9.25.02 Paris show pics (thanks Cyril)
September Sessions Review in Time Out Magazine
ESPN Article
GQ Article
Happy Magazine Interview
Time Magazine Article
Chicago Tribune Article
Fort Wayne Music Interview

Detours Interview

91x San Diego Interview
Surfer Magazine Article
Honolulu Star Article 
Daily Trojan Article
Article by Dori Levy

Send any other interviews or articles about Jack Johnson to jackjohnsononline@yahoo.com

"September Sessions" Review by Derek Adams of Time Out Magazine

The September Sessions 
(Jack Johnson, 1999, US) Documentary. (DVD Region One; VHS NTSC only) 
Jack Johnson is virtually unknown outside the surfing fraternity but it shouldn’t really be that way, not if you take both this fabulous surfing film and his immaculate acoustic-based CD, ‘Brushfire Fairytales’, into account. A jack of three trades, Johnson started out as a pro surfer who, following a nasty surfing accident, decided to pursue the technically challenging art of shooting other surfers instead; while knocking up a fabulously laid-back record on the side. Shot on 16mm film-stock, the colour palette tweaked here and there, this is one of the most evocative surfing documentaries to have emerged in years. Aside from some of the most glowing images this writer’s ever seen – including amazing takes of his pro surfing buddies riding some of the ocean’s most glorious ‘tubes’ – what makes this warm, gently-paced film such a treat is the accompanying, equally laid-back soundtrack, as provided by various Johnson acquaintances. The film’s final languid moments unravel to one of Johnson’s own sublime compositions, ‘F-Stop Blues’; it’s an emotionally satisfying end to this unpretentious gem of a film. 
Derek Adams 
‘The September Sessions’ ($20) and ‘Brushfire Fairytales’ ($12) are available from: www.jackjohnsonmusic.com 

Time Out Magazine Universal House 
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Interview from Detours Online Magazine

Surf and destroy! Jack Johnson finds his voice ... by Marc Weinroth

There's a sense of tranquility in Jack Johnson's music that appears to contradict the harsh waves that nearly took his life in a freak surfing accident when he was 17. The near-fatal severity of that wipeout is an unfair classification of the ocean that is actually a source of calm in Johnson's life, perfectly aligned with his smooth voice and the acoustic-based, mellow parables present on his debut album Brushfire Fairytales. Johnson took the opportunity to speak with Detours, via phone in Ohio, 13 shows into his gig opening for Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals.

How does a kid from Hawaii in love with surfing turn into a rock musician?
I don't know if I'm really a rock musician, but as far as how I ended up in Ohio right now, that's a good question. I've always played music and [my home state of] Hawaii is somewhere I want to go back to and somewhere I love. But it's also a pretty small place. You can drive an hour and you're on the other side of the islands. I've always wanted to see the rest of the world. Music is kind of one of those options that ended up taking me to places I never got to see before. As soon as I get back from this trip, I'm going to go back to Hawaii and surf for a couple of weeks.

Is there some kind of cathartic link between surfing and music?
I write a lot of my lyrics when I'm on surf trips. You've got to have time away from phone calls, or doing this and that. It gives you time to write lyrics because you have a lot of time to think, so it's definitely connected for me. It's time to think about things I've been thinking about for a while and put them together in songs.

Did your surfing accident change your perspective on what you wanted to do with your life?
I don't think it necessarily did. I was out of the water for a few months because I had a lot of stitches and I lost my front teeth. That was when I started playing guitar a little more than just as kind of a side hobby. I started playing to fill in the time [that] I used to surf every day. After those two months were up, I was back in the water surfing again.

There's a strong reggae feel to your album, yet it's balanced by a mood reminiscent of artists like Ben Harper and G. Love. Who's influencing you and what are you listening to these days?
Both those guys. As far as people out there right now, [they] are two of my favorites. I like Elliot Smith. I like Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys. Bob Marley. And a lot of older folk musicians like Paul Simon and Cat Stevens. … We got Al Green playing right now. Literally, in the CD player right now. We've been listening to some dub compilations, a little bit of Wu-Tang, the new Sade.

I heard that your voice was suddenly discovered. How does a guy in his twenties all of a sudden find out he's a damn good singer?
It kind of came from not really trying to sing, but just whispering out the words, I think. A year-and-a-half ago, I could barely sing loud enough for someone sitting next to me to hear. I never took any lessons or anything like that. It was more getting a little confidence with time and trying to build this thing a little louder.

