The Waterfall II

The Waterfall II

When My Morning Jacket decamped to Stinson Beach, California, to record the The Waterfall in late 2013, their intention wasn’t to walk away with enough material for a sprawling “White Album kind of thing,” as frontman Jim James describes it now to Apple Music. But after James injured his back moving an amp—an incident that would temporarily halt the sessions and require surgery for a herniated disc—he spent months reflecting as he recovered. So many new songs poured out of him that when the album was eventually completed and ready for release in 2015, the band worried that a triple LP would only overwhelm listeners. “When it got right down to when we were deciding what it was supposed to be, we were just getting a lot of information coming in that made us feel like a lot of the songs would be wasted if we put them all out,” James says. “We didn't want these songs to be lost. So we decided to just chop it in half and put out The Waterfall as it was, and then put out the other half some other time. I mean, life has gone through so many ups and downs since then, there was never a deliberate call as to when we would do it.” Five years later, amidst the upheaval of a global pandemic and social uprising, James felt the time was right to finally share The Waterfall II, a set of psychedelic, collage-like rock that feels clearly linked to its equally introspective first half. “I was so frozen,” James says of the first weeks of the pandemic. “I was kind of looking back across my life and taking stock. I just felt like it would hopefully be a good time to release the record while the world was kind of in a reflective state. I think we still are.” Here, he tells us the story behind every song on the album. Spinning My Wheels “I go on walks with my phone on shuffle, and it played ‘Spinning My Wheels.’ I listened to it and I was like, ‘Whoa, we’ve got this whole other album that, to me, feels very reflective.’ It’s funny because we're working on another new record—a new My Morning Jacket record—but with the pandemic and everything, it'll be a little while before we finish that and get all that stuff done.” Still Thinkin “I feel like there's always this period—at least for me—when I'm going through a relationship falling apart, that I keep thinking that I can make it work. I think we've all experienced that. If there's something that can't be fixed, but you haven't accepted that yet and you keep trying to fix it. You’re trying everything because you don't want to lose it. But you kind of have to lose it, because that's what will be best for both of you—but you don't realize it. 'Still Thinkin' was caught up in that emotion and caught up in the fog of that. Ultimately, once it was gone and I was looking back on it and writing that song, it’s like that feeling of being a lone soul hanging off the edge of the world. I feel like so many nights during this pandemic—and I know I'm not alone—but you feel so alone because you're kept at home. And you're like, all right, I'm at home again for the 800th night in a row. What do I do tonight? And I think a thing that's difficult that a lot of people have said that I really appreciate is trying to not be hard on ourselves, trying to remember we don't have to write the next great American novel. We don't have to paint an amazing painting every night. Some nights we're just going to be sad and that's okay, because it's a difficult time.” Climbing the Ladder “One thing that I've gotten sometimes when I talk to people about my sadnesses or my failures in love or personal life, people won't validate them or they'll say back to me, ‘Oh, but your career's going so good.’ And it's not like I'm not happy about those times, because we have so many levels in our life. We have so many different ways we are. There's the us that focuses on our career. There's the us that focuses on our family. There's the us that focuses on our hobbies, whatever. So that song I just kind of wrote about how I'm climbing the ladder and I'm paying my dues in this career way. But really at the end of the day—not that I don't value that or appreciate that—what I really want is sustainable love in my life and to create a sustainable relationship and a family and that kind of stuff, which I haven't been able to do.” Feel You “That song was so weird, because I wrote the main riff in Kentucky before we went to Stinson Beach, but there weren't all of the instrumental parts and there weren't all of the other parts that happened. We went to Muir Woods several times while we were in Stinson Beach, and Muir Woods really gave me that song. I feel like being in those woods, the parts would come, because that's something that happens for me a lot. I walk and it generates music, but I feel like where I am contributes to that music. That song—a lot of the instrumentation and a lot of the ending and a lot of the space in the song—I feel like really was downloaded from the trees.” Beautiful Love (Wasn’t Enough) “I wanted the song to have kind of a lighter vibe—not goofy, but just more of a resonant vibe that wasn't necessarily sad even though the song is kind of sad. I'm just really trying to look at myself and figure out why things didn't work out. I've had these moments where I'm like, ‘If I wrote down everything I wanted on paper, it was all there in this relationship. But for some intangible reason that I couldn't figure out, it just didn't work.’ And I was wondering about that in the song. Why wasn't it enough? Everything was there, but for some reason that I still don't understand, it wasn't enough. And I'm trying to figure that out for myself. What is it in me?” Magic Bullet “God, I don't even know where to start. I mean, it's so sad to me that as I sit here and try to remember which shooting it was that inspired me to write that song and I can't even remember. There's been so many of them. The whole gun thing just makes me so sad, because guns disgust me and guns are made to kill people and that is so profoundly messed up. The whole right to bear arms and the right to carry guns and stuff: It’s like, when the Constitution was written, they had muskets. So if you want to get literal about the Constitution, then give everybody a musket or give everybody a single-shooter rifle or whatever, and be like, ‘Okay. Here's your guns. You got them.’” Run It “It's Stinson Beach. I kept thinking about just wanting to get back to water. And I feel like most humans, we all love going to the water. We love going to the lake or to the beach, whatever it is, the swimming pool, we all have this desire. We’re made of water. At times, I feel so overwhelmed by life and I feel like I don't fit in to the human experience that I just want to turn back into water and go back into the ocean and start again. Maybe wash back up on shore, go through the whole thing again, because I don't know, sometimes it just doesn't make sense to me. That’s where that song came from.” Wasted “I feel like there's two ways to waste time. In ‘Feel You’ I reference what I consider to be the good way to waste time: to just take time, to do nothing basically, to experience the forest or experience the ocean, because I feel like we're all constantly trying to do things and trying to fill our time with activities and keep it moving. But I think we forget to just take time to just not do anything, but then there's the other kind of wasting time where I feel like if you start to do too much and you get stagnant and you get complacent and you don't realize what you have, you can waste a lot of time. You can waste a lot of opportunities, and ‘Wasted’ was just me thinking about that for myself and other people I know. When I feel like, ‘Oh god, I've been sitting here in this stagnant place,’ whatever it is, whether it's my misery or various injuries I've had that I've had to recover from, that require you to be in this time-wasting place, try and create that motion again. ‘Wasted’ was the instrumental nature of it, the whole middle section, and I was just trying to create that momentum, and that was all one of our favorite tracks, such a fun track to record and play. I feel like the first part of the song is we're trying to break up the energy, and then the instrumental part sends it out, shooting it out, once you've broken it up.” Welcome Home “This was a rumination on family, and I have such a wonderful family—not only a blood family, but my friends that have become family—and sometimes I get so lost in the end of a romance or the failure of a romantic relationship that I can spin out and almost forget there's anybody else on earth. When I wrote ‘Welcome Home,’ it was a time after I came home to Kentucky and just had some beautiful hangs with my family and with my friends. It's just a reminder to myself that there are these people that love me, that do welcome me home, no matter what my personal or relationship life may be going through, and to not forget them in those times of need, but remember them and call on them, because they've always been there for me.” The First Time “Another one I wrote walking down the beach. That's a thing I think about a lot, that I struggle with. I almost feel like sometimes I haven't unlocked the key yet. Some people have, but I feel like we get almost penalized in relationships, that everybody always says there's the magic there at the beginning and everything is so amazing, and then slowly the magic fades away. You can keep creating that beginner's mind—that freshness that brought you together in the first place—but still grow. Can we make this feel as special as it did back when we met and things were electric and things were on fire and we were everything to each other? I haven't been able to sustain that. Somehow that always fades away, and I wish it was engineered the other way, where you got more and more rewarded for staying in the relationship—it just got hotter and hotter and more and more amazing. I know some people do make that happen, but I think it takes a lot of work, obviously, doing the work for yourself and have your partner do the work.”

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