Folk music, politically inclined or not, tends to bring people together even if the words are describing something that’s tearing people apart. And even though the Monsters of Folk — Jim James (taking a break from longtime cohorts My Morning Jacket), M. Ward, Conor Oberst, and Mike Mogis — employ the F-word with just a smidgen of irony, there’s no denying the deep personal connections that emerge through on their terrific debut album. Written collaboratively and performed with an deep and abiding regard for the power of male harmony, Folk’s songs range from intimate observations of everyday life to gentle social satire and sincere religious rumination. You can revel in the quartet’s luminous excellence during their current tour.
We recently sent some questions about music, politics, and the place they come together to Jim James. Here’s what he had to say:
Does politics belong in music?
Jim James: People should put whatever they want to put in their music. I don’t ever want to come off as preachy, ‘cause believe me, I’m faaaaaar from perfect. But I do feel like I enjoy bringing attention to causes that are important to me. I like thinking that someone who enjoys my music might get turned on to a new way to help their community through some organization we might work with, or perhaps come to our show and register to vote. I feel blessed to be able to play music for a living, so I want to try to give back as much as I can to organizations and causes that need assistance right now.
What social issues are most important to you? What causes do you actively support?
James: You know the big one right now: health care. It’s a crime that we’re letting people go without health care in this country. I went without health care for years, and many of my friends and family members still cannot afford health care and that has got to be changed. We also enjoy supporting community arts and education, since the arts are so underfunded these days.
Do you have any thoughts on the state of health care as it affects working musicians?
James: It is a shame. A real shame. Everyone should have access to good health care and not be afraid of losing their entire livelihood if they get sick.
How is the Obama administration living up to its potential or promises thus far, in your opinion?
James: Obama is a good man and a brilliant leader. It’s so refreshing to see a real person in office who knows what it’s really like for people. This country needs him so much and I’m glad we have him. His words about health care are very inspiring and I really hope he can bring people around and make things better for so many people out there that need help. I believe in him