TOURING AND TOURISM
Johnson is looking ahead at a long summer on the road, with 34 North American dates and a sprinkling of European shows amid festival stops at Eden Sessions in Cornwall, England; Glastonbury; and Denmark's Roskilde.
For years, touring was a burden for Johnson -- between the promotional duties in each town and performing each night, he would have a hard time managing his anxiety. This time around, he's found a pace that agrees with him-he's doing press before he hits the road and bringing his family along so he can spend mornings with them sightseeing. "It's pretty logical. You're out on the road, you should visit the radio station, and somebody from that town's newspaper wants to talk to you," he says. "But that was the stuff that would make me nervous the whole tour."
That isn't to say that Johnson won't step up to the plate when it becomes necessary to promote his work. Kathy Nelson was head of music at Universal Pictures when Johnson recorded the soundtrack to the 2006 animated film "Curious George." The album went on to sell 1.4 million copies, and its single "Upside Down" has sold 1.3 million downloads, making it his best-selling digital song, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"He's majorly a perfectionist. I tried to never subject him to the craziness and just let him do his thing," Nelson says. "But he did all that and more. He went [into scoring sessions] with Hans Zimmer and Heitor Pereira, he came to the premiere and brought his whole family from Hawaii, he met [Imagine Entertainment heads] Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. He was a delight."
Another indication of how much Johnson is willing to give: When he's done touring, Johnson will donate all the profits from his trek to his foundation, the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation. ("Ohana" means "family.") "It's a perpetual thing where we use the interest each year to fund groups," Johnson says. "It's real rewarding because you start to see where it was all going-here are the instruments from this school that are being bought, here you see the photographs of the garden that was funded through it."
Brushfire Records GM Josh Nicotra says that the promotion of the tour via radio will also have an environmental theme. "Instead of 'Call in to win when you hear the song,' we'll do 'Call in to win when you hear a green tip from one of the DJs,' " he says.
In an age when most artists rely on touring to earn income, Johnson's willingness to give away all his proceeds seems a touch mad. Then again, most artists don't sell albums the way Johnson does. "We wouldn't do it if we needed the money to make a living-don't worry about us," he says with a laugh. "We're not promising it's going to be like this forever, but every time a tour comes around we can decide ahead of time whether it's worth doing again."