There was a lot of major-label interest in your music. Why did you choose a small start-up company like Enjoy to distribute your music?
Just the fear factor. I wasn't sure if it was really something I wanted to do and I didn't want to sign a contract that was going to be hard to get out of two months down the line, and just to kind of maintain control over my style and my sound. In most of the meetings, when I was talking to those people, they would have some ideas. It's not the fact that they liked the little bit of what they heard, but that they had some ideas of how they could market it and change it.

Like a bunch of suits salivating, thinking to themselves, "Imagine the potential - he can surf and sing at the same time with Carson Daly on TRL!"
Yeah, exactly, and I think a lot of people heard a way to take the songs and turn them into more poppier versions to be on the radio.

I know you've seen your fair share of hectic conditions as a filmmaker [the acclaimed surf films "Thicker Than Water" and "September Sessions"]. Is there anything about touring as a musician that you didn't expect?
No, not really. It's fun but at the same time with all the different surf films I've done, I'm kind of used to it. Those are even tougher because with this stuff we're traveling America. I'm used to doing trips where we're in uncharted territories. We'll go down and try to find these islands off of India. We'll find a fisherman that can take us down to a bay and jump onto a boat that we're taking out for a few weeks and we're catching fish for food. It's funner in a lot of ways and also a lot more challenging. This can get a little more monotonous and it's kind of like every day is the same.

Traveling together in a minivan must help you guys bond. Did any weird superstitions arise out of that?
Not really superstitions, but there are lots of inside jokes. We couldn't get our back window closed for the first week. It was one of those mechanical ones that we kept trying to force with our hands. So we started saying that anything that was impossible is like our back window. But eventually we figured it out, so now nothing's impossible.


91x San Diego Interview  

Interview from 91x San Diego by Hilary...transcribed by Khai Nguyen

Hilary:  we’ve got jack Johnson joining us in studio…how you doing?

Jack:  Good, how you doing?

Hilary:  Good, thank you so much for coming down today…

Jack:  Thanks for having me in…

Hilary:  Yeah, absolutely…our pleasure…now, your show tonight at 4th and B is sadly…it is sold out…sadly for all the people who don’t have tickets cause I know there are a lot of people that are trying to get tickets…but we’ve been giving them away all week long…but just right when Jack walked in he told me that…um…you just recorded the Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn..

Jack:  Yeah, it was wild…

Hilary:  So that’s gonna be on tonight right?

Jack:  Yeah, it airs tonight…

Hilary:  Yeah, it’s on late, late…it’s on at like One…

Jack:  Yeah, it’s after Jay Leno…I don’t know what time it is…

Hilary:  Okay, on cbs…nice…

Jack:  It was fun…it was a little different…it was nerve racking to do…yeah…it was fun…

Hilary:  Sounds like a crazy experience…let’s talk a little about you…give people who aren’t too familiar with you a little bit of background and then we’ll have you play a couple songs…now you grew up on the north shore, right?

Jack:  Yeah…yeah

Hilary:  Yeah…lucky dog…that’s pretty incredible…so you surfed for a while…I mean…I know you still surf…but you were kinda going on the professional level for a little bit and then something happened that kinda made you do a right turn…you wanna tell me what happened…

Jack:  Yeah…actually, it was mostly just…I was planning on going to college anyways, but right before I left I got hurt pretty bad and so sometimes it gets written up as sorta of a changing point in my life and it definitely was…but I was planning on going to California for school anyways…it was something I wanted to do…but, pro surfing was sorta something that was a circumstance of being in Hawaii, growing up and being at the center of the surfing world so much and it was a lot of fun to do for a minute, but it wasn’t really exactly what I wanted to do…pro surfing…but it was a fun thing to do for a few years.

Hilary:  And then you moved to Santa Barbara…you went to UCSB…and where you met your lovely wife Kim who’s here with you…and you got into filmmaking too…now…now, it’s kind of interesting cause I’ve noticed listening to your…he has a new album out called Brushfire Fairytales and it’s interesting to me that some of the songs you talk a lot not only about surfing and the beach culture and what’s it like growing up at the beach, you get all this stuff ingrained in you which a lot of people here in San Diego can relate to, but also you talk a lot about filmmaking to in some of your lyrics and you know…I thought that was kind of interesting…

Jack:  A lot of those are when I was suppose to be writing papers…and I write those songs instead…yeah…it was just kind of what was in my head at the time…studying so much so you start writing songs about it…yeah…it gives you a lot of good material to write about…they kind of go together…the visual and the sound.

