Jack Johnson Rides Wave Of Success, Maintains Some Anonymity

Singer/surfer is at a point where he doesn't get recognized but still sells records.

SHERMAN OAKS, California — Jack Johnson is one of those mellow musicians who actually prefers to fly under the radar. But with the recent success of his latest release and a growing fanbase of loyal followers, the former pro surfer, who grew up riding the Hawaiian pipelines, is fighting to retain some of his old anonymity.

"To be honest, I feel good where I'm at right now," Johnson said during a recent in-store appearance at Tower Records. "I don't get recognized when I'm on the streets, but we're still able to draw a crowd and play a show. That's sort of the perfect balance to me."

Those days of anonymity are bound to be numbered, as the modest singer's star is rising by the minute. His latest musical venture, In Between Dreams, landed at #3 on the Billboard albums chart in its first week, just behind 50 Cent and Jennifer Lopez. It moved up to the #2 spot in its second week out.

The songwriter, who pens all of his own music, recorded the bulk of his latest LP in the makeshift studio/garage right behind his house. "The studio can feel a lot like a time warp. You get in there sometimes, and you feel like you're taking a break from your normal life," he said. "That could be a good thing for some people, but I don't want to take a break from my life."

Johnson also recalls the process of making the video for the album's first single, "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing," as an unusual experience. "I had to learn the words backwards," he explained. "[My manager] kept saying to study it, but I didn't at all. Then on the plane ride from Hawaii to California, I finally put the headphones on and I was like, 'Wait a minute, this is impossible. I can't do this.' "

Although the laid-back singer said he was able to get down most of the lines, he still ended up reading off cue cards. "If you watch the video, you'll see my lips get pretty off in certain parts," he revealed. "It was kind of crazy, because somebody hits you on the side of the head with an egg, and you lose your sight for a minute, then you've got to find out where you are again." The entire video, which was shot as one continuous take, used no special effects.

While there are a couple of songs on the new album that touch on more serious topics, Johnson wanted to make a record that was more heartwarming than his previous works. "I was trying to write a record that was mostly love songs or family songs, about losing people you love and gaining people you love, and birth and death," he said. "That's what I was aiming for."

The singer's newfound success has also brought a lot of attention to the art of surfing, and he admits that the new interest placed on the sport has an upside. "You get a lot more people in the water now," he said. "It was a pretty lopsided, testosterone-driven sport before, and now you're seeing a lot more girls get into it. It's a nicer vibe out there in the water."

Unfortunately, this musician won't be doing much surfing once he embarks on his extensive world tour. Fellow folk-rockers Matt Costa, Zach Gill and the Animal Liberation Orchestra will be accompanying Johnson on his spring headlining tour (see "Jack Johnson Takes His Eco-Obsessive Show On The Road"), which kicks off in Australia on Thursday. The singer will have a small break when the tour wraps June 2 in Japan, before commencing his North American leg in Houston on August 1. The 33-city trek will finish up September 17 in Toronto.

Johnson has also been recording tracks for the "Curious George" soundtrack (see "Jack Johnson Takes It Easy On New LP, Gets Into Curious George's Head"). The movie, starring Will Ferrell as the Man in the Yellow Hat, is slated for a 2006 release.