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Jim James of My Morning Jacket: ‘We’re seeing how the dollar has been prioritized over the person’

Jim James performs on 'The Tonight Show,' 2019. (Andrew Lipovsky/NBC)
Jim James performs on 'The Tonight Show,' 2019. (Andrew Lipovsky/NBC)

by Sylvia Jennings

March 27, 2020

My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James is one of the many musicians who, due to the spread of COVID-19, are now contemplating how to proceed personally in their careers, as well as how to proceed as industry.

James checked in with Morning Show host Jill Riley to talk about the temporary loss of live shows, the loss of livelihood and funds in the service industry, and the importance of checking in with others throughout these trying times.

Jill Riley: The music industry is just at a halt. What are some things that you’re witnessing, and how have you been affected as a musician?

Jim James: We’ve been talking as musicians for so long now – they found a way to steal our album revenue so for years now we’ve had to move along without making a living from our album sales, and we always had this saying that we said they might be able to steal our album sales but they’ll never be able to steal the live experience. And now that’s gone. Touring can be really brutal and it’s a really difficult way of life but still it’s something we’ve always had. That’s how we make our money, and you get out there and you enjoy the concerts and a lot of it is amazing but a lot of the travel is brutal. But now you see that taken away. I hope it helps us take on a new reverence for all those – all the holiness that’s in all these everyday things that sometimes we start to take for granted.

Here in the Twin Cities restaurants are shut down. Some of them are doing a curbside pickup. Salons are shut down, the venues are shut down, so many people have been laid off and out of work and I wonder – that must be a common thread around the country, but what have you been hearing in Louisville, where you call home?

Yeah, it’s a common thread everywhere. There’s somebody that’s organizing an online festival for service industry professionals — I’m gonna play a song for that — and trying to raise funds for people who can’t work, [because] the restaurant is closed or the bar is closed. I think we’re all just trying to rally around. I think it’s a bit overwhelming right now because there’s just so much information online and you read another thing every day of this store closed or that store closed.

I hope that one thing people walk away from this with is that we don’t treat people right. We don’t live in a fair world. We’re seeing right now what capitalism has done to our society. It’s like we’re seeing how the dollar has been prioritized over the person and people are hurting. There’s gotta be some sort of new reality out of this.

Are there other ways that you’ve been kicking around ideas to connect with fans through means of social media?

Yeah. I did a virtual concert for Burning a couple weeks ago. I’ve just been not knocked down, but like I had the wind knocked out of me and haven’t really felt that much like playing and stuff. I think a lot of people might sympathize with that. I’ve gotten a couple requests from people to play and I’m excited about that now. It’s like I’m kinda getting over the initial shock of it or whatever. Now I’m just like, okay, let’s deal with this and try and help out however we can.

Connecting with the music world during the coronavirus crisis

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This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.