Not Your Average Rock Star
“When it all started working and happening, we decided that we didn’t want to be apart, so I stole her,” he says, laughing.
With a master’s degree in education, Kim has worked closely with the foundation to develop programs, curriculum and resources for educators. These include programs such as ‘Aina In Schools, a farm-to-school initiative that utilizes garden-based learning.
Now in its eighth year, Kokua Hawaii Foundation director of program development Natalie McKinney says currently it is in 15 schools on Oahu. Students in kindergarten to sixth grade receive lessons on topics such as nutrition education, waste management, agricultural literacy, and community and family outreach.
“It’s a pretty extensive program based on a large national movement that’s happening right now around giving students access to locally grown produce,” says McKinney, “and what we’ve found is that if a student grows their own food, they’re more inclined to eat it.”
Annually, the foundation also offers grants for field trips and in-classroom learning opportunities. Ultimately, each program is intended to heighten students’ awareness of their ability to positively impact the environment.
“He’s really a person who walks the walk, and the work he does outside of the foundation. And just in regard to on the tour as well as his personal life, he’s someone who a lot of people look up to, and he’s really doing what he says,” says McKinney of Johnson, who also serves as president of the organization’s board.
At home on the North Shore, Johnson is just as environmentally conscious.
Initially recycling 50-gallon drums from Love’s Bakery to create a homemade collection system for water, the Johnsons now have installed 500-gallon barrels under the house. They also utilize solar panels, drive an electric car and use a worm composting system.
“Every time we learn about something new, we try to apply it to our own lives,” says Johnson.
No need to label the family as “environmentalists,” though. They’re just doing what they can to protect what they love.
“If you enjoy being outdoors, then you want to make choices that preserve and protect those places that you love, whether you call it environmentalism or not,” says Kim.
Little of his success as a musician seems to have affected the father of three. His current tour, for instance, was planned around his children’s May Day schedule and surf.
“It’s family-friendly and surf-friendly,” says Kim, “so we try to be home when the surf is good for Jack.”
Before tickets to this weekend’s concert went on sale, I asked Johnson why he was only doing one show.
His response: He wasn’t certain he would be able to sell out the show.
For someone whose sixth album, From Here To Now To You, debuted last year in the No. 1 spot on Billboard charts, that sort of humble candor is as surprising as it is refreshing. But spend even a moment with Johnson and it soon is apparent that, just like forgoing all proceeds from his tours, everything is that simple: What you see is what you get.
Once tickets did go on sale, fans quickly proved Johnson is still as popular, buying out an added second show.
“That’s why I never take for granted how much support we get back at home in Hawaii,” he later tells me. “I never want to assume that we are going to sell out a show, and so it was really exciting this time around when the first show sold out so quickly.”
His current From Here To Now To You world tour has taken Johnson and his band abroad, where they have visited different countries with family members who joined them on the road. Earlier this month the band played in places like France and Spain, but this weekend, the tour will make a stop at home, rocking Waikiki Shell to benefit Kokua Hawaii Foundation.
“There’s nothing quite like getting that much support at home, and so I’m really looking forward to getting back and playing those shows at Waikiki Shell,” he says.
“It’s going to be a great weekend.”