Maybe it was just another indicator of his laid-back Southern hippie attitude, or maybe being at home had a calming side effect, but Jim James didn’t sound the least bit nervous about kicking off his first real solo tour this week.
“We’ve done a handful of other random shows that have been really cool, so a lot of the pressure is off,” the My Morning Jacket frontman said Wednesday morning from his home in Louisville, Ky. That night, he played a hometown gig with his new four-piece backing band and then immediately hit the road toward Minneapolis, where they have a sold-out show Sunday at First Avenue, followed by 24 more dates.
One listen to James’ grandiosely titled debut solo album, “Regions of Light and Sound of God,” and you might think he’s calm about everything these days. The record trades out the ripping guitar work and often visceral energy of MMJ’s records for slower-grooving, psychedelic R&B and a higher level of personal mysticism and spirituality. “Show me one true path that really leads to the promised land,” James, 34, requests at one point in the collection.
Here is some of what we asked from him in the interview.
On how he knew he was making a solo album, and not another MMJ record: “When we worked with [producer] Joe Chiccarelli on ‘Evil Urges,’ he gave me some great advice which was to never make demos anymore. Up until that record, I had made all these super-intense and detailed demos that were almost a whole other album unto themselves. That wound up making the making of that record harder. So Joe gave me that advice, and since then I kind of put songs into categories and know which ones I want to work on by myself, and which ones with the band.”
On the 1929 book “God’s Man: A Novel in Woodcuts,” a primary inspiration for the album: “To me, it’s just one of the greatest works of art of our time. It’s art deco, but it’s also very futuristic and it’s timeless and just super crazy. I was very moved by how cinematic it was, and a friend of mine bought the film rights to it, so the idea just inspired me and stuff just started popping out.”
On the serious injuries he suffered falling off the stage in Iowa City in 2008, another spark behind the record: “That was just a really horrible moment in my life. I was trapped at home a lot, and kind of stuck in my own head a lot. So that’s when I really got into ‘God’s Man,’ and there are several moments in the book that matched up to my life. The main character in the book also has a big fall and has to be rescued, but he returns to health. Luckily for me I got healthy, too. And I found love in my life, which parallels the book.”
On “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.),” the album’s gadget-bemoaning single: “In a nutshell, it’s really about trying to have a balanced life and not getting too swept up by the flood of technology in our lives right now. Life is hard and can be really lonely, and a lot of us now seek solace in the online world.”
On his own struggles to unplug: “I just went on a three-day yoga retreat and left the phone off then, and it was really nice. I always try to give it up completely when I’m on vacation. More day to day, I try my best just to use it as a tool. I like to think of them as a hammer, a tool that you pick up for a specific use, but then you put down. But I’m like everybody else and have my moments where I’m just fucking sucked into that thing.”
On his many trips to the Twin Cities: “There’s a thing there that I believe is somewhat defined by the fierce weather. I’m a big fan of the Trampled by Turtles guys, and I love their energy because it seems like there’s a certain amount of pride and strength they draw from being from Minnesota, and from battling the elements there. You guys are tough.”
With: Cold Specks.
When: 8:30 p.m. Sun.
Where: First Avenue.
Tickets: Sold out.