UNIVERSAL CITY, California — Going to the Grammys for the first time can be slightly intimidating. Competing against Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder can be ... OK, it is definitely intimidating.
"I feel pretty out of my league," confessed Jack Johnson, whose "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing" will compete against songs from the former Beatle, the soul legend, Seal and Rob Thomas for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. "It's cool, but it's weird, something I never expected at all. I just hope I get to hang out with [the other nominees] backstage."
If he does, Johnson, who is also nominated in the Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals category for his Black Eyed Peas track "Gone Going," should have plenty to talk about. His latest album, Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George, is due February 7, the day before the Grammys.
"I get to kind of be Curious George's voice, 'cause he doesn't speak during the film," Johnson said of the soundtrack to "Curious George," due in theaters February 10. "I get to be inside of his head, let people know what's going on in there. And there's a bunch of spots with two minutes of no dialogue, so it goes into song."
Johnson, who has a son about to turn 2, enjoyed writing kid's music, but was certainly challenged (see "Jack Johnson Says 'Curious George' Shouldn't Monkey Around With Adult Themes").
"I never sat down to write songs for something before, they either come or they don't," he explained. "But being a kid's movie made it a little easy, you didn't have to overthink it too much. It was supposed to be sort of uplifting."
The album's first single is the movie's theme song, "Upside Down," a song about, of course, curiosity.
"It was actually an old melody that I've had for a long time," Johnson said. "It's funny, 'cause we probably recorded a version of it on the last couple of records, never with lyrics, and it always didn't feel right. It was real kid-like and poppy, so it's perfect for this."
For the video, Johnson got to collaborate with Curious George himself — at least in the end.
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"I'm in the cartoon world," he explained. "I had to swim around underwater and do some of the lyrics, and then it was a trip — I had to sit in this green room and the [director] would be like, 'OK, look to your left now,' and I never really knew what was happening, but when I watch it back the little monkey is swinging around and I'm reacting to him."
The soundtrack is actually credited to Jack Johnson and Friends and features G. Love, Ben Harper and the surfer-turned-singer's recent tourmate, Matt Costa (see "Jack Johnson Encourages Fans To Make Eco-Friendly Changes").
Johnson has also hooked up his other 2005 touring partners, ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra), by signing the band to his Brushfire Records.
"I got brought into this music world through G. Love and Special Sauce, Ben Harper, Money Mark — guys that were big influences and I liked getting to play with them and going to talk to their fans in the parking lot afterwards," Johnson said of his inspiration for launching the label. "My friend Emmett [Malloy, of the video directing team the Malloys], he's the one who has to do all the hard work in the office. I get the fun job of helping these guys put their records together and touring together. I guess I have a record label, but I don't really feel like it. It's pretty fun."
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