Jonah Lake is a surfer and musician from Sweden, who recently released his second album after a four month tour of New Zealand. His songs are about surfing, traveling, enjoying life and making the best of every day.
Jonah’s first album Free Soul has had over 1 million streams and has landed him at venues like the ASP World Tour event in Portugal, surf film festivals in Sweden, music festivals in New Zealand, venues in Sri Lanka, Canary islands, Australia, and more.
Meet the man creating fresh acoustic surf sounds, reflective of his colourful path through life.
Stay true to your mission, young in your mind
and create your future, don’t think about time
Free Soul ~ Jonah Lake
Hey Jonah, where are you today and what has been happening in your life?
I am currently back in Sweden working on a few new songs and doing some gigs while trying to get my garden in shape before my next New Zealand trip. My girlfriend and I built a small 25m² house in Sweden two years ago but we have been in New Zealand eight of those months, so we haven’t been able to fix up our garden yet. We came back a month ago from our latest New Zealand trip.
During the next few months I’ll try to fit in one surf trip to Norway and one to the Canary islands before heading back to NZ in December. I’d also like to have all my new songs recorded and released by then.
Surfing is my biggest passion in life but music isn’t far behind. To surf as much as possible and somehow make a living out of my songs and music is a path I’ve followed for many years now.
Sounds like an amazing journey you’ve been on, following a life of surfing and music. Coming from Sweden how did you develop and interest in surfing?
I am from a “surf town” on the Swedish west coast called Varberg. We got shapers, surfshops, surf schools, a surf magazine, an extreme sport festival called Hallifornia, and even surf bars. But when I started surfing back in the mid 90s we were only a dozen surfers and it more or less stayed like that until around 2005. Nowadays we got hundreds of surfers living in the area and people even travel from Norway and Denmark to surf here. I organized a surf event in my hometown a few years back and according to Surfer magazine was one of the coldest surf events in history. We had -14.5C in the morning but it heated up to -4 during the day.
Find out more about Varberg.
I’ve been addicted to the ocean since I was a child but I could not afford a surfboard, so I started of on a skateboard pretending I was surfing. We had no surf movies or magazines to look at. I came in contact with surfing while listening to The Beach boys, watching Point Break on repeat and finally I got a copy of Endless Summer.
Ever since I saw Endless summer, Raglan and Pipeline were my dream destinations. I surfed Pipe back in 2006 and finally arrived in Raglan in 2011. Since the age of fifteen I knew that surfing would be my calling in life, and as soon as I finished school at the age of nineteen, I moved to the Canary islands (the Hawaii of Europe ). The island of Fuerteventura became my base for nearly 10 years while I traveled to other places.
Every time I’m back in Sweden I try to go surfing as much as I can. I currently live over an hour away from my hometown but my parents live only 10 minutes walk away from my Swedish homebreak, so I’m there very often and I also do plenty of gigs at the Surf Saloon Bar right next to another surf break close to my parents, also walking distance.
In my hometown we want between 24-40 knots onshore South west/west winds to get overhead waves. 8 out of ten times it’s blown out, choppy, crowded (in fact much more than NZ) but every now and then we actually get some fun sessions. I’d say a crappy surf day in New Zealand would be an epic day in Sweden. But the stoke in the water in Sweden is really special so it still feels like an epic session. I really enjoy surfing in Sweden.
What have been some of the highlights of your surfing life so far?
From my first wave to the last one I caught, it has all felt like a highlight.
Biggest highlight was visiting New Zealand for the first time. Empty line ups, amazing people, beautiful landscapes and just the type of waves I love, long peeling lefts.
Hawaii was a dream come true but I didn’t get epic waves over there. Moving to the Canary islands after school was probably the best decision in my life, even though it was a very crazy part of my life.
Most random highlight was probably surfing a sunset session with friends at the outskirts of the Norwegian fjords in Hoddevika during a great summer swell.
Last year’s New Zealand trip was the best surf trip I’ve ever had. We lived in our van for 4 months and followed the pumping El Nino waves the whole summer on the north island.
Music and surfing have a natural synergy. What got you interested in becoming a creator, and when did you start working professionally?
I always loved the ocean and the music. I wrote lyrics before I could play the guitar or sing and I dreamt about surfing waves before I even knew what surfing was.
I can’t read notes or tabs and still to this day I have never had a guitar lesson.
Music and lyrics should have a meaning and come from the heart. What’s the point on making an album if you ain’t got nothing to say. I do feel I got something to say, so I never gave up. I started to get paid gigs when I was 26 years old but it was not until I was 30 years old I started getting paid playing my originals. So from the time I was 19 I have been struggling to get my music heard busking streets, playing bars, cafés, campgrounds, parties etc. I always wanted to make a living off my music but I did not have the luck, talent, voice or the guitar skills for it. But I never gave up on my dream.
Many people have laughed out loud in my face and talked behind my back. Almost no one has believed in my music but I guess that’s how it is for most musicians who start from scratch. Luckily my bad luck has gone away for a while and the past years it has been an amazing journey playing in countries like Portugal, Sri Lanka, Norway and New Zealand.
Tell us about your new album Neverland?
Neverland is my follow-up album to my first album Free Soul. It’s about traveling, enjoying life on the road, being yourself and finding home. For me lyrics are really important and in the songs Everywhere is home, Neverland, Ride and My view of heaven I’ve put a lot of time on the lyrics. My only inspiration for this album was to make it sound as close to my first album as possible.
When it comes to my acoustic reggae sound some of my inspirations are Bob Marley, Tryo, Patrice, Slightly Stoopid and Sublime. But as a songwriter Paul Simon and Nick Drake are my biggest inspirations.
Both my albums were recorded in a tiny bedroom, using only two microphones. No loops, amps or autotune etc. First I write the songs, then I record guitar and voice followed by percussion and in the end I add bass and guitar fills. I like to keep it simple and not ad too much stuff into the songs.
Free Soul was supposed to be an album for friends I’ve met while surfing around the globe. I never thought I was going to do another album in the same style but I had few songs over and the Free soul album was doing better than I ever could have imagined, so I thought why not. While traveling New Zealand last year I wrote a few more songs that eventually became Neverland. The song Neverland is about New Zealand.
But to be fair, this acoustic sound I have now been associated with has only been a part of my life the past 4 years. I’m much more of a rocker and a folk artist. This year I’m releasing two other albums but not under the name Jonah Lake.
I feel very grateful and happy to have over 1 million streams of my music online, visitors from all over the world on my webpage and I still get fan mails every now and then, which keep the spirit up.
Who inspires you?
Anyone who has a passion, a fire, a dream and who actually does what it takes to reach it, no matter how long time it will take.
What is your dream destination, and if you could only take a surfboard or a guitar what would you choose?
I’d go to Rapa Nui, Easter islands and bring a 7´2 single fin. I’d choose a nice surf session over a guitar jam anytime.
Any words of advice for people wanting to follow their creative passions?
Do what you love and believe in. Don’t let other people tell you what to do. Expect a rollercoaster ride and pissed off people, but it will be worth it. Be yourself and don’t grow up, it’s a trap!
Listen to my songs Free Soul, Dreams Are For Free and Don’t Grow Up, It’s A Trap. I kind of answer those questions in those songs. I’m a lot better in explaining with songs than answering questions in interviews.