My Morning Jacket's Jim James on the Band's Nature-Inspired Album & Why the 'Internet Can't Kill' Live Music

Olivier Douliery/WireImage
Jim James of My Morning Jacket performs during Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day on the National Mall on April 18, 2015 in Washington, DC. 

My Morning Jacket singer-guitarist Jim James recalls the experience of recording in Stinson Beach — the secluded Northern California locale where the rock band cut its seventh studio LP, The Waterfall (May 4, ATO/Capitol) — as feeling like “being shoved up at the end of nature, on another planet, in a different galaxy.” That’s also an apt description of the Kentucky five-piece’s music, which has long balanced the earthy and ethereal. The group will spend the summer supporting the album on the road, including a stop at Bonnaroo, where it played a marathon set in 2008 that’s still discussed in revelatory tones. But James, 37, prefers to not focus too much on any one gig. “It was fun,” he says, “but I’m just looking forward to the next show.”

My Morning Jacket's Jim James Is 'Flattered' By 'Waterfall' Album Leak

Why did you record in Stinson Beach?

Everything is so grand out there. I’ve never stared out at the ocean while I’ve made a record before — that enhances things in a strange way. We were very isolated, but at the same time we had each other. It was like a little summer camp.

The band recorded enough music for a second LP, which you’ve said you aim to release in 2016.

We still have to finish the other one. But the records won’t be related in any way. It’s not like The Waterfall part one and part two.

Your group is often cited as one of music’s best live acts. What does that mean to you?

Live music is proof that there’s some things the Internet can’t kill. In our lifetime we’re going to see more and more things start to disappear and get gobbled up by the Internet, but live music won’t be one of them. Once all the power goes out, there will still be human beings standing together around a campfire, playing acoustic guitars.

Watch My Morning Jacket's Jim James and Seth Avett Cover Blind Melon

What do you think about streaming?

It boils down to a much larger issue than music. We don’t have universal health care. Education is so expensive. We have these massive problems, you know? So it makes me really happy to think that somebody could have all the music in the world for free. But at the same time, if you have enough money to pay for it, you should pay for it.

Have you been following the rollout of Tidal?

It seems kind of elitist and weird. The advertising turned me off. Twenty bucks a month obviously isn’t a lot of money for all the music in the world, but if you can’t afford health insurance, are you really going to pay for hi-res files of music you can get for free on YouTube, even if they sound like shit?

This story originally appeared in the May 9 issue of Billboard


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