Jack Johnson Takes It Easy On New LP, Gets Into Curious George's Head

Singer/songwriter's laid-back In Between Dreams is out March 1.

Though Jack Johnson anticipates his upcoming album will be more upbeat than his last, he's still pretty sure you should file it under "easy listening."

"It's slightly more upbeat," he said, "but not much. It's funny, 'cause the term 'easy listening' has such a negative connotation to it — not to everybody, but to a lot of people my age. We're not trying to put an edge on it or any distorted guitars. It's all acoustic and pretty easy on the ears."

While you're at it, perhaps you should file the man himself under the same label. Johnson, who calls Hawaii home, said that despite the positive reception of his last album, 2003's On and On (see "Humble Jack Johnson A Little Surprised He Hasn't Wiped Out Yet"), he didn't feel much pressure when it came to delivering an equally successful third effort.

"I just tried not to notice [the pressure]," he said. "We just had a good time doing it. We record in Hawaii, so it's pretty far away, and we just forget about the industry expectations and all of that. We just goof off and put [the album] out."

The end-product of those laid-back recording sessions, In Between Dreams, which will hit stores on March 1, is just as flowing, smooth and melodic as you'd expect, with Hawaiian influences like the inclusion of a slack guitar.

Johnson admits he thought the album would be a little mellower than it turned out, but said he couldn't help it — he and his band were just having too much fun.

"We just didn't want to have a plan," he said. "I just thought each record is going to get a little mellower. With this one, I think everyone was in a good mood in the studio, so we ended up producing it a little bit more upbeat. I don't know what happened."

The first single off the album, "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing," maintains that airy attitude, since it was intended to cheer up one of Johnson's friends who was chasing after a girl he adored. The song, Johnson said, is "kind of serious, but also very in jest. If you listen to the lyrics, there's a lot of funny little jokes."

Hopefully, the crowd at this year's Bonnaroo festival will be equally entertained by Johnson's light-hearted lyrics and mellow grooves. Johnson will join a lineup that already includes the Black Crowes, Modest Mouse, Jurassic 5 and a host of others when he plays the fourth annual festival that runs from June 10-12 in Manchester, Tennessee (see "Modest Mouse, Dave Matthews Band Top Bonnaroo 2005 Bill").

Not surprisingly, Johnson's favorite part of the festival is the sense of community and the fact that concertgoers get to "spend a whole weekend detached from your normal world and get into the groove of the music and everybody who's around. It's nice."

When he wasn't busy recording tracks for his own album, Johnson was working on songs for the upcoming Curious George movie that features Will Ferrell as the Man in the Yellow Hat.

"There's going to be parts where I'll have to describe what's going on in Curious George's head at the time," Johnson said of the songs he is writing for the film, " 'cause he can't speak."

Johnson shares something in common with the character he'll be speaking for: a sense of wonder for what's coming next in his life and career. The singer said that though he is interested in starting a number of projects, including a tour behind the new album, he's not likely to make that decision for himself.

The future, he said, "kind of chooses me, in a way."