Interview: Jim Adkins


When you’re the frontman of one of the most beloved emo bands of the past twenty years, going out on your first solo venture can be a daunting task. However, for Jimmy Eat World’s Jim Adkins he has taken the opportunity to explore what is possible outside the realms of his “day job”.

One of these possibilities was to abandon the standard album route. Instead, Adkins decided to release a series of 7″ singles titled ‘I Will Go’. “I just thought about how people listen to music now. It’s more and more “by track”. Whether it’s a curated music service or a streaming scenario, people just listen by playlist.“ explains Jim ahead of his recent show in Birmingham, “I wanted to see what would happen as an experiment if I put out more often, less things.”

“There are no rules anymore. You can do whatever you want.”

Adkins’ decision to abandon the album route is an admirable departure. With his solo venture, Adkins has embraced the digitalisation of how music is released by putting out a new song every week. “There are no rules anymore. You can do whatever you want. If you write something and you’re excited about it, why not just put it out. It comes down to what you want to do as a musician. Do you want to put out an album? You don’t have to but you can. In the past you had to put out an album because that is (just) how you did it but now it’s not quite as comparative.”

Since July, Adkins has released a mixture of original solo material alongside a hat-trick of covers. When asked about what his intentions were when he began writing, Adkins explained “they were always intended to be solo songs” whilst his take on songs by The Everly Brothers (‘Give Me A Sweetheart’), Beck (‘Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard’) and Cyndi Lauper (‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’) allowed Adkins leave his mark on the songs he admires:

“I just hear a song and something about it clicks with me. I just try and explore that then once I’ve figured out what that something is, then I can develop that on my own according to whatever sensibilities I have personally. So with that, pretty much nothing is off limits. I zone in on the hooks or the elements of the song that are important and I develop them in my own way.”

It is no doubt Adkins has taken the opportunity to use the freedom of being a solo artist head on. Gone are the expectations of fans and the constraints of being in a rock band, in their place is a mix of warm and undefined songs that allow Adkins to explore musically; “I guess as it being something new, there is a little bit of freedom. It doesn’t have any sort of definition yet. It is whatever I do.”

One element of the solo project is Adkins’ ability to explore the use of musicians from his home state of Arizona. “It seemed like a good fit for the things I wanted to hear. The people I have worked with on these songs are the people I know can do it the way I want it to be done. I have a lot of respect for those people and it’s a great excuse to play with people I like outside of the group.” explains Jim before discussing the current state of the Arizona music scene; “It’s a lot like everywhere. There are a lot of good people that are talented, that are doing great work that for one reason or another, can’t rally that critical support to break out to the next level. Everyone is really supportive. It’s a great community. There are no egos about shit because you’re in Arizona.”

Whilst some have struggled to break out from the area “because no one cares” says Jim, he does give the impression that things are looking up for his local music scene as he explains “the downtown Phoenix area is getting better. There are a few really good music venues there that are serving as the hub for a new scene. It’s exciting.”

“This is really the first time I’ve tried doing something like this. No one knows what to expect. People are excited. I can do whatever I want.”

As part of this solo venture, Adkins decided to take it on the road. First playing shows in the States before heading to Europe for the first time on his own. “It’s been really cool. I think most people have been coming to shows out of curiosity more than everything. This is really the first time I’ve tried doing something like this. No one knows what to expect. People are excited. I can do whatever I want.”

Having toured relentlessly with his band for the best part of twenty years, Adkins’ solo shows are stripped back and ideally intimate. Adkins agrees that the experience is certainly different in comparison to playing with Jimmy Eat World; “With the group you’re responding to what you’re hearing. You’re constantly getting feedback from other musicians and when it is just yourself, you’re just responsible for building and directing that momentum all on your own. I think the audience play a bigger role because it is just you. That is where your feedback is.”

Having witnessed Adkins on the opening night of his recent UK run, there is respect and admiration for him as he showcases solo material alongside a smattering of covers and Jimmy Eat World material. “I am in a fortunate position of having a lot of catalogues to fall back on.” says Jim, yet surprisingly he explains it is not just Jimmy Eat World fans attending shows; “I have met a couple of people who have never seen Jimmy Eat World before or didn’t know our music and their friends dragged them to the show, and they were impressed. It’s cool.”

“I thought it’d be a good time to say yes to things outside of the band musically… suddenly I’m playing solo acoustic gigs with a series of singles.”

Whilst this solo outing has been successful so far, it certainly isn’t the end of Jimmy Eat World and both Adkins and their fans have an understanding of what this project is; “From the beginning I made it pretty clear to people that are just purely an effort to be productive in a new way in between Jimmy Eat World albums. We’ve been a band for 21 years now and we’ve operated on the same pattern this whole time. I thought it’d be a good time to say yes to things outside of the band musically. Whether that is producing or co-writing or solo material and it has kind of turned into this. “Ok lets see where this goes” and suddenly I’m playing solo acoustic gigs with a series of singles.“

Now with the ‘I Will Go’ series of 7” singles all released and a run of shows throughout the UK and Europe all done, Adkins seems at home when reflecting on his activity in recent months: “I try and set myself achievable goals in this and think about what the fan experience would be like and try and shoot for that. So far it’s working. People are into it. It’s been fun.” Yet it may not be the end of this solo adventure just yet; “I might go to Australia or Japan or Asia with the solo thing. I can’t really confirm that yet or I might just stop and start writing new stuff.”

However, there isn’t much time to rest for Adkins. He’ll soon be back playing with his band at the Summer Ends Festival in Arizona before heading to California for the re-launched Taste of Chaos festival where he will be sharing the stage with the likes of Thrice, Glassjaw, Saves The Day, The Movielife and Story of the Year. When we asked about his expectations about the one-off event, Adkins was in good spirits about reuniting with former tour buddies: “It should be an insane party. It’s with people we were playing punk houses with on the East Coast and now its in a huge outside arena. It’s crazy how that works.”

On the whole Jim Adkins is in a good place right now. His solo outing has been welcomed by fans, both old and new, while he will be ending the year working with Jimmy Eat World on new material. Yet don’t expect to see the light of day too soon as Jim closed with “Of course sooner is always better, but it’s got to be good before it’s anything.”

‘I Will Go’ by Jim Adkins is out now (iTunes)

Jim Adkins links: Website | Store | Facebook | Twitter

Jimmy Eat World links: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Words by Sean Reid (@SeanReid86)


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