purpose was to meet girls.
“I remember a friend of my dad who was part of Tom Petty’s road crew saying if you pick up a guitar there will always be girls around,” Johnson said ahead of the release of his sixth studio album, From
Here To Now To You, and a tour of Australia in December.
“But that didn’t seem to be true because we started playing punkrock music and there didn’t seem to be too many girls.
“We’d practise in the garage and our male friends would come over to listen, or we’d play a party and it was chaos in front of the stage with everybody slam- dancing.”
After a promising surfering career was cut short by injury, Johnson found his niche by turning down the amps and tuning into his emotions.
Johnson credits his wife Kim, whom he met at college, for helping make that leap.
“She definitely gave me not only the inspiration to write love songs but she was also a lot smarter and had better taste than I did,” Johnson said.
“She had all these great bands she was turning me on to so I always had somebody I could bounce these songs off as a great first person and editor.”
The pair married in 2000, just as Johnson was preparing to release his first album Brushfire Fairytales, which launched a career that has recorded combined sales of nearly 20 million, and made him a popular live drawcard around the world.
“My sound guy would always joke … ‘ Real smart, Jack, get married and then become a rock star’,” Johnson laughed.
Johnson is naturally drawn to writing deeply personal songs about his wife and their three children – which poses a dilemma as he is equally determined to keep them out of the spotlight.
Much of his material comes from conversations or experiences with loved ones and he admits he has had to self- censor when things get a little too close to home.
More often than not, Kim is his sounding board.
“It’s been an exercise for me,” he said. “There’s always one person I have in mind when I write it, but I am not trying to write it like a reality- TV show where I am letting someone in on specifics to my life.
“It’s really that I take those personal moments and I think people can feel the truth in the songs.
“I keep writing new songs for her [ Kim] and the other ones just disappear if I don’t put them out.
“It’s nice to put love out into the world. You hear people say they use them for their first dance or this or that, and it makes me feel really good to know the song could be special for somebody.
“I know music has made me feel a lot of things, great moments and tough moments, so it’s nice to have my music do that for other people.”
Johnson is about to head out on tour in support of the new album and will return to Australia in December.
Even though he takes his kids with him on tour, Johnson said it was still hard leaving his idyllic existence in Hawaii.
On this tour, as he has done on every tour since 2008, he will donate 100 per cent of the profits to charity, through his Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation.
With simple tastes and more than enough to provide for his family, Johnson said the opportunity to give back was what motivated him to tour.
“We have all these great friends we have met who run non- profits in different places around the world,” he said.
“I get to contribute and help fund these groups we believe in.
“When we have a younger audience, they are just looking for the way they are going to approach the world a lot of times.
“So when you turn them on to these great groups they are really excited to learn about them and it’s just throwing that spotlight I have on something besides myself.”
Jack Johnson’s album From Here To Now To You is out now.