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Jack Johnson
When Jack Johnson was growing up on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, he spent most of his time surfing and hiking, throwing in the occasional jam session on his guitar. In college, Johnson studied filmmaking and went on the road making surf films with his friends. It was at this time that he started writing songs for his movies, and what started out as a hobby has made Johnson one of the world’s biggest singer-songwriters today.

With his debut Brushfire Fairytales and his second release On And On, Johnson went into the studio with songs ready to record. For In Between Dreams, the process was a little new. “This new one was kind of a different experience for me,” Johnson says. “It was nice. We didn’t have all the songs finished so there was actually a lot of creativity going on in the studio. And this time we were having a lot of fun.” Recorded in a The Mango Tree studio in Hawaii (which Johnson converted into a studio from a garage), In Between Dreams is released on his record label Brushfire Records. The album is a testimony to the fact that Johnson, who studied filmmaking in college, is a storyteller, vividly capturing images and emotions in his lyrics. Johnson’s music displays the imagery, language and culture of the North Shore in a way only a true Hawaiian could make possible.

“My favourite songs are the ones that start out as jokes,” Johnson says. “There’s a song called Banana Pancakes on this record. It’s just all about how why don’t we just sleep in, make some banana pancakes and hang out…pretend like there’s no world outside of the house. That’s a song that you never actually think will be on a record. That just started out as a joke and then if they do make it on they’re usually my favourite ones because they don’t take themselves too seriously.”

Banana Pancakes, which was written for his wife Kim, both tells and comes from a story, like the single Breakdown. “Breakdown started when we were in France,” Johnson says. “We were travelling on tour and were in a train going out of Paris for a show. It actually ended up being one of the most fun shows that we did all year, out on the beach. But on the way I thought, ‘I don’t want to have to sing these songs again tonight. I hope this train breaks down.’ We were going through all these cool towns and I kept thinking it would be really nice if this train broke down and we could just take a walk around these towns.”

Johnson earned his first surfboard at the age of 5. Twenty-five years later, surfing is still what inspires him the most. “There’d be days when one of my brothers would call me and say, ‘Get out of the studio, the waves are perfect right now,’” Johnson says. “And I’d go down and surf really good. Then I’d come up with something. Sitting out by the water, you just subconsciously start singing a melody when you’re surfing. It just sort of goes with the rhythm. So I came up with a lot of songs out there.”

Johnson’s first tryst with music was with an ukulele, a traditional four-stringed guitar still very popular in Hawaii. At the age of 14 he took to learning the six-string guitar, teaching himself how to play when he wasn’t riding a wave. And it’s not just the Hawaiian waves that influence Johnson’s music ~ from the ukulele to Laka, the goddess of music, dance and rain, elements of Hawaiian culture punctuate his songs and give them authenticity and character.

You can read the rest of our feature on Jack Johnson in the March 2006 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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