February 08, 2008
| by Steven Castle
You’ve probably heard Jack Johnson’s music on pop radio, specifically his hits “Bubble Toes” in 2002 and “Upside Down” in 2006. He’s also the voice in the music to the children’s film “Curious George.” Now the mellow acoustic strummer has a new album, Sleep Through the Static, which is leading the way environmentally. The album is said to have been made with 100 percent solar power.
Johnson’s Bushfire Records studio in Los Angeles, where the album was recorded, is powered by solar panels on its roof. The studio also uses low-energy lighting, skylights, and is insulated with blue jeans scraps. Johnson takes his environmental ethic with him on the road as well. His tour bus runs on biodiesel, and concert venues sign “EnviroRiders” that request they comply with energy reduction and energy reuse.
Johnson is a former surfer and filmmaker who grew up and lives in Hawaii, where he founded the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to protecting and preserving the environment through grade-school environmental awareness programs. He is also a member of 1% for the Planet, an alliance that donates at least 1 percent of their net revenues annually to environmental organizations worldwide.
Johnson’s new album may not have any chart-busters, but his upbeat, easy-going funk grows on you. In a Newsweek.comvideo, Johnson said the new album has more “green than ever” on it. You won’t find earthy-crunchy protest songs or strong enviro-tracts, but Johnson mixes his love of nature into meditative and introspective lyrics, from tender slice-of-life love songs like “Same Girl” and “Angel” that are refreshingly free of soppy clichés to social issues such as watching the war in the title track.
“Stuck between channels my thoughts all quit
I thought about them too much, allowed them to touch
The feelings that rained down on the plains all dried and cracked
Waiting for things that never came.”
About the closest Johnson comes to directly addressing global environmental issues comes in “All At Once,” though he couches it a distinctly personal way.
“Around the sun
Some say it’s going to be the new hell
Some say it’s still too early to tell
Some say it really ain’t no myth at all
What about when it’s gone?
It really won’t be so long
Sometimes it feels like a heart
Is no place to be singing from at all.”
But perhaps Johnson’s true style in blending our personal with the natural worlds comes through on “Monsoon,” where he sings:
“And if the moon
Can turn the tides it can pull the tears
And take them from our eyes
Make them into monsoons
Turn them into monsoon-er or later
They’ll weep their way back to the sea
Going to finally be free.”
Johnson’s easy-going music is infectious, and so apparently, is his environmental concerns. Johnson has said that certain venues have contacted him after the last tour and said they made a lot of changes in the way they put on shows.
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates