Jack Johnson strolled on stage at Lincoln Center’s Allen Room Monday night (June 24) like it was a day at the beach. Dressed in blue jeans, blue t-shirt and flip-flops, his casual demeanor was a hint at what was to come that evening. At the intimate solo acoustic performance in New York, the lucky few in attendance would hear a preview of Johnson’s forthcoming album, From Here To Now To You.
The 90-minute set included his signature hits like fan favorite “Banana Pancakes,” the reality TV-show inspired “Good People,” and “Better Together.” In between the familiar tracks, Johnson peppered his new material alongside comical stories that explained how each of the songs originated.
Johnson admitted to writing delicately-strummed new track, “Don’t Believe A Thing I Say,” as a joke. When things go wrong for his wife — for instance broken computer — her excuse is, “Mercury is in retrograde.”
“I found myself teasing my wife but end up teasing myself,” he confessed. “All my songs are teasing my wife they just happen to turn into love songs.”
Johnson’s forthcoming sixth album, From Here To Now To You (out September 17), is no different. While the album is populated with love songs for his wife Kim (like first single “I Got You”), others are written through the eyes of his children.
“I have three wonderful kids and its fun to look at the world through their eyes,” he told Radio.com earlier this week. “It’s inspiring. And then I have a few love songs. Its just usually me trying to make my wife laugh and then they end up being the songs.”
One of those love songs on the album is “Never Fade,” a track Johnson played Monday evening. “Picture a Bill Withers drum beat,” he said before he began to strum the song on his acoustic guitar. When discussing the song with us the following day, he explained the difficulties of playing his music solo.
“Sometimes when you have it on a record you picture or hear the production a certain way,” he explained. “I hear the drums when I’m playing so when I’m playing that song alone I miss my drummer or I miss having the ukulele on top or the bass line. ‘Never Fade,’ when I play that one alone it feels particularly sparse to me but the story is still there and I have to remind myself that that’s the way I would hear it because when I wrote it, it was like that.”
Johnson is guarded about his personal life and children, but he said “Never Fade” is a fun story to tell and opened up about the inspiration behind the song, which is about the first time he saw his wife walk into a room.
“We just had this thing where we just looked at each other and she called my bluff and just walked right over and put her tray of food down,” he recalled. “We were at the cafeteria at school and she sat down right in front of me. We had a nice conversation and a friendship developed. Twenty years later here we are, still married.”
Johnson explained that his songs are very personal and he often battles with finding the balance between his personal stories and how he shares them with the world without giving away too much of his privacy.
“I usually just choose the ones that are giving a certain truth to a relationship. When people hear them I think they identify with them because they put themselves into the song,” he said. “So far that’s been my experience. I haven’t had too much of an invasion of privacy. I feel like people usually tell me, ‘We met at one of your shows,’ or ‘We used that song at our own wedding.’ I hear these stories where people use them in their own lives or experiences [and] it makes me feel OK about continuing to put them out.”