Jim James and Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket Discuss New Album, 'The Waterfall'

For the recording of their new and seventh studio album, The Waterfall, Louisville, Kentucky–based rockers My Morning Jacket packed up and headed out west—specifically, to Stinson Beach, a seaside town about an hour outside San Francisco.

There, they found inspiration in their surroundings.

“We got kind of lost out there, to be honest,” says guitarist Carl Broemel. “To get to the studio you had to walk through a forest, down a beach and then cruise up a hill overlooking the ocean. You’d see shooting stars along the way. It was beautiful.”

“It felt like being on the end of the planet,” adds vocalist and guitarist Jim James. “I mean, we were on the end of this planet, but it felt like we were on a different planet, and then at the end of that planet. It enhanced what we were doing in a very strange way.”

The result is that The Waterfall feels as expansive as the environs in which it was created, spanning buoyant, buzzy pop (“Big Decisions”), melancholic psychedelia (“Tropics”), laidback Seventies AM-radio rock (“In Its Infancy [The Waterfall]”), pastoral folk (“Get the Point”) and slow-burning soul (“Only Memories Remain”), among other styles.

And yet, says Broemel, “One of the things I like about it is it’s a pretty cohesive record, based on our history. It’s more of a front-to-back album in the classic sense, like a story.”

Throughout, James and Broemel color the songs with all manner of six-string textures, employing fuzzy electric riffs, gently fingerpicked acoustic passages, weepy pedal steel licks and expressive single-note lead work in the service of the varied songs.

As guitarists, says James, “I love working with Carl so much. We’re not quite opposites in the way we play, but I will say that he’s more educated than I am.” He laughs. “It’s like he’s got his Ph.D and I’m a three-year-old in preschool.”

According to James, My Morning Jacket actually left Stinson Beach with enough material for two albums. As such, The Waterfall might see a follow-up sooner rather than later.

“We recorded something like 24 songs,” he says, “and the hope is that sometime this year we’ll put those songs together. That’s the goal, at least. But I guess it just depends on how busy we get. And, thankfully, it looks like we have a lot on our plate coming up already.”


GUITARS: (James) Early Sixties Gibson Barney Kessel, early Fifties Martin 000-style acoustic; (Broemel) Duesenberg Starplayer, Gretsch Tennessean
AMPS: (James) 3 Monkeys Orangutan; (Broemel) Fender Tweed Deluxe and Seventies Vibrosonic; (both) Fender Sixties Princeton Reverb, Gibson Maestro Reverb-Echo
EFFECTS: (James) Spaceman Sputnik Germanium Fuzz; (Broemel) Roland RE-201 Space Echo, Fulltone Tube Tape Echo, Spaceman Saturn V Harmonic Booster, Ibanez tube screamer

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.