Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Herald interviews Jack Johnson

Just listen and enjoy the ride. That’s the best advice regarding Jack Johnson’s music.

Trying to describe this young musician’s work is nearly impossible without considering his diverse background. Johnson, who started out as a professional surfer, traveled the world’s oceans before graduating from high school. Lately, he is sweeping through the ocean-deprived Midwest, bringing his title wave of music and filmmaking to Madison.

Johnson, who answers the phone with a simple “Jack,” has astonishing credentials, but when given the chance humbly refrains from admitting them. He started his career surfing, signing a contract with Quiksilver at age 16, completed two feature films, “Thicker Than Water” (Surfer magazine’s Video of the Year) and “September Sessions” (winner of the ESPN’s Film Festival’s Adobe Highlight Award) and toured as Ben Harper’s opening act. When asked in a recent interview, from a bustling Minneapolis hotel room, to name something unique about himself, the Hawaii native answered in a cool pacific drawl, “I’m a big Harry Belafonte fan.”

Johnson, who Time magazine described as “chiller than a month of Sunday mornings,” went into further detail about surfing, making movies and his upcoming show at the Barrymore.

Badger Herald: Your tour is a pretty interesting concept — getting together with Mason Jennings and showing your movie “September Sessions” in concert. How did that develop?

Jack Johnson: It was a West Coast idea. We play a lot of surf towns out there, and we were thinking it would kind of make a nice night. It could be the worst thing ever, everyone coming down and asking what the hell is this — or it could be kind of fun to check it out. If a lot of people aren’t in a rush, it would be kind of fun if [people] wouldn’t mind chilling out for a little and checking out the movie.

BH: Are you going to play live in the background?

JJ: Um ? naw, we’ll just play afterwards. We were playing with the idea, but it was kind of takes a lot to get set-up and it just makes it sort of hard to do.

BH: How did you get to know Mason Jennings?

JJ: We were doing the Ben Harper tour and we did this show in Minnesota, it was Pete Yorn, Mason Jennings and myself and a couple other bands. Mason played right before us, and I realized his music was really good. We traded CDs after the show and just kind of kept in touch. In my head, I was hoping we could play some music on stage together.

BH: What should concertgoers expect to see?

JJ: On one run, we had an opening band, the movie and then we played music after. Some of the shows, Mason is the opening act and some of the shows we’re opening. I think the one in Madison, we might be closing.

BH: Talk about your movie “September Sessions” a little bit. What was your favorite part of making the film?

JJ: Actually, getting to surf was the best part. “September Sessions” was filmed on this string of Mentawai Islands, right off Sumatra, in the Indian Ocean, some of the best waves in the world. We’d wake up in the morning; the light was nice so I’d shoot for a few hours. Everyone eventually gets hungry and while they’re eating I’d go surf for a few hours, and when I see they’re ready to go out again, I get my gear to shoot again.

By the end of the ten days or two weeks, I can’t explain it — you’re so tired. I got so sunburned my whole forehead pealed off, my back was peeling and I had a really bad rash from the surf wax, but its part of the deal –you’re miserable in one way, but really feel good in another way, it’s cool.

BH: You wrote “F-Stop Blues” which appears on Brushfire Fairytales while working on this film. Did you ever think you might want to come away from this trip writing a song, or did it just kind of happen?

JJ: No, it just kind of happened. Actually, I wrote a couple songs. That’s the thing, I write most of my songs on surf trips because you just have so much time, you surf all day and at night you are just sitting on a boat. Just a bunch a friends, we pass around the guitar and play music.

BH: You were in La Crosse, Wis., when you toured with Ben Harper, but have you ever been to Madison before?

JJ: Not yet.

BH: Are you excited?

JJ: Oh man, that’s the most fun about touring and doing the surf movies. I’ve been going on [surf] trips on either sides of the camera since I was sixteen. I’ve gone to a lot of places Tahiti, Australia, Fiji, a lot of Pacific Ocean and coastal regions.

But now, I have a reason to take a trip and see all of these places. It’s such a fun reason to come out and play a party at all of these different places and hang out with all the people in town who are willing to come out, get loose, and have fun.

BH: What have you heard about Madison?

JJ: Not much, and that is the cool thing. It’s fun to go to the spots where you have no idea of what it’s going to be like. When you look at a map, its not just a drawing on a page, but when you remember all the spots you been and remember the colors of the trees where, and how cold it was, just the feeling of each spot.

BH: What’s in store for Jack Johnson?

JJ: I’m not sure. Probably more surf films, another record, that’s about it. But I don’t know in what order or when. I definitely have enough songs to try to put something else out. The surf trips will probably be put on hold. I just want to ride the music while it’s rolling.

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