TV OR NOT TV
What makes Johnson's decision to donate his touring proceeds to charity all the more remarkable is his reluctance to take advantage of another revenue stream: using his songs in commercials or on TV shows. "If it feels like it's selling something, I always feel like I don't want my music to be involved," Johnson says. "[For TV] I always try and think, 'Is it something I would watch myself?' Then that would be cool. I used to have a fear about my music being in places where somebody didn't turn it on. For a long time we were worried about it being on TV because I didn't want it all of a sudden to be in people's living rooms if they didn't want it to be there."
In an era where branding is the new buzzword, Johnson's attitude seems strikingly old-fashioned. But Brushfire Records is expanding its roster, he says, with the goal of giving other artists the same kind of control over their work. Johnson admits that Brushfire's roster is heavy on his friends: Zach Gill plays keyboards for Johnson and is signed to the label as a soloist and with his group, ALO; Brushfire artists G. Love and Matt Costa are longtime collaborators with Johnson and also contributed to the "Curious George" soundtrack. Singer/songwriter Zee Avi, from Borneo, is the first artist released on Brushfire whom Johnson didn't previously know. Her 2009 self-titled debut was a joint release with Montone Records.
"I'll help by taking bands out on tour and letting them have the opening spot and doing collaborations," says Johnson, who recently produced the ALO album "Man of the World." "The whole reason why it started was to allow bands to have artistic and creative control over their stuff. We don't push anybody in any direction unless they want the help."
Therein lies the dichotomy of Jack Johnson: He wants to call the shots in his career and believes strongly in creative control-overt type A symptoms-but at his base, he's driven by the illogical impulses of creativity. The biggest challenge for him, then, is one that faces every artist: getting the sound he hears inside his head down on the album.
"You should hear how I sound up here," Johnson says, tapping his head. "It's amazing."