By CHRIS TALBOTT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Want to hear the sound of pure contentment? Pop on the new Jack Johnson record.
If you thought the Hawaii-based folk-rock singer was ultramellow before, wait until you hear “From Here to Now to You.”
“I just write about whatever it is that’s on my mind,” Johnson said. “This record has been a lot of just sort of being in the family in just kind of my own little bubble. Dropping the kids off at school, and just day-to-day life, just washing the dishes, working in the garden, taking the trash out. That’s not necessarily what the songs are about, but that’s kind of where I was living, in that space.”
It’s a very comfortable space. “From Here to Now to You,” released Tuesday, is his sixth album and moves away from the darker, more electric-oriented music on his last two albums, which were filled affected by the deaths of his father and a cousin.
There’s a gentle, rolling rhythm throughout the album’s 12 tracks with a handful of love songs aimed at his wife, and others examining fatherhood. There’s even one called, “Washing Dishes.”
The songs were mostly written on an acoustic guitar on Johnson’s front porch on the North Shore of Oahu, recorded in his studio and created with his friends, including his longtime band members, Ben Harper and producer Mario Caldato Jr., who recorded Johnson’s second and third albums in the mid-2000s.
The process mimicked the way he started, before his platinum debut, “Brushfire Fairytales.”
“Music’s always been about sharing to me,” Johnson said. “The first chords I ever learned were basically so we could do Bob Marley songs on the front porch, and the Beatles and Cat Stevens. So when I started writing my own, it was the same thing, about sharing. Everybody’s singing together. … It’s a very nice feeling. It’s spiritual, you know. So I do like it. But I can have too much of it and I can decide I don’t need it for a while.”
Which is what happened after he finished the tour for his last album. Johnson simply unplugged. And when he returned to the studio, he stayed that way, keeping it mostly acoustic. And if things didn’t feel right, he just shut it down, setting songs aside that didn’t resonate within the group or that grew difficult to tame in the studio.
“It’s like we’ve always talked about as a band,” Johnson said. “That term easy listening can have kind of a cheesy connotation for people, but we’ve always wanted to make our music easy on the ears. We’re never really going for that kind of edgy thing that’s kind of like breaking new boundaries. We’ve always felt part of a tradition, kind of like folk barbecue or something. We just try to go in and do the simplest form of the song we can and just make it easy on the ears.”