An Interview with Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World

Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World @ the Hellow Festival (Photo: Instagram)
Jimmy Eat World have been creating earnest, potent music for 25 years. Earlier this week, we had a chance to sit down with Jim Adkins to talk about their newest single, EPs versus singles, and how this is the best time ever to be a musician. They've hit the road with Third Eye Blind and will be playing the Bill Graham Civic this Saturday, June 15th. Tickets can be found here and are still available at the time of this posting.

SFBayAreaConcerts: Thanks for making the time to talk with us right before you head out on a pretty epic tour.

Jim Adkins: We're super excited! There's a lot to pack!

SFBAC: 25 years of Jimmy Eat World... Congratulations! You guys still sound as vital as ever. What's the secret to the band's longevity?

Jim Adkins: Oh man, thank you. I think it's being strict and proud of your own work. There's so much in the music world that is completely out of your control that you just don't have the time to worry about. At the end of the day all you really have is the music. You have to be proud of what you do. That requires you to be honest with yourself about how you're feeling. If it comes across like you're chasing something, you're going to turn people off. There's nothing more of a turn off than trying to chase someone's approval. It's best to avoid that game completely and focus on what you can do and let go. What you do may not be for everybody for sure, but the right people will find it and get something from it. And it's worked out!

SFBAC: Fantastic! The most recent songs, "Love Never / half heart" continues the tradition of potent, small Jimmy releases sprinkled between albums. I remember when I heard Stay on my Side Tonight (iTunes) fourteen years ago I felt privy to this small, hidden treasure chest. How do you and the band decide what makes a single, what makes an EP, and what makes it to an album?

Jim Adkins: I think it's about timing more than anything else. It's not my job to pick the single. [laughs] I'd be horrible at that. With "Love Never" and "half heart" we had a small batch of tunes that were ready to go and we really wanted to put them out.

SFBAC: The remaster of Bleed American (iTunes) gave us that truly incredible re-imagining of "Your House." As much as I like the original version, your re-recording of the song is nuanced and powerful. Are there any plans to revisit and record other songs in your catalog?

Jim Adkins: I don't know. When you play a song live, it kind of starts to take on a life... You get feedback from an audience in real time. That pushes you to try different things with it. Those work sometimes, or they don't work. Other times they're just fun and you don't care if they work or not! Over time it morphs and becomes a slightly different thing. After a while it becomes something that doesn't look anything like the original! We did that with "Get Right" in the last album; it's sometimes really fun to do that. I always love going back and try to re-imagine things: "Ok, what would this sound like as a solo acoustic? How would I do this alone?' We start from there. And from there it might get flushed out and sound something like "Your House." Something that we record as a whole-band-thing. The real short answer to that really long answer is: Yes. It's really fun! We'll probably do it again.

SFBAC: What was it like working with someone like Gil Norton on Futures? I love how the deluxe version, with all those demos, is another example of you giving the fans a peak into a different side of the band.

Jim Adkins: Gil is 100% invested in everything that's in his sights. He has no chill. Gil Norton has no chill! The thing is that when you see that, it forces you to up your level. You can't have this dude that is supposed to be the outside, objective viewpoint overtaking your own enthusiasm for your thing! (Laughs) Like: 'No man, that's not how we're doing that. We're going to go back over that section and plan out what the drum solo is!' And I think, 'Oh, OK! That's what we're dong? Yeah cool--let's do that!' He'll say, 'Try this! Try that!' By the time you're done working on something with Gil, you know it's the best because you've explored almost every option there is.

SFBAC: Very cool. You guys crush on Spotify. Sure, "The Middle" has over 250,000,000 streams, but on top of that there are a dozen songs that have well over three million streams. What are your thoughts in terms of how music is shifting in a digital world? Does it have an impact on how you release your music?

Jim Adkins: That's a big question. We're well in to the Nicholas Negropante digital future. We are there. It's the age of access. It's never been a better time to be a music fan.

SFBAC: Agreed.

Jim Adkins: Yeah. And it's never been a better time to be a musician. Anyone who wants to create music. The barrier to entry is zero, almost. If you have an idea, you can get pretty close to hearing what that idea sounds like. It's never been easier to do that. The drawback to that is that everyone has the same access.

SFBAC: That's not a bad thing.

Jim Adkins: Well, it's good and bad. Before, record making was expensive. It was hard to get distribution. (Distribution -- that's a funny word now!) You'd ask yourself, 'How am I going to get this music out there so people can hear it?' That was a question you had to wrestle with when we started. Now it's like: 'Oh, I hit the space bar and I am my own record producer, label and PR company -- and worldwide distributor.' It's the wild west out there now. There's no rules. There's a real level of musicianship being explored. People trying to figure out: 'How do we use these tools to get what we want?' Everyone is still figuring that out. It's pretty exciting. I'm grateful that I get to be here and on the front lines of that whole experience.

SFBAC: We're grateful you get to be here too! Thanks for making great music, and we'll see you in San Francisco this Saturday at the Bill Graham Civic.

Jim Adkins: Hey, thanks a lot! Take care.

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