Perhaps not as famous as the legendary boxer, although that depends
who you ask, is the Hawaiian surfer/video producer/singer Jack
Johnson. His folksy debut album Brushfire Fairytales is still
making waves (and catching airwaves) since its release in
December of 2000.
The son of surfing great Jeff Johnson was born on May 18 1975 in
Oahu, Hawaii. Jack started surfing at young age, and at age 14 he
became the youngest competitor in the Pipeline Masters Tournament. At
16, Jack earned a pro-surfing contract, and even though he had not yet
made up his mind about a career, he became one of the most promising
surfing talents on Hawaii. However, a serious surf incident marked a
turning point in Jack's pro-surfing career: a wipeout on a dry reef
resulted in a cracked skull, lost front teeth, and 100 stitches to fix
the damage. During his recovery Jack devoted much of his time to the
guitar. Some of his early musical influences from are Van Morrison,
Cat Stevens, Paul Simon, and De La Soul
But music wasn't Jack's first ambition; he left Hawaii to study
math at UCSB, but changed his major to
film. His talents for filmmaking can be seen in two surf-films:
Thicker than water and The September Sessions. For these
films, Jack Johnson also played many songs on the guitar. Both films won awards in the surf film world, both for their direction and music.
Fellow surfer, and singer Garett Dutton, better known as G. Love met Jack Johnson while riding the waves
in San Diego. After the surf, Jack played the song Rodeo Clowns for Dutton. He liked it so much that they went into the
studio the next day to record it for G. Love's album Philadelphonic.
At this point, several major recording labels became interested in
But Johnson did not feel much for the severe promotional obligations,
and the musical control the record labels were trying to put into the
contract. He felt the need to be free to travel, work on other projects,
or catch some waves. Instead of signing with a major label, he
hooked up with fellow surfer and producer J.P. Plunier under the
Enjoy label; Incidentally, J.P. is also the producer for
Ben Harper, a big influence and example for Jack Johnson.
The debut album, Brushfire Fairytales was recorded in
only one week, featuring a simple lineup (Jack Johnson on guitar, Adam
Topol on drums, and Merlo Podlewski on bass). Ben Harper plays slide
guitar on Flake. The album comes over as a day of surfing at
the beach; dynamic, playful, and sometimes mellow. His songs are like
catching a wave, and riding it out with smooth twists and turns. Jack
Johnson's style seems carefree and relaxed, but only because of his skilllful guitar play and his soothing voice.
Jack Johnson opened several concerts on Ben Harper's tour, gaining him
significant attention for his music. Currently, he headlines in front of
crowds of 1000-5000 people. However, Johnson has no extensive ambitions
in music. Instead, he'll go with whatever interesting appears at his
horizon. Just like the waves he enjoys riding on Hawaii.
Jack Johnson - Brushfire Fairytales, Enjoy Records, 2000
http://jackjohnsonmusic.com (official website)