Jack Johnson catches up with us at BBC Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park
Following a stellar set at BBC Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park, Jack Johnson chats to us about his newest album and how being on tour brings the family together.
Welcome to The UK! You’ve brought the rain – what happened?
I know, I was optimistic too, I wore my sandals and everything. I tried.
How was it playing in Hyde Park today?
It was fun, it was neat to be up there and look out, and I have a really fond memory of playing a show here once. So it was nice, a little different when you don’t get a chance to sound check because you walk out and the first song or two you’re trying to figure out the sound. And it was a little crazy out there at first but once we got that worked out it was nice, and then right when I was starting to feel comfortable we had to take off. But it was fun, a good time.
Tell us about the album, From Here to Now to You – what can we expect from it?
It’s a week now [that the album is released], it’s so close. I’m excited, we’ve been on tour for the last week so time has been flying. Seems it like was two months away for a while. Yeah, the album, I think I like it. It’s hard to tell, you know, you listen to it sometimes and you want to change everything. I listened to it for the first time on the plane ride over here because I was trying to remember some of the lyrics. I kind of go, once I finish it I listen to it everyday and I only hear the things I want to change and then I put it away for a little while. Sometimes I hear it and I think it’s pretty cool and other times I hear it and only hear what I want to change. But I like the songs, I think it’s a pretty good group of songs. They’re sort of a snapshot of what’s going on in my life for the previous year. So this one has a lot to do with relationships with family, father-son, father-daughter, husband and wife, in my case. Yeah so it’s a lot of that, a lot of family relationships.
Is it true that the proceeds are going to charity?
From the tour, yeah. Not from the record sales but from all of our touring we do – since 2008 I think it’s been – 100% of our proceeds go to charity. It’s fun for us; it kind of helps to motivate me to go out on tour again. Because we have all these great groups we’ve met around the world, different non-profit groups and they focus on music education in schools… some of them focus on single-use plastics, marine debris… A lot of the people are now just good friends, people we keep in touch with and when they come to Hawaii they stay with us. A lot of these organisations we really believe in so its great when we go out on tour that we can keep funding these groups. It makes touring really worthwhile for me and it’s like an easier way to explain to my kids exactly what daddy’s career is. And it’s fun.
Where has been your favourite place to tour?
Uh.. Well England of course! No, well, I like getting to new places, even though I love surfing and everything, for a few weeks I like being somewhere that’s totally different, so if it’s snowing or something like that its fun. So England is actually a lot of fun for us to come and play. My eldest kid is reading Harry Potter right now, for instance, and so the idea of being in London right now is really fun for him. And then it’s just castles in general at this age, I have a nine-year-old, a seven-year-old and a three-year-old. So the three-year-old thinks she’s a princess and the other two love the idea of storming castles. So it’s pretty fun for us to get to visit these spots that later on we’ll be able to look back and see the historical significance of where we were, but at this point they love the idea of playing knights and stuff and so it’s really fun for us to be right here, right know.
I like playing the songs that have lyrical content. There are places where we’ve played, like in Rio or Sao Paulo where the crowd goes so nuts and they clap on every song and they sing along on every song almost louder than you and so you’re on autopilot and its just like a big party. The first time I play at any place I kinda get thrown off because I don’t know what to expect, and now I’ve played everywhere enough that I look forward to the variety of energy you get from the crowd. And so when we play here I do get to focus on songs that are maybe quieter and can really appreciate the lyrical process that was involved in writing them, and I find that people really respond to those. But it can be a party too, in Hyde Park too. The last time we played here it was memorable show for us, we definitely had pretty good energy out in the audience, all together, even the dance numbers were good. Sometimes we play around Europe and we play in places that I’m surprised how well people understand all my words and everything, even where English might be a second language for them. And then we come here and it’s nice because you know everyone in the audience is hearing every word. So that’s nice to be able to focus on the lyrics at some places and that’s what we do here.
Does touring inspire you at all? Do you get a chance to write at all on tour?
I take in a lot when we go on tour; I kind of find that when I’m touring and doing this kind of stuff where I’m in front of cameras that I have a hard time writing but I’m taking a lot in and I’ll write about all the experiences later. But for me the writing process is really a conversation, usually with one person. Sometimes it starts with my wife – those are usually the love songs – and then other times it’s maybe a conversation about what was happening on tour. And then as we converse, I’ll kind of want to finish it, be alone with the guitar and then I’ll take it next level and then we’ll get back together and finish it in the studio. But I always try to think about one person when I write each song and that’s something I learned from reading Kurt Cobain. I saw an interview with him and he talked about whenever he wrote – no matter what he was writing – he was always writing for his sister. And if he thought she would like it, he would keep it and if he could hear her in the back if his mind sort of snickering or something, he would take that line away. So it kept his consistency, and I liked that. I guess when I read that I thought I’ll always have someone in mind. I don’t have a sister so it can’t be a sister but the love songs are for my wife, the break-up songs are for my friends – I haven’t had to go through a break-up really because I’ve been with the same girl for 20 years! So I do have some songs that are through the eyes of my friends who have gone through a break-up or divorce. And then a lot of songs are through the eyes of my kids. So I’ve got on this album, there’s a song for each of my kids, one song inspired by each of them.
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