Jim Ward is an American musician. A self-taught guitarist and pianist, he is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the band Sparta; he is also a co-founder of the post-hardcore band At the Drive-In, which he formed in 1993 when he was 17 years old. Jim Ward is a legend in the game and has given us decades of rocking tunes, and he has kept this tradition going in 2021 with the release of his first solo album in a decade, “Daggers.”
For Ward, “Daggers” – which he describes as “very from the hip” – was his way of shutting out the outside world, retreating inward and digging his way out via a batch of new songs. It was his version of freedom in 2020. It was also the ultimate release. “For whatever reason it seemed to be super-natural and without a plan,” he says of constructing the LP and almost breathing it into existence.
More than just music or an album, “Daggers” is a part of Jim Ward writing from a place of purity and from a place of real trauma. “We all went through something really scary last year; we all went through this global trauma. Everyone’s life was up ended, and everyone’s life was different from the week before the start of this, and I truly had zero intention of making a solo album at this point in my life. El Paso closed down March 19, 2020 and we naively thought ‘oh we will just go back out on the road in June,’ and then it was July, then it was August. My wife and I own a restaurant, so we were really hit hard by Covid and that is scary stuff knowing you could lose so much. In the middle of this I resorted to old habits, I resorted to doing what feels good to me and that is to make music. So late at night I would write, and a riff turned into a song as I slept. I was just trying to make sense of the world at the time and that turned into an amazing album,” recalls Ward.
It was also a cathartic form of healing: all the pent-up frustration and anger and longing and desperation that Ward, like so many of us, felt this year, came bursting forth via the new batch of songs.
Ward admits that for a not insignificant amount of time, creating music had become a source of anxiety. Yet, in recent years, he has finally found a healthy balance of enjoying music while being fruitful at the same time.
“Daggers” is officially credited as a solo work, and Ward never entered the room with any of his collaborators due to the COVID-19 pandemic, yet he is effusive in his praise for them: notably the twin team of Incubus bassist Ben Kenney and Thursday drummer Tucker Rule, both of whom took Ward’s guitar riffs and helped propel them into fully fleshed-out songs. “My friends did this for the pure love of making music with a friend,” he says of Kenney and Rule. “There’s no higher compliment. I don’t know how I’ll repay them.”
“There were 100-percent zero constraints,” Ward continues of the back-and-forth musical exchange between he and his two longtime friends that ended up forming the foundation of “Daggers.” “And it was a blast. Without a plan there was zero stress. In fact, it was stress-relieving.”
Daggers is out now and we here at No Cover Magazine highly suggest you give this a listen. We literally live in an era where art is being created in mass by amazing artists and I consider myself lucky for being able to live in this moment.
No Cover Interview with Jim Ward (At the Drive in, Sparta)Jim Ward has announced the forthcoming release of his new album, Daggers, on June 11 via Dine Alone Records. Today he shares the first peak of the LP by way of “Paper Fish.” The single premiered via Flood Magazine and Ward told them "Paper FIsh was the last song I wrote for Daggers, it seemed like it was the final piece of a puzzle I had been working on. It is rare for me to sit down, write and then sing something almost completely in one take- but that is what happened on this song. It was as if the process of making this record allowed me to finally break through and say exactly what I was trying to say. Life is a journey and for me that journey is 100% about being a better person. I think about and work towards this everyday. When I die, I want to die the best man I've ever been." They say "“Paper Fish,” the record’s first single, presents the album as a polished, more pop-informed take on Ward’s career in post-hardcore.Jim Ward has played in a slew of monumental bands, from the iconic post-hardcore band At The Drive-In to Sparta, as well his alt-country project, Sleepercar. “I’ve always used music as an outlet for anxiety and frustration,” notes Ward, and in fact, it’s this healing power of music, Ward offers, that led him to Daggers. “When my world has upheaval, it becomes about doing the work in front of me.”
“I tend to exist in the darker parts of the psyche, Jim Ward admits. “That’s where I’ve always been.” And yet what makes the musician so unique and downright compelling is that when the world decides to join him in this darkness - the ultra-challenging year that was 2020— it’s then Ward is able to claw his way back into the light. Every night during the pandemic, armed with a guitar as well as a bit of time and purpose, this prolific musician was able to churn out several riotous riffs that ultimately transformed into one of his most personal and profound albums to date. It was also a cathartic form of healing: all the pent-up frustration and anger and longing and desperation that Ward, like so many of us, felt last year, came bursting forth via the new batch of songs.
While Daggers is officially credited as a solo work, and Ward never entered the room with any of his collaborators due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s effusive in his praise for them: notably the twin team of Incubus bassist Ben Kenney and Thursday drummer Tucker Rule, both of whom took Ward’s guitar riffs and helped propel them into fully fleshed-out songs. “My friends did this for the pure love of making music with a friend,” he says of Kenney and Rule. “There’s no higher compliment. I don’t know how I’ll repay them.”
Ward specifically points to the today’s single “Paper Fish” as the one that allowed him to see the album most clearly. “All I ever wanted… was to die a better man than I was at the start,” he sings on the loping, effortlessly melodic track, and “that’s my whole concept of life right there,” Ward notes proudly. “That I’m making improvement. I can’t go back and say, “Oh I wish I didn’t do that” or “I regret that happened or “I wish this band had stayed together.” All of those things to me are part of the journey. I just wanna die the best man I can be.”
To that end, Ward calls Daggers his most hopeful record to date. “Reality is OK,” he says. “You can’t change the past, but you can take those lessons and you can do better.. I’ve always considered songwriting as a journey. It can guide me in the way I’m going forward.”
More on Jim Ward
When it comes to his long and fruitful career in music, Jim Ward is not guided by vanity or money or some grand narrative in which he’s the central player. It’s all about the song, the melody, the lyric. This philosophy has followed Ward as he performed in various bands and under several monikers over his long and winding career. In 1994 and at the age of 17, Ward co-founded the iconic post-hardcore band At The Drive-In. They released three critically acclaimed studio albums and several EPs before disbanding in 2001. Ward went on to form Sparta whose most recent release is 2020’s Trust The River. Along the way Jim Ward has also released a slew of solo albums, and formed his alt-country project, Sleepercar.