My Morning Jacket's Spontaneous Curation Series for its summer tour has shaken the band out of some "habits" it had grown into.
The series allows fans to help put together each show's set list, with MMJ's official fan club members picking the opening songs and others helping choose the encores via Twitter. Bassist Tom Blankenship tells Billboard.com that the effect has been nothing but refreshing.
"We had just gotten so used to certain combinations of songs and the kind of ebb and flow of the set list," he acknowledges. "We found that we kept kind of relying on these certain combinations and certain openers and closers and certain songs that were great for the encore. To the fans' credit, I think they recognized before we did that we were relying on this trick maybe too much, so they're really happy to have their say."
The polls have led to substantially different shows throughout MMJ's tours of Europe and, currently, North America, with the group digging into its catalog for gems such as "War Begun," "Phone Went West," "Butch Cassidy" and "Bermuda Highway" in addition to staples like "Evil Urges," "Outta My System," "Circuital" and "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)."
"It's a huge challenge to try and stand within these songs we're not used to making work together," Blankenship says. "But also it's great because so many of these songs are kind of forgotten. We keep putting them in the doghouse and say, 'Oh, we'll get back to playing "Rollin' Back" or whatever. We're finding out how much we love these songs and also how we can change them and use different instrumentation and make it new for ourselves and for the fans."
My Morning Jacket wraps its tour on Sept. 15 in Berkeley, Calif., but will also play Oct. 6 at the SoundLand festival in Nashville and Oct. 14 at the Corona Capital Festival in Mexico City, with a three-night Capitol Theatre run in Port Chester, N.Y. slated for Dec. 27-29. As for a follow-up to 2011's "Circuital," Blankenship says frontman Jim James is planning to release another solo album, but he doesn't expect too much time will pass before MMJ gets into gear again.
"We talked about (recording maybe in the spring)," the bassist says. "I just hope the process is similar to the way it was for ('Circuital'), where we don't really demo that much, just play the songs a few times and press 'record' and try to capture that first-take magic. Beyond that, it's pretty open-ended. We're not at the point where we know anything concrete yet."