After twenty-one years in the game, Jim Adkins is still finding new audiences. “It’s the best thing ever,” he exclaims, sat in one of north London venue Union Chapel’s more spacious back rooms. “I’ve got such an insane opportunity to play beautiful places I’ve never been to. One of the main reasons I got into music is to explore.”
“This year is a result of me trying to do something different between band records and it just led to this,” he explains. “I wasn’t sure exactly if ‘something different’ meant producing, solo work, co-writing or starting a yoga studio. It just evolved into me doing a series of singles and a solo acoustic tour.”
Tonight, Jim’s performing in London as part of a European tour that sees him stripping Jimmy Eat World classics down to their acoustic bones alongside the handful of self-shaped solo material that’s been drip released throughout 2015. There’s also a cover of Rihanna’s ‘Only Girl’.
“I’m here by just following the natural progression of saying yes to shit,” he ventures. “I’m discovering things about it that I hadn’t anticipated before, and that’s cool. It’s challenging in a way that playing with the band isn’t,” he admits before expanding on the dynamic shift.
“In a band setting you’re responding off what you’re hearing. By yourself, you are solely in charge of leading the momentum and direction of what’s happening and you can change that depending on how you feel at any point. It’s a meditative process in a way. The audience plays a big role in it, they’re like the band members you’re getting feedback from in this setting. I learnt a long time ago to reset my expectation meter to zero walking on stage and then you just see where it goes. That’s true with playing a set at Reading Festival and it’s true for playing with just a guitar to twenty people at a house party.”
While this venture has grown into slightly more than twenty people at a house party, the idea of one man with a guitar holds true. “I hope people find something in it they like. I’m playing some Jimmy Eat World songs that might be familiar, but I’m trying to present them in a way that’s different. I hope it’s an awesome fan experience depending on whatever that means to fans,” he offers. “And I hope they like my new songs.”
This new solo venture came about from, “just trying to be productive and do something different. If you do the same things, you’re going to get the same results. While I’m very grateful with the results I’ve got from playing music so far, you’ve got to push yourself. You’ve got to change things. That only helps to inform all aspects of what you’re interested in.”
“I think I’ve gotten better at talking to people because it’s just me,” he continues with a grin. “I’ve learnt about letting go of certain aspects of perfection because it’s just me, and I’m going to fuck up. You have to roll with it sometimes, and that’s good,” Jim says before talking about the writing process. “It’s just an informative experience being the only person, working without the filter of the band. You have to finish it. You. Personally. You have to make the choice when it’s done.
“Since no one has any expectations, it’s freeing. That doesn’t mean to say I feel restricted playing with the group. It’s just different. I hope this opens the door a little bit to expect me to do this in the future. It’s the Wild West out there. Why couldn’t you just put out something when you’re happy with it? You can. There’s no reason why not, so we’ll see.”
“I think the gratefulness for the history helps adds to the momentum of wanting to pursue the future,” he says, on the battle between the yesterday and the tomorrow, “I think I’m at the age where they work together.”
From PVRIS via Paramore to Taylor Swift, Jimmy Eat World’s influence can be felt across the music industry. “It’s weird,” says Jim. “When any fellow musician says they relate to what I or the band have done, it’s always weird. We create this stuff in a bubble and it is a huge compliment when you get feedback that things are happening outside the bubble because of what you’re doing. It feels good.
“I’ve just always tried to be honest about what I like and what I think is good. People pick up on that. It’s not presenting something with the idea of chasing a trend or a particular demographic. It’s really just about what I like. If you can be honest with yourself about that, and continue to do so, people will pick up on that and relate to it. There’s always going to be a connection there.”
For many, a solo project is a chance to escape from being ‘that guy from that band’ but for Jim, “It’s not even on my radar. I’ve been the guy from Jimmy Eat World for 21 years so that’s going to be hard to outrun.” After so many years creating, it’s things like this solo project that keeps it fresh.
“It’s things like deciding you’re going to do something a little bit out of your comfort zone,” he starts. “Really, there is no such thing as a comfort zone, there’s just a zone of fear preventing you from learning anything. It’s just the idea of trying to grow, that in itself is exciting and is momentum enough, to see what’s next.”
With plans to get the band back together in November to start work on their next project, well after the cobwebs and beer cans have been cleared away from the studio, Jim’s ambitions are as stripped back yet as universal as his solo venture is proving to be.
“Just being happy that whatever I do next, is my best work. Whatever that ends up being.”