From Darkness to Regions of Light: Best Fit speaks to Jim James

“I was just trying to be funny, but a lot of people don’t like it when you’re trying to be funny.” Jim James released his first solo record, Regions of Light and Sound of God, earlier this week, and I enquire as to why he chose to bring it out under his own name, rather than the Yim Yames moniker he’d used for past individual endeavours. “I got tired of people taking it the wrong way. I thought it was hilarious, though.”

It might well be that there really is nothing more to the reversion to being plain old Jim James, but the reasons for his decision to add ‘solo artist’ to ‘failed comedian’ on his CV are less straightforward. The new record is the culmination of a four-year period of what has effectively amounted to rebirth for the My Morning Jacket frontman; in his own words, he’s moved “out of the darkness and into the light.”

Regions of Light was heavily inspired by God’s Man, a graphic novel by Lynd Ward – although James doesn’t see it that way. “It’s not really like a graphic novel to me,” he says, after asking me if I’d ‘seen’ the book, as opposed to having read it. “it’s wordless, but it sucks you in the way a book would. It’s like looking at a series of paintings that have this central narrative linking them together; I approached the record if I was trying to score a film, except that I was trying to ‘score’ God’s Man. I thought a lot about what it would be like to make it into a film.”

The book’s themes struck a profound chord with James, who can trace a series of events in his own life along similar lines to those followed by the story’s protagonist. He was seriously injured back in 2008, when he fell off stage between songs in Iowa City: “It was just a very dark time in my life; I spent a while not really wanting to look to the future,” he recalls. “It was pretty horrible, but I found that a lot of the darkness in God’s Man resonated with me; the main character in the book falls off a cliff and is badly injured, like I was, but eventually goes on to be rescued from this dark place when he falls in love. The same thing happened to me, so I guess the fact that that story has shaped the record makes the songs really personal.”