In the current issue of Rolling Stone, Jack Johnson’s friends and collaborators weigh in on the unlikely superstardom of the laid-back songwriter. One of those pals, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, had plenty more to say about his fellow musician and surf enthusiast. Check out all the bonus material from Austin Scaggs’ interview with Vedder, including the details of an ill-fated outing and why he didn’t buy Johnson a distortion pedal.
Eddie Vedder on Jack Johnson: “I met his dad first through different waterman activities. I think it was a while before I met Jack. I think Kelly Slater had given me his first record. I was in the islands at the time, and that went great. It was a great record to listen to in nature. There was a point about two or three years ago when I was with Ben Harper. I said, ‘Okay, Ben, how about you and me chip in and get Jack a distortion pedal?’ And we had a little bit of a laugh, you know? But I thought about that a lot, and that was my fault that I wasn’t getting it. What he’s doing is real. As opposed to him getting a distortion box or opposed to him trying to be something else, it’s real. There are so many positive things that you get from listening to his records or seeing him live. I didn’t get it for a long time, but now I get it.
“We were on an ill-fated canoe trip. We were sailing, and we flipped over in a channel. That was quite the little adventure. But we survived that. But, it got kind of life-threatening for a bit. The coolest thing about it was that we were floating in the water â€” big ocean swells, lot of wind â€” and we’re bobbing along out there and the mast is pointed straight towards the bottom of the ocean. I didn’t know if we were going be able to upright the deal. And I looked over at Jack and thought, ‘Well, I’m in the water with Jack Johnson, so I was gonna be okay.’ And it turned out he looked over at me and I had a smile on my face, so it made him feel like we were gonna be okay, too. So it’s interesting how you can give each other confidence even though the situation is a bit dire.
“You can go down the list of great artists and kind of understand that the are products of their environment. Whether it’s U2 or Henry Rollins or myself or >Johnny Lydon, they’re gonna be products of their environment. Seeing Jack, and seeing the other Hawaiian musicians that he plays with and supports, you witness the connection of the music that he makes and how he grew up. It’s his connection with the planet, his connection with nature, his connection with the ocean, his connection with family, and it all comes through in the music. That atmosphere is real. It’s not like he’s fighting demons, and it’s not an act he puts on.”