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Jack Johnson In the Studio: Harder Guitars and Personal Lyrics From Ex-Surfer

October 10, 2007 10:09 AM ET

Longtime fans of Jack Johnson's work may find his February 5th album Sleeping Through the Static is a bit more, well, rockin'. "I've always played a lot of electric," he explains. "In high school, I had a little punk rock cover band where we'd play all Minor Threat, Fugazi and stuff like that. I started traveling a lot and playing primarily acoustic guitar when I was making the surf films. So a lot of the records have been acoustic-based, and this one, it's maybe fifty-fifty. There's a little bit more electric on this record, but the style isn't so different."

Johnson recently discussed a couple of songs that could potentially wind up on the new album with Rolling Stone. One song, tentatively titled "Just Like It Feels," documents a four-month journey through Europe he and his wife made when they were younger. "We bought this van in London and we traveled down through France and Spain and Portugal and Italy on a road trip, and we lived in this van ... We saved up all summer with summer jobs and then took off to Europe."

Another track, "Angel," was a Christmas present for his wife. Johnson often attempts to make a Christmas EP for family and friends, but "I usually always get the idea to do that about a few weeks too late, and then I always start out and try to do it and make one or two songs that are good for it." A gift for his wife ended up being a gift for the fans too, as Johnson felt "it was worth sharing with everybody, because it feels like a nice love song that everybody can get something out of."

Other noteworthy tracks include a Spaghetti Western-inspired track that might be called "We Do, We Don't," and "Really, Really," which has what Johnson calls "a whole different sound" that reflects more generally the album's character. "It's definitely a different thing. There's more keyboard on this record, there's some Wurlitzer." Those songs may make the album, as long as they can get past his in-house critics. When talking about whether his two sons offer insight into his music, Johnson admits "my son, depending on if he wants to play with Legos instead of listening to play music, he's like, 'I don't like that song at all, dad.' "

For more on Jack Johnson's Sleep Through the Static, out February 5th, pick up a copy of the Hot Issue, on stands through October 18th.

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Song Stories

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