Jack Johnson has announced the release of a new album to coincide with his summer 2017 tour. The Hawaiian musician made the announcement on the back of the release of environmental documentary “The Smog of the Sea,” for which Johnson did the score.
The album, which would be Johnson’s first since his 2013 release “From Here to Now to You” was inspired by the single “Fragments” which was made for the documentary. The 30-minute film follows Johnson and a group of scientists and environmental activists as they sail around the ocean, collecting data on the plastic particles that accumulate in areas of the ocean, causing damage to aquatic ecosystems.
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Johnson explains the causes of the issue.
“Some of [the plastic] is from cruise ships dumping, some of it’s from fishing fleets, a lot of it is blown from land sources, or things are shipped to other countries that are not set up to recycle like we can.”
— Jack Johnson (@jackjohnson) February 9, 2017
In addition to the obvious impacts on ocean life, Johnson explains that the accumulation of plastic in our oceans can also have an impact on humans.
“Smaller fish that have ingested micro plastics end up in the food chain. It’s a health issue.”
While most of his music favors warm, feel-good lyrics, Johnson explains how he lent his trademark sound to the topic of plastic pollution.
“The struggle with a song like [‘Fragments’] is trying to keep it from sounding like a public service announcement. By the end, I felt like the lyrics touched more on the psychology of why something like this might happen and where we are in history as humans, so it wasn’t too literal.”
Johnson explains that it was the natural rapport with composer and “Fragments” collaborator Simon Beins that inspired him to produce a new album.
“All these songs started coming together, and I decided basically a week or two ago that I was going to try to put them all together for a record.”
While in the past Johnson has been accompanied by a band on his albums, on this release he intends to play all instruments himself.
“It’s cruise control when you’ve got a really good rhythm section, cause they always make you sound good. I’ll start layering things a lot, then listen back, think, ‘I sound like an amateur,’ pull it back off. The songs end up really stripped down.”
Johnson explains that while he hopes to have the album completed before he embarks on his 17-date summer tour in June, the prime surfing conditions in his native Hawaii have kept him in the water and away from the studio.
“The waves have been really good this winter over here. Every time the waves are good, I have trouble getting into the studio.”
The musician goes on to explain that the lack of pressure from a record label has also changed his writing process.
“I tend to not finish an album until the night before the deadline. This time I don’t owe anybody any records. That’s the hard part.”
Johnson has long been an environmental crusader, publicly encouraging the use of reusable and sustainable packaging in the venues in which he plays.
“At different levels, at different venues, we’re trying to get rid of single-use plastic.”
The musician explains that as the main attraction at these venues, he feels responsible for any plastic waste created during his performances.
“Every time I step over the tideline as a surfer, I see the amount of plastic that’s starting to gather. And after a show, I look out and see a sea of plastic – the industry I’m part of is contributing in a major way to this problem. I feel a responsibility.”
You can catch Johnson on his 17 stop tour of the United States and Canada this summer. Tour info and tickets can be found here.
[Featured image by Daniel Ochoa/AP Images]