Biography of Jack Johnson, Singer-Songwriter and Producer

Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson. Photo by Raymond Boyd / Michael Ochs Archives

Born May 18, 1975, Jack Johnson grew up on the north shore of the island of Oahu in Hawaii. He is a singer-songwriter and produces records as well as documentaries. His early career aspirations and successes were very different. 

Early Surfing Success

He began surfing at the age of 5. As a teenager, he became a professional surfer. However, at the age of 17, just as he was beginning to receive significant notice in the sport, Jack Johnson suffered a severe injury that required two months of recuperation. During that time, he concentrated on working on his guitar playing skills.


At the age of 18, Jack Johnson enrolled at University of California - Santa Barbara to study film. While there, he began writing songs. He also met fellow film enthusiasts Chris Malloy and Emmett Malloy. Together they made the successful surf documentaries Thicker Than Water (2000) and The September Sessions (2002). However, Jack Johnson did not abandon music. He continued to make connections and made his first recorded appearance on "Rodeo Clowns" off the G. Love and Special Sauce album Philadelphonic. The song was recorded while Johnson was working on Thicker Than Water.

Brushfire Fairytales

As Jack Johnson continued his film work, a four-track demo of his music caught the attention of Ben Harper's producer J.P. Plunier. Harper had been a favorite musical inspiration of Johnson back in his college days. Plunier agreed to produce Jack Johnson's debut album Brushfire Fairytales, released in early 2001. With extensive touring support, the album climbed into the top 40 of the US album chart and included the top 40 modern rock singles "Bubble Toes" and "Flake." Jack Johnson's own record label, formed in 2002, was named Brushfire Records after his successful solo debut.

Jack Johnson as Pop Star

Jack Johnson's laidback, sunny songs caught the attention first of college music fans, but it was not long before he began gaining acclaim across a wider range of pop genres. A second solo album, On and On, was released in 2003 and peaked at #3. Two years later, his third solo release, In Between Dreams, reached #2 and sold over two million copies. It included the single "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing," which gained Jack Johnson a Grammy Award nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

Key Jack Johnson Tracks

Curious George

Jack Johnson was picked to provide the soundtrack for the animated film adaptation of Curious George. Released in early 2006, the album seemed to provide the perfect relaxed accompaniment to the monkey's mischievous adventures. The Curious George soundtrack became both Jack Johnson's first #1 album and the first soundtrack to an animated film to hit #1 in over 10 years. The song "Upside Down" became Johnson's first top 40 pop single.

Record Label Head

Jack Johnson launched Brushfire Records in 2002. In addition to his own recordings, the label is now the home of G. Love and Special Sauce, who gave Johnson an early boost in his career. Singer-songwriter Matt Costa and indie rock band Rogue Wave were among other key artists on the label.

Established Singer / Songwriter

Jack Johnson headed into recording his fifth studio album, Sleep Through the Static, as one of the top singer/songwriters in the music business. Johnson stated that the new album would include more electric guitar work than in the past. The first single from the project is "If I Had Eyes." The album debuted at #1 upon release early in February 2008. Sleep Through the Static spent 3 weeks at the top of the Billboard album chart.

To the Sea

To the Sea, Jack Johnson's sixth studio album, was released in 2010. It went to #1 on the album chart in both the US and the UK. It included his biggest hit single yet "You and Your Heart" which broke into the top 20 across pop, rock, and alternative charts. The album included the use of a wider range of instruments in the past including electronic organ. 

From Here To Now To You

In 2013 Jack Johnson released the album From Here To Now To You, and he also headlined the Bonnaroo Music Festival. The album topped the overall album chart as well as rock, folk, and alternative charts.

In addition to his success with pop-rock audiences, Jack Johnson is noted for his commitment to environmental causes. His concerts are showcases for environmentally-friendly innovations, from the use of biodiesel to power tour buses and trucks to on-site recycling and the use of low-energy lighting at concert venues.