Hilary:  Sure, absolutely…and you were in a band at UCSB for a little bit…right?…

Jack:  Yeah, it was fun…it was called Soil…it was just like a…it was a really fun party band…we actually opened for Dave Matthews once right before he was very famous…it was about a month before he got really big I remember…we opened for him and then about a month later…it was like wait a minute…we opened for that guy…but it wasn’t even sold out…it was Ventura Theatre and about a third full…and Sublime…once…we opened for them…so it was a fun band…we had a lot of good times…

Hilary:  Cool, well now you are just doing the solo thing and I mean are your backup players just people that are friends of yours or how did you gather this group of musicians that you play with…

Jack:  Well, I met them through music…it was funny…I always thought I’d never be one of those guys that gets studio musicians or anything…which they’re not I gotta say that…but I was setup with these guys…or the drummer through music…because somebody said “you would really get along with this guy” and we got together and it just really went well with the music right off the bat…and then we just started getting along well as friends cause a lot of times if you share musical taste with someone, it’s a good chance that you’re gonna get along on other levels too…and then he was doing another gig with the bass player…the drummer’s name’s Adam and he was playing with Merlo in this latin jazz band and he brought him over to jam out and we just had a really good time so we’ve been playing about a year and a half now together…and we’ve become really good friends…

Hilary:  That’s great…now, these are the guys that you bring out on the road with you…cool…well, why don’t you play us a song for us to hear…what are gonna play?…

Jack:  Uhhh…what do you wanna hear…”Posters”?…

Hilary:  Yeah, let’s do “Posters”…Jack Johnson on 91x…

Cuts into “Posters”…(Jack solo acoustic)…

Hilary:  That’s Jack Johnson live at 91x…that’s “Posters”…it’s off his new album Brushfire Fairytales…and he is playing a sold out 91x show tonight at 4th and B…quick question for you…like listening to your record…some of the production is really interesting…like most of it is really simple and it’s just a mellow, kind of laid back record and most of the production is pretty straight forward…but you take a song like “Drink the Water” which is about water and stuff and it kinda almost has sometimes…some of the guitar effects almost sound a little watery…and some of the drums and stuff…and I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I know what I’m hearing…you know…so I know that JP Plunier produced your record…right…who is Ben Harper’s manager and long time friend…but did you have a heavy hand in the production or did you kind of sit back and let him do most of it and trust him…

Jack:  It was a lot of trust…and just a lot of…it was actually…we did the whole thing in a week, so it was actually a good thing that we did it so quick cause I really like the simple songs you know…it was really a lot of both of us doing it and just bouncing ideas off each other…and…so much of Ben’s music is what has influenced me and my songwriting, so a lot of the ideas that he has are things that are already on the same page of what I’m think because his production and the albums that he’s already produced are the albums that I’ve listened to so much times…and the things that I’ve been influenced by…so it really worked well…there was no time when we were on completely different pages…it was always pretty darn close…you know what I mean…we had a really good time doing the album…it was fun just to do it that quick…it was just…we did about three songs a day…because it was just you get in there and you know okay…we gotta hurry…both of us had to leave in a week…I was getting married and so that was my circumstance and he had to leave for Europe or something like that and so we had about a week to do the whole thing…it was fun…

Hilary:  That is cool though…I see what you’re saying about being able to keep it simple and let it be…cause really it shows…because the production is perfect but it’s really simple…it’s perfect for your type of music…it’s just really nice…so let’s see, why don’t we play another song…and then we’ll wrap this up and let you get on to sound check…

Jack:  Thank you again for having me…

Hilary:  Please…my pleasure…Jack Johnson on 91x…

Cuts into “Flake”…(Jack solo acoustic)…

Hilary:  Alright…Jack Johnson here on 91x…sold out tonight at 4th and B…thank you so much for coming by…we are gonna play one more…this is actually a studio track from Brushfire Fairytales…jackjohnsonmusic.com is the website and we actually have a link to it on our website at 91x.com…and it’s on Enjoy records…so where do you go from here…you’re in San Diego now and I know you might be coming back for a San Diego show in the very near future…

