My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James joins me on this week’s People Have The Power podcast for an enthralling conversation on the role of art in times of crisis. In the roughly 45-minute talk James opens up on a variety of topics, on everything from writing during COVID and new My Morning Jacket music to his compelling protest song choices.
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“I’ve been getting a lot of ideas and I’ve been saving them, I always save them on voice memos,” James says of his writing process during the pandemic. “And I’ve been getting a lot of songs in dreams and I’ve been getting a lot of things. But my waking self has been in such a state of being perpetually bummed that I haven’t worked on them a lot.”
Despite that James says there is new MMJ music ready to go. “We did a new My Morning Jacket record we were finishing right before the pandemic happened. So sometime that’ll come out. I don’t know when, whenever we can tour again,” he says. “I think we kind of wrapped up sessions early March and then everything was shut down. And for the first couple of months it was a really welcome distraction for me to be able to take those sessions and finish vocals or editing or whatever I had to do to it. So it’s interesting to have done that before this whole time now and it’ll be interesting once we can tour again or go out and play it what it’ll feel like and how it might change.”
During the course of the conversation James also picked several protest songs, including Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” which he says, “That’s my favorite album of all time.”
He elaborates on the significance of the song both culturally and in his work. “Right after George Floyd was killed and I was in Los Angeles at the protest I saw several people holding up signs with lyrics from ‘What’s Going On’ on them. That song and that record, to me, are the pinnacle of human achievement musically,” he says.
So how does it influence his own work? “Everything about that record is what I aspire to be with music. I feel like that record haunts my dreams,” he says. “That record, in my mind, is untouchable. So I’m always looking to it as the cornerstone of the building I’m trying to build. “
For more with James and his other protest song choices check out this week’s People Have The Power podcast.