James playing bass guitar as Yim Yames with the New Multitudes band
Prior to forming My Morning Jacket, James was the vocalist and guitarist of Month of Sundays, currently known as Mont de Sundua.
As the vocalist, frontman, producer and lead songwriter for My Morning Jacket, James has been instrumental in defining the sound of the band. He was given an "Esky" for best songwriter in Esquire
's 2006 Esky Music Awards in the April issue.
James typically plays rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, and occasional lead guitar on My Morning Jacket songs. He played the role of the band leader in the Bob Dylan
biopic I'm Not There
, singing the song "Going to Acapulco", with Calexico as his backing band, which was featured on the soundtrack of the film. Rolling Stone
listed James among their "20 New Guitar Gods" along with fellow My Morning Jacket guitarist Carl Broemel. In 2008, James, along with former My Morning Jacket guitarist and cousin Johnny Quaid, formed Removador Recordings and Solutions record label. The label, as described on its website, functions "on the simple principal of yielding the highest annual percentage of aural joy back into the hearts and minds of investors and shareholders with ease and convenience". He contributed vocals on The Decemberists' 2009 album The Hazards of Love
On April 4, 2009, James performed at the Radio City Music Hall, New York City, in the "Change Begins Within" concert benefitting the David Lynch Foundation.
On July 7, 2009, James released Tribute To
, an EP covering George Harrison
songs. A portion of the proceeds from the album were donated to the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. The EP was available on yimyames.com as both a digital download and a physical CD/LP.
In 2009, James and the rest of My Morning Jacket played themselves in "My Morning Straitjacket", an episode of the animated television series American Dad!
In 2012, Rounder Records released the Woody Guthrie
tribute album New Multitudes
which features songs covered by a variety of musicians including James (as Yim Yames) and Jay Farrar
. James wrote an article on My Morning Jacket, discussing how the band got its name and growing up in Louisville, for the July 2012 issue of Louisville
magazine. Bandmates Patrick Hallahan and Tom Blankenship also wrote articles for the issue.
James released his debut solo full-length album, Regions of Light and Sound of God
, on ATO Records on February 5, 2013.
In early 2014 James recorded for Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes
alongside Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Taylor Goldsmith and Rhiannon Giddens. The album was produced by T-Bone Burnett and is a compilation of partial songs written by Bob Dylan that were never released.
On November 5, 2015, the David Lynch Foundation organised another benefit concert at New York City's Carnegie Hall named "Change Begins Within" to promote transcendental meditation for stress control. Jim James participated with Katy Perry, Sting, Jerry Seinfeld, Angelique Kidjo, and classical guitarist Sharon Isbin. And since each of the performers actively practices transcendental meditation, they also spoke to its power.
James plays himself and sings in episodes 4 and 10 of the Showtime series Roadies
In November 2016 he released his second solo album Eternally Even
On April 17, 2018, James announced the June 29 release of his third solo album of original material, Uniform Distortion
. Along with the announcement was the release of a single and music video for the album’s opening track ‘Just A Fool’. Also, included with the announcement was a letter James wrote to photographer Duane Michals requesting use of his photograph ‘The Illuminated Man’ for the album’s cover art. James discovered the photo in the 1971 publication The Last Whole Earth Catalog
, which he stated was a primary inspiration for the new album.
James was raised Catholic and attended Catholic grade school and high school. He has been practicing Transcendental Meditation since 2009. In 2008 he fell off the stage during a concert in Iowa, which inspired the recording of his first solo album.
My Morning Jacket
- The Tennessee Fire (1999)
- At Dawn (2001)
- It Still Moves (2003)
- Z (2005)
- Evil Urges (2008)
- Circuital (2011)
- The Waterfall (2015)
Monsters of FolkMonsters of Folk (2009)
The New Basement TapesLost on the River: The New Basement Tapes (2014)
- Tribute To (2009 - EP)
- New Multitudes [With Jay Farrar, Will Johnson and Anders Parker] (2012)
- Regions of Light and Sound of God (2013)
- Eternally Even (2016)
- Tribute To 2 (2017)
- Uniform Distortion (2018)
- Gibson Custom ES-335 (Dot figured-top electric guitar with gloss finish honey burst)
- Gibson 1998 Limited Edition Flying V with custom chrome pickguard
- 1976 Gretsch Broadkaster (Plain wood finish. Used as secondary performance guitar 1999–2003 tours. Also used in recording of Tennessee Fire, At Dawn'', and all EPs recorded prior to 2004)
- Gretsch Super Axe (red)
- Fender Stratocaster (sunburst, black pickguard, maple neck)
- Ovation Preacher 12-string electric
- Gibson J-185 acoustic/electric
- Takamine acoustic G335
- Gretsch Broadkaster
- Ventura Barney Kessel
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