"I love Maui," said super-mellow Jack Johnson, who grew up surfing and playing guitar on the North Shore of O'ahu. He holds a special place in the hearts of his Hawai'i fans--especially those from Maui. "I have a lot of friends over there and sometimes I come over and surf."
He may surf here soon, but his primary objective for visiting the Valley Isle this week is to promote his recently released "Jack Johnson & Friends - Best of Kokua Festival."
On the outside chance that you don't know, Jack, the folk-rock singer-songwriter, surfer and musician is best known for his work in the soft rock and alternative genres.
Proceeds from “Jack Johnson & Friends - Best of Kokua Festival” CD sales benefit the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation, which funds environmental education in schools throughout the state. Many of these projects involve recycling and environmental field trips for school children.
In support of the album release, he's hitting the Hawaiian Islands for an intimate, seven-date, all-acoustic tour, including two sold-out shows on Wednesday and Thursday, April 25 and 26, at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theatre.
Proceeds from the four-island tour, "An Acoustic Evening with Jack Johnson, John Cruz and Paula Fuga," and the CD, a 13-track compilation of live performances from past festival concerts featuring live performances from artists such as Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne, Eddie Vedder and Dave Mathews, will benefit the Kokua Hawai'i Foundation.
"My wife Kim and I started the Kokua Foundation in 2003 to support environmental education in Hawai'i's schools and the community, "Jack said in a recent phone interview.
"We started a recycling program back in 2003, and it has grown into several programs," Jack explained.
One is called 'AINA In Schools--an acronym for actively integrating nutrition and agriculture in schools. 'AINA In Schools, a farm-to-school program, empowers students to make healthy food choices, cultivates the school garden as a learning laboratory, supports fresh, locally grown products in school lunches and snack programs, and offers field trips.
"We try to get kids to be aware of where their food comes from with trips out to farms," Jack said.
In addition to heading up 'AINA In Schools, the foundation has implemented recycling programs in nearly 50 schools on O'ahu and launched initiatives like Plastic Free Schools, created to cut back on single-use plastics on campus.
"There is so much plastic washing up on the beaches now," said Jack, "so we hold regular beach cleanups where they have tally sheets and actually keep track of what they're finding. That way their not just cleaning up the problem, but getting to the root of it."
The Kokua Festival has been the main fundraiser for the foundation. "But it's also a place where you can get locally grown food and information from nonprofits and green businesses that are environmentally minded," Jack said. "The festival's been a lot of fun and a great place to hear music from off the island."
"We've done six festivals now," Jack continued. "We're actually not doing a festival this year and instead we're putting out the Best of Kokua Festival CD. It's a compilation of songs from all the different years--and we're just playing at smaller theater shows."
In past years, Jack and friends performed large outdoor shows on O'ahu and Maui.
"We did that for two years, and it was a lot of fun," said Jack. "My wife and I, along with a lot of friends, were putting the shows on, but the expenses to try to take it to the other islands We are just trying to maximize the amount of funds we can raise for the foundation, so doing it two nights in a row at the same venue saves us quite a bit of money."
His favorite memories of past festivals were getting a chance to know all the different artists who participated--people like Willie Nelson and Jackson Browne and Taj Mahal
"These are icons and their music's been part of my life ever since the beginning," Jack said. "And then all these other musicians I have so much gratitude for them all coming. And you know, just for me to get to play music with them is really fun--it's great. For them to come and spend their time and energy to help raise money for Hawai'i schools is really great. Thinking back on all that makes me really appreciate them."
He added, "I'm really excited to come back to Maui and I really appreciate everyone coming out to the shows."
With two sold-out concerts, it is apparent that Maui is excited that Jack and his friends are back. But keep in mind that if you missed the concert, proceeds from the "Jack Johnson & Friends - Best of Kokua Festival" CD sales also benefit the foundation.