Jim James Of My Morning Jacket
Singer-songwriter and My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James released his second solo studio album, Eternally Even, November 5, 2016. He’s been touring for these past several months and spending his off time settling into his new home in Los Angeles. He’s long been a friend of Billy’s and our artist liaison, Shelly Colvin, and a fan of the clothing. The admiration is mutual. Our friend and frequent Journal contributor Andrea Behrends captured Jim backstage and throughout a January performance in Birmingham, Alabama.
Between shows, moving and studio work, Jim graciously carved out some time for a brief phone interview with The Journal. He shared with us the motivation behind the love and equality inspired record, Eternally Even, growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, and his Billy Reid uniform.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
How did you and Billy meet?
Long ago Billy gave us [My Morning Jacket] some clothes for the Love for Levon tribute to Levon Helm when he passed away. We really hit it off. Shelly [Colvin] and all of us hit it off, and we loved the clothes and ever since then, we've just been working together. I love Shelly and Billy so much and I love the clothes. I literally wear them every single day of my life.
How do Billy's clothes fit into your daily uniform? We hear you often wear the Moleskin Jeans.
That was my three or four years ago uniform. I wore those brown Moleskin jeans for three or four years every single day. Then, for a year or two, I wore these button-fly pants. They almost look like jeans, but they're not. Now I've been wearing these new, real thin, real nice black pants [The Walton Trouser] every day. I've been wearing a pair of Billy Reid pants every day since I met Shelly at that Love for Levon benefit, so however long, you do the math. [Laughter]
What was it like growing up in Louisville?
It's really a strange, beautiful place. Obviously, none of us can control where we come into the world, and I feel like it gave me a unique vantage point on the world, on life. I've got so many great friends and family there. Yeah, man, I love Louisville.
Are there things about the South that you miss, or things about L.A. that you wish they had more of from the South?
I don't really consider Louisville the South. That's the thing I like about Louisville most, is that everybody always mistakes it. Northerners think it's the South, Southerners think it's the North. It's not the Midwest. It's not the East. It's right in the middle, and that's where I always feel in life. I feel like I never really fit into any labels or any boxes and Louisville's the same way.
I still spend a lot of time in Louisville. I divide my time between L.A. and Louisville right now, so I don't really even have a chance to miss it because I go back quite often.
You’ve been taking a clear political stance with your new album Eternally Even. Did you perform parts of that album before the election, and if yes, have you felt a change in the performance or the audience since then?
Oh, yeah. I finished it and released it before the election in hopes that it could inspire. I just wanted to be a part of the dialogue and get people interested, engaged and voting, and become educated on the issues. I feel like, obviously the election turned out how it did, and that's been very sad and very difficult to deal with, but I think the only light we can see out of this current political situation is that hopefully, it will bring us together like we saw at the Women's March.
Now that people are really seeing that if you don't vote, if you're not educated on the issues, you see your life and the lives of your friends and loved ones can be dramatically harmed and dramatically changed. The life of the planet can be destroyed.
I think we've had the luxury, a lot of people for so long, of feeling like politics doesn't matter. I think people have really seen now, in a very harsh light, how much it does matter that you get involved.
We hear you've been inviting your audience to share what they believe in tandem with the track "Here In Spirit" during your performances. Can you tell us about that?
That was inspired by the Post-It wall in New York in the subway where people were putting things up that they believed in and made this beautiful Post-It wall. It's really just a vehicle. I'm just trying to encourage people, myself included, to be a part of the dialogue because there's so much anger and so much hatred. I feel like our new president is a cancer on humanity and we need to combat that with peace and love and with acceptance and equality.
Those things don't get the airtime they deserve. It seems like only negative stuff gets the air time because it gets ratings, but I feel there's so many of us that are just trying to do whatever we can to help peace and love be at the forefront of life, rather than all this anger and greed.
We have a few images of you that Andrea took at one of your shows where you are physically reaching out and connecting with your audience. Is that part of the “Here in Spirit” Post-It wall?
That's just something that's fun that happens. Live music is a way that we all connect with each other, whether you're the performer or the audience. I find myself in both positions and obviously, it's more difficult to physically touch somebody's hand or whatever. At some shows, if the barricade's too far away, I can't physically touch somebody. If the people are right there, it's just cool to connect with the people.