New Multitudes Interview: Jim James

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In the spirit of Woody Guthrie, four diverse songwriters — Jim James, Jay Farrar, Will Johnson and Anders Parker — banded together create New Multitudes, an album of all new songs using the unpublished lyrics they found in Woody Guthrie’s archives.

By now you’ve had time to check out our New Multitudes feature in the March/April issue. Here’s the raw interviews, which feature plenty of bonus material, for your enjoyment. Happy reading.

How familiar with Woody Guthrie’s music were you before taking on the project?

I was somewhere in the middle. more than a casual fan but not an expert either.

What do you admire about Woody Guthrie as a person?

I like the he always seemed to present himself warts and all… he always comes off as human… full of brilliance but also full of error… just like what every human is capable of… and it seems like so much he was always fighting for that — fighting for the common man… so he reflects the truth back to the ages in a beautiful way.

What do you admire about Woody Guthrie as a songwriter?

Well the music and lyrics… speaks for itself… almost everything he did, he pulled off in a timeless fashion. His work will hold water as long as there are humans.

Tell us about a few of your favorite tracks on the album.

My favorite is probably “Hoping Machine.” That was the one that first got me hooked and then luckily pulled into the project! But honestly I love them all, and I’m not just saying that.
Do you have any anecdotes of a song “choosing you”, or feeling Woody’s spirit?

I felt like all of the songs I chose chose me… they seemed to fall right out of my mouth and energy and they spoke to me of what I was going thru at the time- recovering from a major injury… thinking it might have been the end of my life… then falling in love and being reborn again… it was a very intense time in my life.

What was it like working together with three other collaborators?

I love all of these guys and their individual music so much… so it was very inspiring.  

How did working in Monsters of Folk prepare you for this?

Honestly I just love collaborating with all og these wonderful souls and feel very blessed to work with them all.   

If Woody were getting his start today, what do you think he’d be doing? 

Working at the local hardware store or camped out at one of the occupy locations

Were you ever into the idea of being a hobo, like Woody is in his book Bound For Glory, and seeing the country?

I think everyone is into the romantic idea of free travel and drifting, at some point on their lives.

What are your thoughts on the Mermaid Avenue sessions?  Were they an inspiration?

I love those sessions. They are wonderful.

Did you learn anything from doing this project?


Did anything surprise you when working on this project?


How does it feel to be a part of Woody Guthrie’s legacy?

I’m honored.

Are there any similarities to the music you write and perform and Woody’s music ?


Would you want to do something like this again with a different artist?


Can you imagine others finishing your own lyrics one day?

I wonder….?

Next: New Multitudes Interview: Anders Parker


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