My Morning Jacket
When a veteran band decides to self-title an album, it’s often a way to reintroduce themselves. After years apart—and eight LPs behind them—My Morning Jacket felt like the moment had arrived. “I’ve always loved that phenomenon,” frontman Jim James tells Apple Music. “I was so excited that we even got to make another record that I was like, ‘This is the time for our self-titled.’ With all the insanity in the world right now, I wanted to do something as simple as we possibly could. Just, ‘Here we are. We’re back.’” Finished days before the pandemic took hold in early 2020, My Morning Jacket finds the Kentucky rock outfit luxuriating in one another’s company, feeling out familiar grooves (“Never in the Real World,” “Complex”) while still allowing for wild adventures (“In Color”) and loose experiments (“The Devil’s in the Details”). The hiatus, James says, was not due to any interpersonal drama, but rather the toll that “getting ground up in the machinery of touring” had taken on his health. Being together again lent him a sense of perspective and gratitude that courses through every song.
“We weren’t really sure what was going to happen, but we took the time to have it be just the five of us,” he says, “which, I think, was really important for us to be able to get together and be vulnerable and be willing to make mistakes and not be precious about things and just get back to the core of the band. I feel so thankful—it’s almost like another lifetime you got to live. No matter what happens tomorrow, here’s another album. We did another one.” Here, James takes us inside a few songs from the collection.
“Regularly Scheduled Programming” “It just felt like a natural, funny way to start it off because we had been interrupted and it was like, ‘Now we’re back to your regularly scheduled programming.’ Some songs just have that intro thing to them that feels like a first song in the way it builds. I call it a ramp song, where it starts with nothing and goes all the way up. I had been thinking about it so much before the pandemic, about how much screens have taken a place in our life. Then, obviously, the pandemic hit and we became even more addicted.”
“Love Love Love” “It came to me on a walk, the rhythm of it. I wanted it to be powerful and propulsive at the same time, to have this weird combination of power and a super-mellow, super-beautiful vocal thing in the choruses. Mainly, it’s from working on myself and going to therapy and realizing how mean I can be to myself. If we walked into a room and heard somebody saying the terrible things we say to ourselves to a friend, we’d get super pissed. The song is really about trying to find a way to love yourself, so you can be more present for other people.”
“In Color” “I thought it would maybe just be a minute-long acoustic song, really simple, like a nursery rhyme. Then I had a dream where I got the main riff and needed it to be a part of this thing. We started incorporating it and improvising, but something wasn’t right about it, and our drummer Patrick [Hallahan] said, ‘Why don’t we just start it acoustic and then go into all this other stuff that we’re doing?’ That’s what I love about the art of learning the recording studio: You find all the parts that really have heart and passion and real magic in them, and if you know how to edit correctly, you weave it into this thing that hopefully feels all of one body.”
“Never in the Real World” “That was one of my favorite moments on this record, a really fun one in the studio: Through playing it, you just get into these places that you never thought you would get into. It’s about struggling to feel like I belong in this world, feeling so lost so much of the time that I could only find some kind of magic through drugs and alcohol, through altered states. The daytime was often so unmanageable for me because the only way I could find that magic was at night. It’s holding a sacred place for that as well because I think that’s still something that I enjoy. At the same time, just feeling wildly out of balance and trying to deal with that, like I never found magic in the real world, in the way I was supposed to live. The way society tells you to live, what people do, doesn’t make any sense to me.”
“The Devil’s in the Details” “I got this old Sears drum machine for ten bucks, and it has this really nice pulsating pattern. I would play with it at night, sing over it, and then I put it in a demo box for things that I was going to work on later. I thought I would just do it by myself, because it didn’t really seem like a band song. While we were making the record, one night we went to this weird, really beautiful light show at the Arboretum in LA. The whole time I was walking, ‘The Devil’s in the Details’ kept coming into my head over and over. I was like, ‘Shit, we need to do this tomorrow.’ I brought the drum machine with me, and we just let it go. I showed them the chords, and we just all started improvising to the drum machine, getting hypnotized as we played along.”
“Lucky To Be Alive” “I’ve had lots of accidents on tour. I’ve been hospitalized, had back surgery and heart trouble. Everybody knows what it feels like to be sick at least, but when you’re super sick, you can get down in this pit where your life starts to feel meaningless or starts to feel too hard, and you start to question, ‘Why am I even here? What am I even doing?’ I feel like after I’d been in several of those, once I got out, there’s a resonance to just feeling lucky to be alive, to having a normal day where I can walk. When simple things are taken away from you, you don’t really realize their value. When I came back and recovered, I was like, ‘Try to remember this feeling of just being grateful to be alive in any capacity, just what a gift it is.’”
“I Never Could Get Enough” “It’s really just a sweet love song, about that feeling of loving somebody—not being able to get enough of that feeling, feeling so loved and so loving towards somebody that it’s all you can think about and it’s all you want to do. It’s that feeling, if we’re lucky enough to feel it, and it’s such a strange thing to try to manage, because everybody knows that everything changes, and everything ebbs and flows, and nothing lasts forever. It’s just about trying to enjoy that while you have it.”