Kate's Notes

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson (born Jack Hody Johnson, May 18, 1975) was first well known on the beach and in surfing circles for his surfing ability; after a surfing accident kept him out of the water when he was in his early teens, he picked up a guitair and began his journey into music. This Hawaii-born singer-songwriter has achieved notable commercial success and a dedicated following since the release of his critically acclaimed debut album, Brushfire Fairytales, and he never slowed down, with his latest album is Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the film, Curious George.

Early Life

Johnson was born and raised on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. An avid surfer, he was sponsored by Quicksilver. He was also a keen skateboarder, and learned how to surf and skate from his father's best friend Alex Conwell. Alex also taught Jack to play the guitar when Johnson literally fell into music.

As the legendary story goes, Johnson suffered an accident when he was 14, and not only was his front teeth knocked out, but he received more than 150 stitches to his mouth and forehead. While he was recovering in bed, he spent his time writing songs and playing guitar. The first songs he learned to play were "One" by Metallica and "Father and Son" by Cat Stevens.

However, he did not seriously pursue a career in the arts until his college years at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he graduated with a degree in film and met his wife, Kim, a Waco, Texas, native. There, he played rhythm guitar for the hippie rock group "Soil." Also, while he was in college, he and close-friends, Chris Malloy and Emmett Malloy, produced a surf cinema documentary entitled Thicker Than Water, in turn spotlighting Johnson as a talented cinematographer as well as a burgeoning singer/songwriter. His peers in and around the surf circuit praised his work, and Thicker Than Water received props in Surfer magazine for Video of the Year during 2000. The follow-up surf flick The September Sessions also earned the Adobe Highlight Award at the ESPN Film Festival that same year.

Music Career

Still, Johnson steered away from a blossoming pro sports career and stuck with music. G. Love & Special Sauce quickly took notice to Johnson's lazy blues styling of guitar, singing and lyrics, which also molded folk and hip-hop for a modern rock twist. G Love included Johnson on the song "Rodeo Clowns'" from G. Love's 1999 release, Philadelphonic. Johnson then created a four-track demo that caught the ears of Ben Harper's right hand man, J.P. Plunier.

Johnson also belonged to an unsigned band by the name of "Ahaiiluo" the Hawaiian word for love. Other Members of the band included bassist Andrew Campbell and back-up guitarist Brian Robillard who now plays with musician Mason Jennings.

Johnson's first album, Brushfire Fairytales, was produced by J.P. Plunier, who was also Harper's producer, and fellow surfer. Aside from Plunier's production work, Harper also added his lap steel guitar work on Johnson's sultry debut, which was released in the winter 2001 to good reviews and notable album sales, making its way upto # 34 on the Billboard 100. In the single "Bubbletoes,” he mentions how he met his wife at the DLG. The DLG (or De La Guerra) is a dining hall located at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

After touring for almost two years with Brushfire Fairytales, Johnson recorded his second album On and On to generally favorable reviews in late 2003. Many of the songs on On and On had previously been released on bootlegs, such as “J.O.A.T”. and “B.O.A.T.,” but received the accompaniment of a full band on the new album. Off of The Moonshine Conspiracy Records, On and On, debuted at # 3 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart, took the # 1 spot on the Alternative Albums and Internet Albums charts with 132,254 units sold in its first week.

His third studio album, In Between Dreams, was released on March 1, 2005, which hit the #1 spot on the Billboard 100. For the album, Johnson started his own label called Brushfire Records. Johnson had a studio built in Hawaii by his brother to facilitate the new record label; he called it “The Mango Tree.” More than a year later, In Between Dreams was still on the charts, where it was positioned at #3 (it peaked at #2 ). Also released in 2006 was the Johnson-created soundtrack for the motion picture Curious George titled Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies. Curious George is the first soundtrack to an animated film to top The Billboard 200 since Pocahontas reigned for one week in July 1995.

In February 2006, he won a Brit Award for Best International Newcomer, beating The Pussycat Dolls, John Legend, Arcade Fire and Daniel Powter. In May 2006, In Between Dreams surpassed one and a half million sales in the UK.

Johnson was also featured on the Sublime tribute album Look at All the Love We Found, and was on Handsome Boy Modeling School's “White People,” released in 2004. In 2005, he appeared on the Black Eyed Peas album Monkey Business on the track “Gone Going,” which was, in effect, a remix of Johnson's own song "Gone" from his On and On album. While recording the smash hit “Gone Going,” Johnson borrowed the phrase, "hats for bats, keeps bats warm," originally coined in the movie Major League.

The single, "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing" only became a chart hit in the United Kingdom, after the re-release climbed into the Top 10 following Jack Johnson's exposure on the 2006 Brit Awards on ITV 1. The single climbed to hit status a week before the release of "Better Together." Both the original release and indeed the re-issue had failed to chart until this point. In the music video for "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing," all the action happens in reverse: Johnson is pelted with various objects and liquids are dumped over his head, but everything appears to fly away from him as the video plays backward from the way it was filmed. In order to achieve this, Johnson learned to mouth all of the lyrics to the song backwards.

Surf Films

Johnson produced a film called Thicker Than Water and it became Surfer magazine's Video of the Year for 2000. He was also the director of The September Sessions, a short surfing documentary featuring Kelly Slater, Brad Gerlach and other notable surfers.

Other Projects

Jack Johnson owns Brushfire Records which released the soundtracks for the aforementioned films. Other artists on that label include Matt Costa, Animal Liberation Orchestra, and G. Love & Special Sauce.

Charity Work and Activism

In 2004, Johnson co-founded the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that supports environmental education in the schools and communities of Hawaii. The Kokua Festival is the Kokua Hawaii Foundation's annual benefit event that brings together environmental organizations, eco-friendly businesses, musicians, artists, teachers, and community leaders to promote environmental awareness in Hawaii.


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