Jack:  Yeah, in August sometime…and we’re going to play in Colorado with Toots and the Maytals…it’s a complete honor for us…cause it’s like one of my favorite bands in the world…and I just want to thank San Diego because…San Diego been so cool to us and it’s the best town for us by far and it’s the funnest to come play…so thanks again everybody out there…

Cuts into “BubbleToes”…(studio version)…


Honolulu Star Interview

North Shore native
rides an acoustic wave

By Gary C.W. Chun

Surfing and music go hand in hand in Jack Johnson's life. The music that is slowly garnering national attention for him can't come to life without some head-clearing time alone in the ocean.

There's a wonderful, imagistic song on Johnson's debut CD, "Brushfire Fairytales," that represents the best of his low-key, acoustic groove music. And a story behind it that succinctly tells how his love of surfing infuses all of his songs.

First off, before his musical career took precedence in his young life of 25 years, he was the all-round creator of surf films. His most recent film, "The September Sessions," scored a best-film award for Johnson, winner of this year's Surfer magazine poll. One of those location shoots inspired his song "F-Stop Blues."

"While shooting in Indonesia, I had to spend two weeks on a boat, and during those times I was putting together a song that was inspired by the trip. ... Well, basically it wasn't really a song, but just a bunch of images in my head," he said by phone from his Santa Barbara, Calif., home. (He was born and raised in Haleiwa, near Ehukai Beach Park.)

"F-Stop Blues" has a nice, kick-back feel to it, with an especially disarming vocal by Johnson in his light, supple voice. Lyrical images like "imagining lightning striking seasickness away" fill the song.

"The line about a kid coming to me with hermit crabs and cowry shells in his hands has a story behind it. I'd put down my film cases on these deserted beaches that are filled with these crabs and shells -- and it seemed like half of these shells are alive with crabs living in them -- so much so that I'd have to keep the cases closed, or else these crabs would crawl in!

"I saw this Indonesian kid fishing, and he later cruised on by, staring at the film camera I had set up. I had him look into the viewer of the camera with a long zoom lens attached. I had it focused on his friends down the beach, and it was obvious he had never seen a camera before, because he couldn't quite figure out how he could see his friends close up in clear detail through the camera and then look up and see them a hundred yards away. He was just thoroughly amazed.

"And the line where I lose my shoes in quicksand -- that actually happened where I came off a reef I was walking on and into sand that I sunk into waist deep!"

Johnson considers himself lucky that he's been able to wed his love of the surf with music without compromising his vision.

Opening for his musical hero Ben Harper during a run of 23 shows in and around the East Coast in February certainly helped garner fans for his music. (Johnson said he'll be joining Harper on the road again, "picking up in Kentucky and doing 16 shows up and down the west coast of Canada and the U.S.")

"Doing the shows with Ben is not work at all, although the constant touring can get a little grueling. But at least once a day during that tour, I would trip out ... opening for a guy that was a favorite of mine for the past seven years!

"It's because his music was the first kind of my generation that I really connected with," Johnson said. "And it changed the way that I approached my own music -- not in just copying Ben's style of music, but in staying true with what I want to do with my own music."

The musicians share a similar approach in utilizing the almighty groove; they both opt for a small and simple group size, with the guitar-playing Johnson touring with just a standup bassist and drummer/percussionist. And he's hoping to tour Hawaii in August, so all the local listeners who've been steadily buying his CD since its release last month will finally get to see him in concert.

Johnson and his wife, Kim, visited recently to see family and, of course, surf. He had just gotten back from Australia, where he played a music festival in Byron Bay. "There I was thrilled to finally meet Taj Mahal, who used to live on Kauai and is one of the biggest influences on my music."

Johnson also got together with some of his surf film friends, who were shooting there, and may provide them with a soundtrack.

Johnson's musical career had its start back in his teenage years, after a hellacious surfing accident. The son of surfing pioneer Jeff Johnson, Jack became such a skilled and avid surfer himself that by age 14 he was already competing in the Pipeline Masters tournament. But three years later, he said, he simply "bashed my head" in a near-fatal wipeout onto a dry reef that ended his budding pro career. (The gory details: a cracked skull, lost front teeth and an upper lip severed from nose to cheekbones. It took 100 stitches to repair the damage.)

