Future of Music: Jack Johnson

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What has music done for you in your life?
Music generally makes me want to go outside. Music makes me want to get out and go on a hike or take my kids kayaking or motivate to do something extraordinary. I think music has the power to break through. Like Kurt Vonnegut said, "God bless music."

What changes do you see coming in music, stylistically or technologically?
The difference now with technology is there's the ability for people to hear any kind of music they want to hear. Whatever type of music you're into, there are resources to find it and to find all the good stuff. Before, it seemed a little harder to get turned on to really good stuff. Now, with the Internet, by word of mouth you can say, "Have you heard this band," and type it right in and there it is. Before, you'd have to be like, "Oh, I'll try to pick that up next time I'm at the record store." And then you probably forget. It's just right at our fingertips now, so that's the positive side of it.

Some would say that has its drawbacks.
Yeah, but you can't hold onto the past.

What advice do you give to young musicians?
It seems like a really good time to get into music, as far as trying to get your music heard. You don't really need to have the backing of a major label anymore, you can do it, get your music on the Internet, and that word of mouth thing can happen. That was a huge part for me before I even had a record out. People started trading our stuff online. Once we had a record, people would have me sign a burned copy and say, "Sorry it's burned," and I didn't really care. If people were getting the music, I was cool. I thought technology was helping spread it around. I always hear people say the music industry is in trouble, and it probably is, but as far as getting your music heard, it seems easier nowadays.

Do you feel like music has a social responsibility?
Not all of it. I think all people have to do is stay true to what they're doing. For some, the only purpose is to make you dance or make you feel happy inside, and other stuff has that way of mobilizing people and activating them and hopefully making them want to go out and make some positive change in the world. I don't think it necessarily has a responsibility, but I think it's a good vehicle that's natural for some artists. For me, it was real natural. As soon as we could raise money, my wife and I kind of just decided it would be really nice to shine the spotlight and raise money for different things we thought were important, whether it was doing a one-off fundraiser for groups that we believed in, or starting the Kokua Hawaii Foundation and doing something positive for the community that we're part of. It's something we're always trying to grow.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?
Very optimistic. It's an interesting time and it's so hard to tell what's going to happen. Whatever we have to deal with, I believe in joyful participation. Quoting Joseph Campbell, "No matter how down you can get or how overwhelming the world can become, you have to have joyful participation and just try to make the best out of every moment that you have and do the most positive work you can in the world."