In the awakening stages of the pandemic, most of us started to begin holding up indoors and maintaining distance. For many, this meant finding themselves struggling to cope at times and looking for ways to keep sane. Jim Ward looked at this period as a time when he could begin exploring being creative. The musician (whose contributions with acts such as At The Drive-In, Sparta, and his alt-country project, Sleepercar) grabbed his guitar every night and began composing riffs one after another.
What emerged from those evenings is Daggers, an album that could be considered to many to be one of Ward’s personal albums in his career. Enlisting Incubus bassist Ben Kenney and Thursday drummer Tucker Rule to help flesh out the rest of the instrumentals, Ward’s lyrics extend listeners to hear an individual emerging from the darker spaces within their minds and seeing the beams of light emerging within distance. The opener “Day by Day” sets up Daggers perfectly, emotionally driven with Ward screaming in the chorus, “You can’t give up, you can’t give in/We’re gonna get therе the hard way/We’re gonna takе it day by day.” “Blink Twice” is an arena rocker that pushes Ward to limits vocally to the limit. “Foreign Currency” allows Kenney and Rule to show off instrumentally with dazzling synth and heart beating drums. “I Got a Secret” features vocals from Shawna Potter (War On Women) is a hyperactive rocker with a heavy dose of Ward’s punk background ingrained. While Ward knows that what has happened in his past couldn’t be changed, the process of being better is a journey he’s excited to take part in.
How has the past year been for you and your family? I hope that all has been well.
Definitely a challenge, but we are ok. Thank you- I hope you are well too.
What was the album or artist that you would say got you into music?
Billy Joel is an early love, Benny Goodman, Subhumans (UK), Fugazi.
What are some of your favorite memories during those early days when you start performing live?
I loved meeting people and traveling, and learning about other places. I loved playing hot, sweaty small house shows or dive bars and then driving all night with my friends to the next town to do it again- no thoughts of money or attention, but exploration.
Did you and the members of At The Drive-In and Sparta ever think of the long-lasting influence that still lingers today?
I don’t know about the others, but I never think about that. I still feel like I am trying to get to the next step, whatever that is- musically and emotionally and personally- just trying to be better at being a person.
You have been entrenched in several projects throughout the start of your musical career. Do you see exploring all these various genres as necessary to keep yourself interested in being a musician?
I just follow the muse. When I write, I just try to see where it goes- the good thing about not caring how “successful” you are, is that it is very freeing- I will pursue any idea that I like and can build on.
Do you find yourself having songs written out that work more ideally with specific projects?
That happens for sure. I never force a song into a situation, or if I have it has failed, so I try not to. I just let things go where they want to go and hope to make it as good as I can.
How has the pandemic altered your writing style?
Funny enough, it made me much more hopeful in the lyrics. I don’t know why but it has; I think I have to believe everything will be ok or I’d be a mess.
What was the vision when starting your latest solo effort?
I was using music to maintain my mental health, and it accidentally turned into a record.
Not being able to have that feeling of recording the Daggers with anyone, what issues (if any) came with putting this album together?
It was really easy. I think because Tucker, Ben, and I are all good friends, and we can get on the phone or email an idea, we sort of already know how to approach that. They are so fucking good and I am just along for the ride, really. I would send a finished guitar song and it would come back 1000 times better with their contribution- I’m a lucky guy.
How easy was it for you to get musicians like Ben Kenney and Tucker Rule to help with the instrumentals?
I just called them, and they had some free time.
Was there any rush into getting Daggers done? I would imagine that with everything happening, there wasn’t a need to get things done.
No rush, but it happened super quick. It was organic, so I just let it go as fast or slow as it wanted.
I’ve read that Daggers highlights your most hopeful lyrics to date. When did it start to show that is what was unfolding?
I think “Electric Life” was the second song I wrote lyrics for, and I remember thinking that this would be a pretty positive record at that point. I needed to be hopeful.
Like many musicians, you have a Patreon page. Does it feel like you can connect with fans a little more on the site than you were previously?
It is amazing! It isn’t quite the same as meeting them at the bar after a show and answering questions or taking pictures. Still, it is kind of more deeply personal. I have been able to share so many thoughts and emotions through Patreon that I would never have the time to really articulate, so I think it is fantastic, to be honest.
How do you think the upcoming future is going to look like for you? Do you wonder how touring is going to look like? Practicing with the band together instead of Zoom?
I think about it a lot. We have just figured out the touring lineup for this record. Matt Miller from Sparta will be playing bass, so I am so excited to be on the road and making music with him. My buddy Mathew Gardner from Australia is playing drums, and we have so much fun together. It’s going to be really great just to get loud. It’s been real quiet around here.
Photo Courtesy: Christ Chavez