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My Morning Jacket: "You can’t love anybody else until you love yourself"

My Morning Jacket
(Image credit: Austin Nelson)

Six years have passed since My Morning Jacket served up fresh studio product (last year's The Waterfall II was recorded in 2013 during the sessions for 2015's The Waterfall), with various members choosing to embark on solo projects and live work with the likes of Roger Waters and Ray LaMontagne. 

But the Kentucky-rooted quintet have finally returned with their ninth album My Morning Jacket, a rich, rewarding, soulful psych-rock experience that addresses some of the bigger questions that modern life tends to throw up. Singer, guitarist and chief songwriter Jim James explains more…

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Self-titled albums often feel like statements of intent. Is that the case here

Definitely. We weren’t sure if we were going to make another record or not, so coming back with a self-titled record just felt cosmically appropriate. It’s like: “This is My Morning Jacket. Hear this!” 

Why were you unsure about making another album? 

I was just really burnt out [after The Waterfall] and didn’t know if I wanted to be in a touring rock’n’roll band any more. It’s such a gruelling experience and it can wear you down. But then we did four shows together in 2019, after not having played for a long time, and were able to feel the beautiful energy of it. We turned up for those shows with no expectations, and it was the same thing with the record. I told everyone to keep it really simple, then just let fate play a bigger part.

Many of the songs on the album seem to be about reconnecting with the things that matter

All these songs were written before the pandemic happened, so for a while I’ve been feeling really worried about the role that technology, particularly phones and social media, plays in our lives. Then I realised that being out in nature was a way of reconnecting with myself and other beings on the planet. I got to see the giant sequoias for the first time, and that was the thing that broke it open for me. Every day I was either out walking in my neighbourhood or hiking in the mountains.

A couple of the the songs – Least Expected and Lucky To Be Alive – suggest that you’ve suffered health scares in recent years. Can you elaborate? 

Heart issues and inner injuries and back surgery. I’ve had three or four major things that have happened as a result of being in a touring band. But I had this moment of gratitude, after coming out of one injury, for still being alive and being able to appreciate the simple things, like watching the sunset, and trying to find the beauty in that, even when things are so fucked up. 

The album’s overriding theme is embodied on Love Love Love, which calls for more tolerance and compassion. 

Many of us don’t have a good relationship with ourselves, and that’s really the heart of that song: you can’t love anybody else until you love yourself. I’ve always been very cruel to myself, but in the last couple of years I’ve been able to make some progress, through meditation, therapy and being around nature. I actually had a really beautiful experience where a second version of myself came to me, held me in my arms and said: “Jim, you need to go easier on yourself, buddy.” So I’m trying to work on that now. I think it’s the way forward for us all.

My Morning Jacket is out now via ATO Records.

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.