Sometimes Jim James just feels like saying “fuck it.”
He had a whole bevy of these feelings while recording My Morning Jacket’s majestic Waterfall LP partially while laying on his back after herniating a disc while moving an amp. Even with the jacked-up back, James and Co. finished the album and have been touring behind it tirelessly. Thankfully for James — and his surgically repaired disc — the band’s upcoming four-night run at Beacon Theatre is going to be the band’s last of the year. They’re not looking at the Beacon run not as an end, but a party.
“The thing that’s fun for us with a run of shows like this is that we aren’t going to repeat any songs,” he says over the phone, calling in from his Kentucky home. “Every show will be completely different. It’s exciting to give the big fans a chance to hear songs they maybe never have. I also think we’re going to be able to play each song off of all our records.”
Playing each song from their seven albums in the grand Beacon is a far cry from the first trip James remembers taking to New York City with My Morning Jacket. It was the first time for any of the members coming to the city and they only had one show booked at former Manhattan favorite venue Brownies. “We had no money and no time, so we literally drove right up to the venue, threw our stuff out, played a show, threw our stuff back in the van and drove away,” he says. “We were there for four hours maybe. So overwhelmed.”
Since that first whirlwind Brownies gig, the band has been in and out of NYC too many times to count, playing any and every venue. James still finds the city as “romantic and magical” as he did the first time he came through but there was one trip in particular that cemented his love.
“We played in the city right after 9/11 and that was the first time we were really awakened to the power and determination of its people to overcome tragedy,” he says. “I remember going out to dinner, and the people in the restaurant were just glad we were there because tourism was hurting. That’s the first time we really fell in love with the city’s spirit.”
Whether it be New York’s determination or that of any other metropolis, the road takes its toll on touring musicians. In James’s case, it took a toll on his back the last time around. It’s only common that feelings of anger or wanting to shut the whole thing down might creep in, but they always float away when the bigger picture comes back into focus, even when it’s a messed up disc permeating the pain.
James says he loves making music just as much as he always has, but the physical side of traveling and touring just becomes more and more taxing as the years go on. “Of course there are always times when I don’t want to do it, but… once the initial pain settles down, I come to think rationally and think about all the fun and good times,” he says. “It’s really like riding a see-saw, such an up and down lifestyle. You see great things and great people but you’re constantly brutalized by the travel and schedule.”
As brutal as things might get James has no plans to slow down. The band already has enough songs for a new album (they’re not sure when it’ll be out) that were from the Waterfall sessions, and James is currently working on a new solo record, but he’s taking his time. “It’s a weird thing. I could have a good week and be done with a record or it could take me years. The whole process is a really a beautiful thing,” he says.
In the end for James, the “beautiful” outweighs the “fuck it.”
My Morning Jacket take over the Beacon Theatre November 24 – 28.