Photo by Dino Perrucci
When My Morning Jacket burst on to the festival scene a decade ago, few would have predicted Jim James’ 2013 solo album Regions of Light and Sound of God. Not only did My Morning Jacket feel like James’ nom de plume, but the band members themselves also seemed to hide behind a mask of long hair and vocal reverb—far away from the world of solo albums and side-projects. But over the past ten years, the members of My Morning Jacket have slowly emerged from their original faceless mystique—long hair trimmed but intact—and James has both grown surprisingly comfortable in the spotlight and increasingly open in his writing. James has also revealed a far-wider palette of influences than southern rock, ranging from space-age psychedelia to gospel, funk, country, soul, New Orleans jazz and the occasional slow jam. He’s also proved his collaborative spirit through semi-permanent super groups like Monsters of Folk and the Woody Guthrie-tribute project New Multitudes as well as his regular appearances his Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Traces of James’ various influences can be found throughout his first full-length solo exercise Regions of Light and Sound of God, a meditation on Lynd Ward’s 1929 novel God’s Man. James has also pulled together a new solo band for a theater and club tour in support of his new project, during which he will play Regions of Light and Sound of God in its entirety followed by an encore of Jacket classics. For his first Jambands.com Readers Interview, the MMJ frontman discussed his first solo endeavor, his love for Jerry Garcia and why he decided to finally put his Yim Yames pseudo name to rest.
Can you talk about the people in your current touring band, how you selected them and what they offer? Tim Y.
Yes. They are fantastic old pals of mine. David Stephen Givan is someone I have known since the 4th grade. We played together in our first band “Mont de Sundua” and have continued to share this musical bond.
Kevin Ratterman is a dear old friend who owns and runs one of the greatest studios on earth—La La Land studios in louisville KY. We have done lots of work together and Kevin is a master of robotics and artificial intelligence.
Dan Dorff is a precious old pal and a master of the keys and really just about every instrument. We toured together on the record I did with Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore called Dear Companion to raise awareness about mountain top removal. And last but certainly not least is my newest pal of the bunch Alana Rocklin. She’s a master of bass destruction and a brilliant musical mind.
Were any of the songs on you current album ever contemplated for My Morning Jacket or were their special to your solo album? Ken R.
No but two of the songs from Circuital —“The Day is Coming” and “Moving Away”—were originally supposed to be on the solo album.
What makes a My Morning jacket song as opposed to a Jim James solo song? Devon H.
There is a genetic coding buried deep inside the DNA of a song that has to be analyzed back in my lab to determine these types of things. But sometimes my studies backfire or the data cannot be read.
Will you wear the boot and the cape on your current tour or is that a MMJ thing? Jen K.
Hard to say, really [Ed note: At recent solo shows, he has sported a new outfit that includes several different masks and other flair].
Any chance for a future Monsters of Folk tour? Nate R.
Sure. We started work on another record and all love each other very much. Time is just a tough thing to wrangle sometimes.
At this point in your career you’ve appeared in so many different sized venues. What is your favorite and why? Ron H.
Hmmm. It is quite hard to say, although some would include: Red Rocks [in Morrison, CO], The Palace in Louisville, KY, The Paradiso in Amsterdam, The Riverside in Milwaukee and Millennium Park in Chicago. Also there is Newport Folk Fest, B-roo [Bonnaroo], The Fillmore in San Fran, The Rudyard Kipling [in Louisville, KY], The Basement [in Nashville, TN] and many more.