Jack Johnson knows about riding waves. When his popularity as a singer/songwriter swelled two years ago, he rode the resulting crest, 2001's Brushfire Fairytales, to the tune of 1.25 million copies sold.
As a surfer who spends his days on the beach near Hawaii's pipeline, however, he knows perfect waves like that one don't come too frequently, and they almost never come in succession. That's why he's a bit taken back that On and On, with more then 410,000 sold in just seven weeks, seems to be continuing the ride that his debut started.
"I kind of accepted that the [success of the] the first one could have been just a flavor of the month," Johnson said. "And it would have been still just as exciting and fun to me if this record came out and sold nothing. I would have just looked at that last one as kind of this crazy thing that happened and it was a fun ride. But since this one's doing all right, I'm just going to keep rolling with it."
Johnson is not your average rock star. His guitar never gets louder than, say, five, and mellow doesn't even begin to describe his mood. It's hard to imagine him ever getting angry. In a rock arena where dominance is sometimes measured by the size of one's amp, Johnson's uncharacteristic calm is a welcome departure. At least it was when he played between the Sonic Youth and the White Stripes at the Coachella Festival in April (see "Iggy, Beasties, White Stripes Lead Three-Pronged Invasion At Coachella").
"I'm kind of like the pickled ginger to everyone else's sushi," he said, "like when you eat something between different tastes just to mellow your palette out some. [At Coachella], everyone though it was a nice little break from all the rock stuff. They could relax for a minute and then start banging their heads again."
The same theory holds true for Johnson's place on the radio, where On and On's single, "The Horizon Has Been Defeated," has taken off. The tune was inspired by seeing oil rigs off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, one day while surfing, and it offers evidence of how progress can sometimes be a detriment.
"I was watching one of those documentaries where they showed the first inventions of airplanes — when they're trying to hook up wings on bicycles and fly. You see them nose-diving off the top of things and how much fun that looks to be inventive. And they never had any idea that eventually there would be planes dropping bombs. A lot of times people create things they have no idea are going to be destructive."
After a show in Honolulu on Sunday, Johnson will spend the rest of July hanging out with his family, before heading out for the second time this year with buddy Ben Harper (see "Paradise Meets Protest As Jack Johnson, Ben Harper Begin Tour"), whose tour he latched onto when first starting out. Touring with friends is best, Johnson said, if for no other reason than they don't get too mad if you puke in their hats.
"I was onstage and I started to think in the middle of 'Middle Man' that I was going to throw up," Johnson remembered of the incident, to which he attributed to some bad goat cheese. "I looked around and there was nowhere to go. [The room] was pretty packed and I couldn't really make it through the crowd fast enough. So I went and hid behind this pole, and my brother, seeing my situation, passed me this beanie. It was Ben Harper's beanie that he had just gotten at the show the night before.
"So I threw up in the beanie. Meanwhile, my band kept playing 'Buggin' Out' by A Tribe Called Quest. Funny how you remember every little detail about things like that."
Jack Johnson tour dates, according to his publicist:
- 8/2 - Reno, NV @ Reno Hilton Amphitheatre
- 8/3 - Las Vegas, NV @ Hard Rock Hotel
- 8/4 - Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Bowl
- 8/8 - Santa Barbara, CA @ Santa Barbara Bowl
- 8/9 - Santa Barbara, CA @ Santa Barbara Bowl
- 8/10 - La Jolla, CA @ RIMAC Field
- 8/11 - Phoenix, AZ @ Dodge Theatre
- 8/13 - Sacramento, CA @ The Cove at Cal Expo
- 8/15 - Berkeley, CA @ Greek Theatre
- 8/16 - Berkeley, CA @ Greek Theatre
- 8/17 - Berkeley, CA @ Greek Theatre
- 8/19 - Bend, OR @ Les Schwab Amphitheater
- 8/20 - Saint Helens, OR @ Columbia Meadows
- 8/22 - Vancouver, BC @ Thunderbird Stadium
- 8/23 - George, WA @ The Gorge
- 8/24 - Nampa, ID @ Idaho Center Amphitheatre
- 8/25 - Deer Valley, UT @ Deer Valley Amphitheatre
- 8/27 - Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre
- 8/28 - Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre
- 9/21 - Austin, TX @ Austin City Limits Music Festival