It’s Not About Politics: An Interview With Jim James

Photo courtesy of artist

My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James’ recent solo album, Eternally Even, delves into a trance of political anger – like being upset with a broken system – featuring the track “Same Old Lie,” which was featured in the “30 Days, 30 Songs” campaign. Prior to his upcoming show, FPH spoke to James about the record, the state of music, and American Dad. Jim James will play the House of Blues on December 16th, which you can purchase tickets to here and you can purchase “Eternally Even” here.

Free Press Houston: Jim, thank you for taking some time for this interview. I wanted to start by saying congratulations on your new record “Eternally Even,” which is your third solo record. Why did you feel that now was the best time for record? Also, where did the name “Eternally Even” derive from?

Jim James: Well, I just think that there are a lot of things we need to be talking about right now, such as how we can create more love and acceptance and equality in the world. How can we get over the “divide and conquer” techniques that are being used so well now to keep us apart? We are focused on anger and our differences more than how we are all so much alike. I want to be a positive part of these and other discussions now in these insane times that we are living in. The record just came out of me – how I was feeling, and what I was thinking. I believe in equality for all, and that we can come to a better way of life around the world, but it’s going to take a lot of work. Eternally Even, the song, means a lot of things to me, but basically, it is just a hope that somewhere out there in the future, after all of this fighting, killing, and anger is gone, there is a hope for peace and prosperity, quiet and calm, and equality and forgiveness.

Free Press Houston: One line you included in this record, “you can’t build love out of guns and blood and sorrow,” was featured on the track “Same Old Lie.” This album seems to be rather dark and political, though you include lyrics like the one I quoted, where you tie evil and peace together; was there any intention for the irony, in the sense that there is good in-between the bad in the album?

Jim James: There is no irony here, I’m just trying to say what I think and feel, trying to be a part of the discussion about what I and so many others feel is wrong with the world right now and how we can all move in the direction of peace, love, and equality.

Free Press Houston: What was the motivation behind “Eternally Even”? Was there any certain experience you had that made you produce this record?

Jim James: Haha, just look around you – how could one not be moved to think about what is happening all around us? The world is in a state of crisis from almost every angle. We need to be talking about togetherness and equality and peace and love as much as we can.

Free Press Houston: You tour with Twin Limb began November 15th and extends to December 18, with a show in Houston on December 16th at the House of Blues; how did you prepare for this one and why is now the time to hit the road?

Jim James: Like I said, life is happening now, things are happening now. We just want to be a source of positive energy and release. It just feels good to be with people and sing and dance and scream and let it all out.

Free Press Houston: What is your creation process on tour? How are you productive on the bus? Do you find time to write material, whether that be for your solo work or My Morning Jacket?

Jim James: Most traveling musicians will tell you that writing on the road is tough, because you spend so much energy each night on the show that there is little creative energy left over. However, I do get little ideas and things which I record as I go along so I don’t forget them and then I work on them when I have more energy later.

Free Press Houston: I wanted to get your opinion on the recent passage of Form I-129, which increases the price of international touring acts 42%, something included in its criteria. Do you see any reason as to why that went through?

Jim James: I think this is sad and is yet another product of insane greed. It is very difficult to tour internationally because of taxes fees and exchange rates – we would love to be able to tour more internationally, but it is always financial, the reasons why we cannot do more, and that is sad. I wish we could move away from our greed based way of living, but we seem to be headed in an even worse direction. It seems like it is going to have to get dreadfully bad before it gets any better, sadly.

Free Press Houston: Are there any benefits to its passing? If you were in charge of the form, what would you do to make it accessible for international talent to tour?

Jim James: I think bands should be welcomed from other parts of the world to celebrate the diversity and culture of the beautiful rainbow of humanity!

Free Press Houston: For those that are not familiar, could you describe what “Same Old Lie” is? Where did the idea for the campaign “30 days 30 songs” come from?

Jim James: “Same Old Lie” is a song on my new solo album about being tired of the broken system of politics here in the States, especially our election process. We have just seen our presidency sold to the highest bidder – an internet troll who’s spouting lies, hate, and anger…possibly stealing the election with the help of Russia. Everyone is sick of the lies, and every election cycle just gets more and more insane – good people like Bernie who want to work with and be equal with and lead the people are trampled by bullies with the most cash who are willing to lie about anything just to get elected. It is sick and it is sad. The notion that we elect one person – up until now always a male – to lead our diverse nation is absurd. We need to do away with the notion of president and form councils – each side or party gets a council and more voices can be heard and needs taken care of.

Free Press Houston: What has the feedback of the track been, from what you have noticed? For instance, I saw the post Franz Ferdinand made for their song, “Demagogue,” and their was quite a bit of backlash from fans, saying that they should stick to music, especially since they are not an American Band.

Jim James: To me, it’s not about politics, because I am no political expert. It’s about speaking your mind for what you believe in and working for peace and love. It is also being open to listening to and talking with “the other side,” and realizing that sides, race, religion, sex, and sexual preference – all of those things are just illusions used to divide and conquer us. We are really all just people who want to love and be loved and take care of those we love and we need to all work towards that – finding that common ground.

Free Press Houston: Thank you for your time, Jim. I wanted to conclude by asking the – million dollar – question: how did your episode on “American Dad” come about? Also, do you think that show represents the American Dream? If not, does it represent the dream in any previous era or perhaps a future?

Jim James: Mike Barker from American Dad was a fan and invited us on, we had a great time!

It’s Not About Politics: An Interview With Jim James This was reposted for my personal reading use

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