Johnson had already been learning music, using a friend's old guitar. After the accident his mother bought him his own guitar, "and I played it every day during my recovery."

These were Johnson's humble beginnings in music. He and his friends from Kahuku High started a punk band ("We were horrible, but we had fun learning our instruments"). Later, when he went to college in Santa Barbara, Calif., he joined a party band called Soil.

"We were fairly decent -- we opened for shows for Sublime and the Dave Matthews Band before they got big. It was then that I started writing my own songs -- not singing them, because I didn't have any confidence in my voice at all."

But there was one song that Soil played toward the end of the band's tenure -- "Flake," a song with a Latin lilt that has Ben Harper guesting on guitar.

The Harper connection came about purely by chance. His album producer (and subsequently Johnson's), J.P. Plunier, is a surfer, and he and Johnson hung out on the water together. "I didn't even tell J.P. about my music for four, five months -- not until a friend of mine passed him some four-track tapes of mine.

"After hearing them he gave me some pointers, but then nothing came of it since I had to work on a surf film that took up a year of my time. Afterwards, I finally met Ben, and his producer mentioned that he and a partner of his, Andy Factor, were starting their own label (Enjoy) and wanted me to be their first artist."

For Johnson this was a welcome departure from his encounters with the major labels. "I know it's a cliché, but it really was like 'selling your soul to rock 'n' roll.' They were looking for someone who was willing to do anything to be a star ... and that wasn't for me."

Now, although he's doing the touring and interviews to promote his music, at least it's on his terms. The CD is a seamless collection of thoughtful songs held together by his beguiling voice and appropriately sparse production. And his family is pretty jazzed by his newfound notoriety. "My dad and mom are excited for me -- and they know all the words to my songs because they've heard them whenever I've come home over the past couple of years, working on them while sitting on our front porch.

"It was a pretty surreal scene for my two brothers and their wives when they saw me play at one of the East Coast shows. They know it was weird for me to be playing in front of all these people -- they were more nervous for me than I was for myself!"


Daily Trojan Article

You've got a Friend in him

Surfer music is on the rise with the success of Jack Johnson, whose talents include filmmaking, surfing and playing the guitar

