Jack Johnson was a champion surfer on the professional route with a sponsorship with Quiksilver. It was a life that was second nature for this Hawaiian native, for he began chasing waves as a toddler, and by the time he was 17, he was an outstanding athlete on the Pipeline.
However, Johnson was also testing his other creative outlets — one being film and the other being music. It was during his college years as a film student at University of California at Santa Barbara when Johnson began writing songs. He and old mates, Chris Malloy and Emmett Malloy, produced a surf cinema documentary entitled Thicker Than Water, in turn spotlighting Johnson as a talented cinematographer as well as a burgeoning singer/songwriter.
His peers in and around the surf circuit praised his work and Thicker Than Water received props in Surfer magazine for Video of the Year during 2000.
The follow-up surf flick The September Sessions also earned the Adobe Highlight Award at the ESPN Film Festival that same year. Still, Johnson steered away from a blossoming pro sports career and stuck with music — something that would soon earn him additional honors.
G. Love & Special Sauce quickly took notice to Johnson’s lazy blues stylings, which also molded folk and hip-hop for a modern rock twist, and included Johnson on “Rodeo Clowns’” from G. Love’s 1999 release, Philadelphonic. Johnson’s four-track demo also caught the ears of Ben Harper’s right hand man, J.P. Plunier.
This was surely mind-blowing for Johnson, for Harper’s college rock mainstay Fight for Your Mind was one of his favorites and remained an inspiration. Aside from Plunier’s production work, Harper also added his lap steel guitar work on Jack Johnson’s sultry debut, Brushfire Fairytales (Enjoy Records) in winter 2001.
Two co-headlining tours followed throughout spring and summer 2002; Johnson’s sophomore effort On and On appeared in May 2003. Stateside dates with Ben Harper followed in June and July. A third album, In Between Dreams arrived in March 2005.