Protest: Jim James on the Midterm Elections and His Recent Future Is Voting Tour

Vying to Make Every Vote Count

Nov 01, 2018
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Some singer/songwriters are content to write protest songs during times of political turmoil, if they write protest songs at all. But not Jim James. The acclaimed alt-folk rocker (who founded the band My Morning Jacket in 1998, but has been more focused on his solo career in the last couple of years) is not content to restrict his political commentary to his lyrics, and instead brought it to the people with his The Future Is Voting Tour, a recent six-date college campus trek in contested electoral districts themed around motivating young constituents to get to the polls, get informed, and get involved in general.

James released a new solo album, Uniform Distortion, back in June via ATO. Then in October he released Uniform Clarity, a companion album that featured acoustic versions of the songs found on Uniform Distortion. Before that there was his politically charged 2016 solo album, Eternally Even. My Morning Jacket's last album was 2015's The Waterfall.

Below, as part of our series this week to remind our American readers to vote in the midterm election next Tuesday, November 6, James tells us more about voicing his beliefs while also trying to avoid being preachy, how the political climate is affecting him personally, and his hopes for a less divided future.

Kyle Mullin (Under the Radar): So what is The Future Is Voting Tour all about?

Jim James: We're just trying to remind people how import it is to vote. I remember when I had my first opportunity to vote, and I didn't and think it mattered, and didn't bother. Now I regret that, and I don't want people to make same mistake.

What other takeaways do you have for the attendees of these concerts?

Obviously every one vote matters, and it's the best tool to make the world a better place. We need to remind people that many of these races are so close, some can come down to 100 votes. So in a literal way it really does matter.

You've said before that this isn't a mere "get out the vote" tour. What did you mean by that?

I'm not happy with the direction the country is going in. But I try to frame it as a peaceful discussion, because many of us have a serious lack of ability to listen to different opinions and meet in the middle. Part of the problem has to do with social media. We don't need to look each other in the eye anymore when we're being ruthlessly cruel. So I'm trying to be a force saying, "This is not working." I'm trying to get back to discussions that are civil and kind, and even try to agree to disagree and meet in the middle on some things.

And that means it's not about protest songs? Or about being like Bono, lecturing a concert crowd?

No it's about promoting voting. I've written my share of protest songs, and I'm not happy with the direction the country is going in. But at the same time all this anger isn't helping us. The answer is always love. So how do you get that back in the mix? I think the answer is: We need to get people together in person. When you're forced to talk to someone with different beliefs, face to face, people aren't so cruel as when they have a computer screen to hide behind.

What inspired you to get so civically inclined?

I'm just so tired of waking up in the morning and feeling sick because of all this anger that's out there. I'm unhappy with the current president, but all this anger just feeds him and makes him grow. 

And trying to change all that with socially conscious shows has helped?

Yeah it all feels really positive. We'll have to wait and see how positive it is after election day, and see if people show up to the polls or not. But if one person who wasn't going to vote will now go because they came to one of these shows, then that makes me happy because so many races are so tight and close. Your vote does matter.

www.jimjames.com

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