Jim James

The Exclaim! Questionnaire

BY James KeastPublished Feb 25, 2013

My Morning Jacket front-man Jim James drops his solo debut, Regions of Light and Sound of God, this month. Breaking free from the Louisville, KY band's psychedelic guitar-obsessed Southern rock sound, Regions boasts more hypnotic bass grooves and disco-dazzled synths.

But this solo excursion — which will include touring with some of James's "oldest friends" in his band, and includes a Toronto date in April as their only Canadian appearance — is not his sole focus. He recently revealed plans to re-join Conor Oberst, M. Ward and Mike Mogis to follow up 2009's Monsters of Folk project. Work will resume later this year on the first My Morning Jacket since 2011's Circuital, meaning that their appearance on American Dad as "My Morning Straightjacket" won't be the last we hear from them.

What are you up to?
Trying to become a better person. Also I am currently working with my friends to put together our band to take the solo album out on tour. This is a fun and challenging new adventure. I am also occasionally trying to sleep.

What are your current fixations?
Learning. I have also been fixated on this song called "Father Stretch My Hands" by Pastor T.L. Barrett. I listen to it over and over and I am constructing an hour-long hypnosis version of it to play as part of a live self-hypnosis series event.

Why do you live where you do?
Friends and family. That really is the core of it. Also, Louisville has a really cool vantage point from which to create art and life; it is a blank canvas and exists within its own identity... which is a great place to create from.

Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
"Like A Ship Without A Sail" by Pastor T.L. Barrett. This record really speaks in a deep way and I recommend it for anyone involved in life. Also, I recommend The Inner Art of Meditation by Jack Kornfield as a wonderful gateway to learning what meditation means.

What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
Seeing James Brown perform at the Louisville Waterfront in 1994. It was a beautiful melting pot — every race, colour and creed imaginable and the best dancing. I worked at Target at the time and called in sick so I could go to the show, and they filmed me on the news break-dancing, obviously very healthy. The next day I was fired from Target.

What have been your career highs and lows?
Being happy and being sad. I say that truthfully because I have played the greatest gigs and they did resonate fully with me because of the mental state I was in, and vice versa. Although sometimes of course live shows or playing music has the ability to change the state one is in. Of course, hopefully for the better.

What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
Once I got sick and couldn't sing and this guy yelled at me "I liked you better when you could sing!" I thought that was pretty mean.

What should everyone shut up about?
The internet.

What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I have a strong work ethic, which I am proud of and know I get a lot done, but I also am way overcritical of myself and very hard on myself so sometimes it's hard to just sit back and rest contented and happy. That is something I'd like to change, to be able to slow myself down and just chill for a minute, and be happy with what is.

What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Listening to "Sunday In Savannah" by Nina Simone on repeat. Driving down a country lane. Drinking an ice tea. Having a laugh with an old friend. Getting a hug in the sun. Taking a nap. Getting another hug in the sun.

What advice should you have taken, but did not?
Slow the fuck down.

What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?

What do you think of when you think of Canada?
Health care. We really need to figure that out here in the States. I think of Canada as providing a good example to the world of being able to take care of Canada before being a policeman to the rest of the world. Obviously this is a gross generalization and every country has its ups and downs, and I am proud to be a citizen of the United States, but I believe the U.S. could learn a lot from Canada in that way. We need to solve our own problems, get healthcare figured out, take care of our homeless, educate the children, make people feel safe, create good paying and long lasting jobs, create real incentives and a new sour or morality for companies like Apple to bring production/jobs to the United States etc. etc. Before we can worrying about being policemen to the world. But obviously we have not figured that out.

What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
"Where You Been" by Dinosaur Jr. on cassette.

What was your most memorable day job?
Working at Heine Brothers Coffee. It was like going to college in a way — tons of creative people exchanging ideas, laughing, drinking coffee, learning.

How do you spoil yourself?
Bathing in caramel. Creating spiders. Blowing bubbles. Eating pho. Just sitting on the couch and reading.

If I wasn't playing music I would be…
An art therapist? A teacher of art?

What do you fear most?
Fear itself.

What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
Butterscotch. "Baby" by Donnie and Joe Emerson.

What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
Peeing at a urinal next to James Lipton on the Conan O'Brien show.

Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
I have dinner all the time with my ideal guests. Seriously. I have a lot of very satisfying dinners. I mean, I could say Abe Lincoln or something like that, but I'm lucky to have a lot of really great dinners with old pals and new.

What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
She is happy with what I am doing.

What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
"The Last Mile of the Way" by Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers.

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