Jack Johnson: “I’ve Always Made What Feels Natural to Me”

Jack Johnson’s eighth album, Meet the Moonlight, has earned the Hawaiian singer-songwriter some of the most complimentary reviews of his two-decade career. Johnson, who’s now 47 years old and a father of three, created the album with producer Blake Mills, whose previous credits include two ecstatic albums with Perfume Genius, Alabama Shakes’ Grammy-winning Sound & Color, and Brittany Howard’s post-Shakes solo debut, Jaime.

Since his debut album, 2000’s Brushfire Fairytales, Johnson has held down a reputation as an easygoing and slyly philosophical songwriter. Johnson’s best-known songs, such as ‘Better Together’ and ‘Flake’, revolve around acoustic guitar and his demure lead vocals. Meet the Moonlight is unlikely to upend this reputation, but the album is distinguished by its deft sonic richness and thematic poignancy.

Ahead of an Australian tour this November and December – which includes dates in Perth, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne – Music Feeds spoke to Johnson about working with Mills and sticking to his guns.

Jack Johnson – ‘Meet the Moonlight’

Music Feeds: Blake Mills has produced for Jim James, Alabama Shakes, Perfume Genius. What led you to want to work with him for Meet the Moonlight?

Jack Johnson: I was reluctant at first because I didn’t know him. But my manager was like, “I want you guys to get on the phone, just talk, see if you like each other.” And sure enough, we talked for an hour, and it was about music, but about a bunch of other stuff – I liked his sense of humour, which is kind of the main thing to me.

He was up for just hanging for a week and playing music and that’s what we did.

MF: He ended playing a lot on the album. What did his playing bring to the songs?

JJ: He has a really interesting way of playing guitar, which is like, when he wants to, he can be as ear-catching as he wants – he can do anything he wants on the guitar, he’s so amazing – but he has a very supportive way of playing, too.

He’d always do these things that would make the part a little more lively. Sometimes it just sounds like one acoustic guitar, but there’d always be one little thing to make it feel like two friends sitting down and playing.

That was really different for me on this album – instead of just starting with a single guitar and building from there, even the first track had a little live element to it.

Jack Johnson – ‘One Step Ahead’

MF: Some of the albums Blake Mills has produced have a bit of baroque extravagance. But it sounds like he met you on your turf for Meet the Moonlight.

JJ: He’s really good at seeing what your strengths are. I had so much respect for his guitar playing and his production and whatnot. The nice thing is, he would always make me feel really good about the songs I was bringing, and the lyrics, and he would just get so into it that it would make me feel like getting really into it.

He would show up every day and he was never distracted – he was always just fully invested in making music every day. It’s nice, when you’re bringing something as intimate as one of your songs, to have somebody that you feel like is really listening.

MF: Meet the Moonlight is your eighth album. You’ve never done anything unflattering in an attempt to stay relevant. What keeps you focused on doing things your way?

JJ: The music I play is very traditional. I know sometimes you can catch little influences of different genres, but in general I’m playing more or less folk music. There’s some bands where I’d be let down if they came out with another album that didn’t stretch the boundaries. Radiohead’s a really easy example – I love Radiohead and I love that every album sounds like a different palette.

There’s other musicians where, I listen back to Mississippi John Hurt and it’s like, I don’t mind that it’s just him and his guitar all the time. And then, there’s some stuff where too much change… it feels like somebody’s trying to stay relevant or doing the changes because they think that might make them feel more relevant.

I’ve never wanted to do that – I’ve always tried to make what feels very natural to me. It’s not out of a safety thing. I’ve never had a desire to make something and then told myself, “Oh, I can’t make that, it’s too weird for me.” Even though I like listening to a lot of stuff, I’ve always made what feels like the natural thing for me to make and what I want to make.

Jack Johnson – ‘Don’t Look Now’

Jack Johnson Australian Tour 2022

  • Tuesday, 29th November – Kings Park, Perth
  • Friday, 2nd December – HOTA Amphitheatre, Gold Coast
  • Saturday, 3rd December – Riverstage, Brisbane
  • Monday, 5th December – Opera House Forecourt, Sydney
  • Thursday, 8th December – Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne

Further Reading

Jack Johnson Has Announced A 2022 Australian Tour

Yeah Yeah Yeahs Release New Single Featuring Perfume Genius

Andy Bull: 10 Things I’ve Been Doing Since My Last Album

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