Jack Johnson talks All The Light Above It Too...
Hugely successful singer-songwriter Jack Johnson returns to action this week with All The Light Above It Too, his first album in four years,
We spoke to him about how it came together and the political bite hiding in the sunny melodies...
How did you want All The Light Above It Too to move on from what you’ve done in the past?
“I didn’t, necessarily. I just tend to move into making a record when I have enough songs to work with. I never start with an intention, I don’t go in looking for anything different, it’s just a journey, it’s the songs I have, the thoughts I have.”
You did the album with Robbie Lackritz, what did he bring to the process?
“I’ve worked with a few other producers and this is my first time with Robbie. I’d met him a couple of times on tour and I liked him a lot. I’d heard the tracks he’d done for Feist and for Bahamas and I liked what he’d done. He came into the studio while I was working on demos and trying to figure out whether I’d do an album or if it was a blueprint for something I might come back to. He definitely helped me get started and along the way.”
How do you know when you’ve got enough material for an album?
“I need to have a verse and a chorus for every song and six or seven finished songs. I did my first record in six days, but it’s a little slower now. I need a deadline, I’ll never finish unless I have to, I’ll always be waiting for that spark, I need to have a delivery date.”
Before you made the album you made documentary Smog Of The Sea, an in-depth look at how pollution is affecting sea creatures, did that feed into the album’s lyrics?
“I think so. I did a track for Smog Of The Sea and I spent a lot of time with scientists, finding out about how so much plastic ends up in the ocean that it degrades and degrades into such tiny pieces that it becomes fish food and then ends up in our food system. That stayed with me and that gave me the first song for the album. The documentary was the beginning of the album.”
What kind of album is this lyrically? Does it have a theme?
“I always try to piece everything I’ve got together. I spend a lot of time sequencing, making sure there’s a thread. It helps me fill in blanks with lyrics, knowing where a song is on the record. I always want my records to be cohesive. The first four songs on this album are quite political, quite bitey and cynical. Then when you get to ‘Big Sur’, that’s a song that’s literally about driving away from all that and just heading away to go camping. There are some love songs, there’s a song that’s a private joke between me and my kids. So the front half is serious, the back half is more personal.”
When did you decide on the title?
“Not until I had to. This was my first time when I didn’t have a title for a long time. The album has been called a couple of different things, All The Light Under The Sun was the title for a while. It’s the first line from the first song. Then it was called Subplots, but that felt a bit too 80s. Then I went back to All The Light Under The Sun and I realised that All The Light Above It Too. It’s saying the world is a beautiful place, but the way it works, the way the sun rises and sets every day, that’s not just for us, we’re just lucky enough to be here to experience it.”
When you take the record out live, how will you choose your setlist? You’ve got seven records now…
“That’s a good question. I really wanted to get the record out in June to get the songs out for the summer and so we could tour. We’ve been touring without the record out and we’ve been digging back into the early stuff, playing a lot of stuff we’ve never played before, that’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed that so much I don’t know how many new ones I’ll put in.”
When will we get to see you in the UK?
“We’re booked up until Christmas and we’re trying to make plans in the New Year so hopefully that’s when.”