Contributing Writer

And the winner is Jack Johnson," the supermodel announces. Johnson eases his way up to the Universal Amphitheater stage to accept the ESPN Action Sports Award for "Best Surf Music." The applause is noticeably softer compared to the night's previous winners. "It's OK, none of you really know of me, except for a few surfers, but thank you very much," Johnson explains.
     Try telling that to the blushing 13-year-old girls surrounding him outside Rhino Records in Claremont, Calif. One of the girls asks, "Jack, are we friends, you and me?" Without hesitating, Johnson smiles, "yes." After talking with him for a few minutes, you realize that he means it. He is your friend.
     Johnson has been making a lot of friends lately. Currently on tour with Ben Harper, Johnson has watched his debut album, Brushfire Fairytales, collect a growing and devoted group of fans. "It's crazy to actually play a show where you are headlining and people actually come out and pack a place," he said about his sold-out show in Solana Beach. "It's a really good feeling because the music I try to play is positive and it's nice to know that people are into positive music."
     He finds time to talk with fans because he enjoys it. "Playing music is always something you do if you love music, deciding whether or not you play it live depends on how the response is," he said. "The response has been great, and I love meeting and talking with cool people, so that keeps me really enthusiastic to be out playing my music."
     Playing music is nothing new to Johnson. He first picked up the guitar as a toddler, living on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. Johnson grew up as most North Shore kids surfing the world-class breaks in their own back yard. It only seemed natural for North Shore teenagers to pursue a career in pro-surfing. However, with one brother at UCLA, and another at USC, Johnson decided to leave it all behind to start out on his own at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
     "That choice was something I was always planning on doing," he said. "I knew I didn't want surfing as a profession. When I was a senior in high school, I already had a pro contract. In surfing, like anything, anytime you decide to make something completely public it is like it's not yours anymore, and surfing was always something I wanted to keep mine. Nobody else has their hands in it."
     It was at UCSB where Johnson met two loves of his life, his wife Kim and filmmaking. After changing his major from math to film, Johnson discovered a hidden talent. He used that talent to film his friends surfing, which grew into two revolutionary surf films, "Thicker Than Water," and "The September Sessions." The films earned Johnson immediate respect as a filmmaker, and ended up serving as an outlet for Johnson's musical talents.
     The decision to pursue his dreams after college was easy for Johnson. "I have always tried to let it flow," he said. "It sounds cheesy or overly-Zen, but I always tried to go along with whatever happened naturally. Music came about so naturally from doing my films and soundtrack work. I received such a great response that is seemed like the right thing to do."
     The chain of events that lead to Johnson's solo album began when he started getting requests from friends on boat trips in Indonesia. Bootleg copies of Johnson's melodies circulated the surf community when collaborations with G Love and Special Sauce and Ben Harper launched him into performances and recordings on his own.
     The influence of collaborators G Love and Special Sauce and Ben Harper is apparent in Johnson's music. Brushfire Fairytales is a mixture of Johnson's soothing acoustic guitar and flowing poetic prose. Friends Adam Topol and Merlo add to Johnson's own talents, with Topol playing often funk-inspired beats and percussion, and Merlo giving the trio a hip-hop flavored bass.
     The album has been selling extremely well according to his record label, Enjoy-Records. Despite the controversy in the music industry surrounding Napster and music sharing, Johnson is grateful for the demand in his music. "Speaking for myself, and not my record label or anyone else, I am totally down with it (music sharing)," he said. "For me, none of this would have happened if it weren't for bootlegging or any of this. This all started because of sharing music, so it is like a new style of grass-roots With folk music, the kind of music we put out, it's all about sharing. Sitting around my house singing the songs to myself would be silly."
     Johnson will continue his musical tour with Ben Harper throughout the summer, but he still manages to schedule time for his films and surfing. "This summer we are taking a trip to some [surf] spots for a movie, but we are trying to keep those spots a real secret," he said.
     As for new music, Johnson will be providing tracks for a new skate movie produced by friend Scott Sowens and Hurley, as well as new music for another Moonshine Conspiracy film with partners Chris and Emmett Malloy.
     With all of his recent success, it is obvious that Johnson's movies and music will take him far. However, the thing about Johnson is that he will never get wrapped up in the fame, he is simply too humble. He will continue to treat everyone like a good friend, and he is always willing to share a tune. He may be willing to share his music with the fans, but go out and buy the CD. You will be rewarded with music that will make you feel good, and a new friend.


Jack Johnson’s music makes impact at D.P. (Don Pueblo High School)

by Dori Levy 

Dos Pueblos math teacher Kim Johnson has much to smile about.  Her husband, Jack Johnson, whom she has known since she was eighteen is an accomplished surfer, cinematographer, and musical artist.  His films, “September Sessions” and “Thicker Than Water” have both received awards fro best film of the year in the Surfer Magazine Poll.

          Jack Hody Johnson, the youngest of three boys to Jeff and Patti Johnson, was born on May 18, 1975 in Oahu, Hawaii.  At age fifteen, Johnson taught himself to play the guitar.  During college he relocated to UCSB and graduated with a degree in film.  In 1996, Johnson met musical producer Emmett Malloy.  Impressed by his talent, Malloy became Johnson’s manager.

            “Emmett is very careful with money and makes a great manager,” Johnson comments.

            When asked about his experience in the music business, Johnson replied, “It’s more than I imagined it would be.

            Johnson recently released a C.D. titled “Brushfire Fairytales”, which he also produced, in December of 2000.  In the album Ben Harper play with him, as well as musicians Tommy Jordan, and Geggy Tah.  In late February, he was invited to be the opening act for the last twenty-three cities of Ben Harper’s “Innocent Criminals” tour of the United States. 

            In his spare time, Johnson enjoys surfing.  The water is where he gets inspiration for a lot of his lyrics.

            On April thirteenth through the seventeenth, Johnson will perform in Australia at a music festival called The Byron Bay Blues Festival in Australia.  This will be Johnson[‘s first overseas performance in support of the new album.  In late May, Johnson is scheduled to open for Harper yet again at the Santa Barbara Bowl.

            As if this isn’t enough excitement for the young musician, Johnson was awarded the Best Music Surfer award at the recent EXPN Awards.  The awards ceremony will be televised Tuesday April 10, 201 on ESPN.  Everyone at Don Pueblos High School wishes Jack Johnson the best of luck on his music and surfing career.


