Jim Ward brings years of experience to Sled Island
By Vanessa Conley
After playing punk and post-hardcore for the better part of 20 years, Jim Ward is slowing it down.
The effects of endless touring and constantly making albums took its toll.
“It left me a bit breathless to be honest,” said Ward from the airport in Fort Collins Colorado. “I think it was a gut reaction to being a part of At The Drive In…since I was 17. And I’ve been making those records and have been on tour for so long.”
In 2007 Ward started writing quieter, more introspective music, which allowed him to turn his focus back to being a songwriter.
Quiet In The Valley, On The Shores The End Begins is Ward’s first full-length solo album.
Personal touches are felt throughout the album, and much of the album creates the vision of a tired artist, longing to be settled. Melodic strumming on an acoustic guitar, hums from a harmonica and subtle backup vocals show the artist at his most minimal.
The listener will be left feeling that Ward started writing these songs as some sort of catharsis for the years of craziness.
His autobiographical lyrics and scaled back sound show a definite departure from At the Drive In and Sparta and is even further scaled back from Sleepercar.
“I don’t know if they were for myself necessarily, but as soon as I started I wanted to keep at it, almost like an exercise in writing. And I like it. It was nice to have this sort of departure from the big guitars and stuff.”
The album shows the depth of his character and maturity, which hasn’t been demonstrated before in his music.
His being posted up in a band for so long left him only understanding the dynamics of how a band works. Now he is responsible for everything that happens.
Ward says playing with Tony Hajjar in At the Drive In and Sparta for a decade was difficult to shake as a solo artist.
“The first time I would joke about calling [Hajjar] when I would go and play shows because I didn’t know what songs to put in what order, without him there. So it was a good thing for me to go and learn some stuff that I had been dependent on others for; musically, and the work aspect of being on the road.”
It’s a weight he is not used to carrying, but the outcome is something he has never experienced before. Taking the time to execute the album his way was exactly the challenge he needed to further develop his skill as an artist.
“I’m really proud of this record and I’m proud it took my time and did it my way and I’ve invested in my own ideas. I’m proud that I got to this point; it makes me happy.”
This new chapter in his career showcases his capabilities as a well-rounded artist.
Ward has toured consistently since the mid-nineties with At the Drive In, Sparta and Sleepercar, and that amount of traveling left Ward depleted and unable to relate to his peers outside of the music industry.
“It was becoming more and more difficult to relate to people; especially people my age. It’s a very specific life and I find myself only spending time with people that understand that life because I guess I’m just having a harder time relating at this age to my peers who are doing other things.”
From a young age Ward has been entrenched in an industry that keeps him away from family and friends for great lengths of time. The idea of normal eludes him.
“I think that it is a weird life and not very many people get to live it to the extent that I have, and I appreciate it. I think that there is a certain age where you start to realize how much it does to you. It’s not necessarily a negative thing. I’m sure it happens to everyone in whatever walk of life they are on. For me I hit the 30s and it just sort of changed the way that I started relating to people.”
More recently he has become a bigger part of the community in El Paso, Texas where he lives. In 2009 he opened up a bar call Hope and Anchor with his wife and friend, and also fulfilled a dream of opening up a recording studio, Clap of Thunder.
Working with emerging bands has re-inspired his involvement in the industry. The same excitement he felt for the first time 20 years ago.
For now his excitement is sharing the pride he feels from creating the record he wanted his way.
Ward’s plan for the next six months is a tour to promote Quiet In The Valley, On The Shores The End Begins and sharing his decades of hard work through a different sound.
Does this mean he has softened altogether?
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a Sparta record on the horizon. There’s definitely a Sleepercar record on the horizon.”
Sometimes we all need to slow down to figure out what is important.
Jim Ward plays Sled Island at the Olympic Plaza stage on June 25th.