Jack Johnson on How to Chill This Fall

Morgan Maassen
Jack Johnson

Though Johnson tries to write in his home studio (a sunny space built out of a two-car garage), he admits it's not always the most productive space for him. "Sometimes it's so quiet you can hear your thoughts, and it can drive you crazy," he says. The majority of songs on his new album, All the Light Above It Too (Sept. 8) were written either camping or on boats. "When you're out of [cellular] reception and phones can't ring, there's not a lot else to do, so we play a lot of guitar," Johnson says. The king of mellow’s new album grew out of “being away from things, writing on a guitar and a ukulele that fits in my backpack.” Here, how to relax like he would this fall.

1. Surfing in Hawaii, his home state, “starts to turn on a little more in fall; it’s slower, but you get good waves,” says Johnson, who finds lyrics come easily to him when he's riding a wave. "Often as soon as I go for a surf, a line will pop into my head," he says. He wrote album track "Sunsets for Somebody Else" while on a surfing trip to Micronesia in March.

2. “Summer kind of lasts into fall in California,” he says. He loves camping up the coast (especially in Big Sur) and Yosemite National Park. "If we're touring and we have a few weeks off, we'll get in a camper van and head up the [California] coast," Johnson says. "There's something really different about those beaches. Sometimes you just want to look at the water, whereas in Hawaii you want to jump into it." 

3. “In our short-attention-span society, it’s nice to focus on a book,” he says, adding that his kids have inspired him to read more. "Busting through Harry Potter — it makes me jealous!" Johnson says. "I gotta catch up."  He's revisiting classics now, like John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, and eager to start The Barbarian Days of Surfing and The Beekeeper's Bible.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2 issue of Billboard.