Jim James has a busy fall planned with My Morning Jacket, as the band supports latest album The Waterfall with a string of dates leading up to four late-November shows at New York’s Beacon Theatre. But on November 4th, James will make a quick detour to take the stage solo at Carnegie Hall alongside stars such as Katy Perry, Jerry Seinfeld and Sting for the Change Begins Within benefit concert for the David Lynch Foundation.
The David Lynch Foundation’s Meditate New York initiative has brought Transcendental Meditation into the lives of at-risk people, working with PTSD-afflicted veterans, domestic-violence survivors and inmates by teaching them the practice. James has found TM to be particularly beneficial in his own life, making the cause even closer to his heart. The musician recently spoke with Rolling Stone about the practice and the upcoming benefit show’s stacked lineup.
Is this the first time you’ve split a bill with Katy Perry and Jerry Seinfeld?
[Laughs] It is! I think? At least to my knowledge.
Are you a big fan of the two?
I’m a fan of life. I’m a big fan of everything.
Was Transcendental Meditation a part of your life before meeting David Lynch? Or did it come after?
I was invited to be a part of another benefit that took place about five or six years ago at Radio City Music Hall that the [David Lynch Foundation] put on with Paul McCartney and Donovan and a lot of other people. I performed at that, and just through being there that night and talking with everybody, I learned more about it. I always wanted to learn Transcendental Meditation, so after I did that benefit is kind of how I got turned on to that style of meditation in particular. Everything about it just seemed interesting to me. I had always been interested in different religions of the world, different spiritual practices. I’m into investigating as much as I can.
What’s your relationship with it today? How does it affect your life?
I meditate every day. I think meditation is one of the most wonderful things a person can do because it gives you a chance to just quiet things down, quiet the world, turn off your phone, turn off your computer, turn off your conversations and just sit with yourself and try to feel what it’s like to be alive. One of the most beautiful things that they kind of explain when you learn how to meditate is the idea of when you transcend, you’re giving back the same level of consciousness that all living beings share when you’re living at the same level of consciousness that a deer in the woods has or a tree has or a drop of water. Everything at the center is the same and has the same consciousness and same life-force. When you meditate and get to that level of consciousness, it really does make you feel like it’s all connected. Like everything really is the same.
Has it affected your songwriting?
I think so! I think no matter what you do, [meditation] definitely makes life different. It creates more space for the things in your life. You take the time to sit with yourself and life seems to open up a little bit more. I feel like it’s a lifelong practice, and a lot of people who teach meditation or talk about meditation refer to it as a practice. It’s like learning to play the piano or something. It is a thing you have to do every day. It’s a thing that is sometimes frustrating, and you don’t want to do it or you’re in a hurry. It’s one of those things that’s like a practice or an exercise, but when you take the time to do it, I feel like it really does open up your life and open up your mind to more potential and more possibility because you’ve taken that time to sit with yourself.
Were you a fan of David Lynch’s work before getting involved with his foundation?
Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I’ve always been a giant fan of David’s ever since I first saw Twin Peaks when I was in eighth grade. I’m a huge fan.
“I’ve always been a giant fan of David’s ever since I first saw Twin Peaks when I was in eighth grade.”
Can we expect any big surprises at Carnegie Hall? Any Jim James–Katy Perry duets?
That would be awesome! I’d be down. Those kind of things always end up happening on the day of the rehearsal or whatever, once you finally get there and everybody meets and talks about what’s going to happen. I’m not sure; I haven’t talked to anyone in particular.
Speaking of special guests, My Morning Jacket becoming Roger Waters’ backing band at Newport Folk was pretty legendary. Any plans to perform with him in the future?
That would be amazing. Yeah, we’re definitely open to that, but I’m not sure. There’s nothing planned, but Roger has been a big hero of ours forever. We really loved working with him. We’ve stayed in touch, and hopefully something like that will happen.
How did that Newport Folk invitation get extended?
There was a benefit-slash–tribute concert for Levon Helm when he passed away that Roger was also playing as well as us. I can’t remember why, but I think he was looking for a collaboration and had to fly in without his band and somebody suggested that we be his band for that show. So we met Roger and did a couple songs together at the Levon Helm tribute. We hit it off and had a good time, so when Newport approached him and he saw we were playing as well, we all decided that it would be fun to do it again.
Once you guys hit the end of your current tour, do you have any plans to release another solo album?
We’re still on tour for another couple months, but I’m kind of always working on solo stuff. All the time. I don’t know when I’ll finish anything, but I’m always working on it.
Any plans to do something similar to your Terminal 5 residency from a few years ago with My Morning Jacket where the band played a different album each night?
We’re kind of doing something close to that at the Beacon in November. We’re doing four shows at the Beacon, so we’ll probably get through a lot of our catalog.
What advice do you have for those interested in bringing Transcendental Meditation into their own life?
I would just say to check out the David Lynch Foundation website. They’ve got all sorts of information where you can learn and read about it and get informed. I think for people to explore Transcendental Meditation is one of the best things they can do. It’s one of the best things anybody can do, because anybody can do it. And you can do it anywhere and at any time. It’s a really beautiful gift that you can carry with yourself for the rest of your life.