Chicago Tribune Article

By Allison Stewart
Special to the Tribune
Published May 7, 2002

Now that Jack Johnson, pro surfer turned filmmaker turned singer-songwriter, is on the verge of becoming a rock star, he's not sure that the whole thing is an entirely good idea.

Johnson, for whom music is the third in a series of almost accidental careers, has watched with great surprise as his major-label debut, the bluesy folk-rock offering "Brushfire Fairytales," climbs the charts. What started off as a lark has now become an actual job, with interviews and photo shoots and wake-up calls.

Until now, Johnson's music career has been mostly limited to the occasional coffeehouse gig and his teenage days in a punk-rock cover band, and he's therefore unused to the routines most musicians know by heart. The rigors of touring and rehearsing are unfamiliar, and even playing live still feels novel; the newness of it all is made even stranger by the hundreds of teenage girls who increasingly crowd his shows.

"The more shows I do, the more used to it I get, and the more I realize that people actually want to hear me sing," Johnson says. "I still get nervous every time before I play, but it starts to get fun after a few songs."

Surf's up

Johnson grew up on the North Shore of Hawaii, the son of pro surfing legend Jeff Johnson. "He led a simple life," Johnson recalls. "Looking at him made me realize you don't need a lot to be happy."

Johnson began surfing professionally at 14; a collision with a barrier reef three years later resulted in almost 150 stitches and the end of his career. Johnson, disenchanted with pro surfing's increasingly sponsor-driven culture, says he was ready to go, anyway.

"When surfing started to be a reality, I realized it wasn't what I wanted. I didn't want to compromise. It's like with music -- as soon as you share it, it isn't yours. With music, I've been rolling with [the demands], but not with surfing. It's something so pure, I wanted to keep it just for me."

Johnson, now 26, entered the University of California at Santa Barbara as a math major and left with a film degree, which he soon put to use making surf films, including the acclaimed "Thicker Than Water." Johnson had been writing songs since he was 14, and committing them to four-track tapes heard only by his wife, Kim.

"I'd been writing songs for years, but I was traveling around doing surf films," Johnson says. "I'd never planned on doing a record."

Friends talked him into providing instrumental passages for his films, and after going surfing with G. Love and Special Sauce frontman Garrett Dutton, Johnson was persuaded to contribute a song he had written, "Rodeo Clowns," to a G. Love record. Johnson's demo found its way to J.P. Plunier, a fellow surfer and the manager/producer of blues-folkie Ben Harper. He and Plunier soon entered the studio and emerged, seven days later, with "Brushfire Fairytales."

"Brushfire Fairytales" is perfectly characteristic of its maker, amiable and uncomplicated and strangely delicate. It demonstrates perfectly both Johnson's knack for storytelling and his gift for laconic, largely acoustic folk-blues. Save for an occasional, oblique Dave Matthews influence, there's little about it that suggests commercial possibilities. Figuring it would at least do well with surf kids and fans of Harper, with whom Johnson frequently toured, Plunier set up a label, Enjoy Records, to distribute the album.

Meteoric success

But a funny thing happened on the way to obscurity: Thanks to a growing network of friends who began trading bootlegs, word quickly spread (that Johnson's friends included surfing superstars such as Kelly Slater and Rob Machado didn't hurt, either).

"It's pretty crazy. There's stuff I would find online that I'd only given to one friend, so I know how it got there," Johnson says. "It's been a spider-web effect. That's the whole reason all this [success] started. I'm sure there's lots of people who hate [downloading], but I really dig it."

Johnson was soon selling out 1,000-seat West Coast venues, and watching his album sell an almost unheard of 150,000 copies without the benefit of either major-label distribution or mainstream press. Universal Records recently picked up "Brushfire Fairytales" with the understanding that Johnson, who might be the most mellow person in the history of excessively mellow surfers, would occasionally put riding waves before promotional duties.

Johnson, who still lives in Santa Barbara, is building a studio in Hawaii, where he hopes to relocate after he gets off the road. He figures he'll make one more album -- he already has 25 songs written -- and then return at least part-time to filmmaking. At some point, he'll have to decide if the latest career he happened into is one he wants to keep. The day-to-dayness of being a rock star in training already seems to be wearing thin.

"I used to think I wasn't, but I'm just playing a role now when I'm onstage sometimes," Johnson says. "I'm trying to enjoy it, and I do feel really lucky. All this is pretty amazing, but when it's gone, it's no big deal."