It’s been nearly a decade of loud guitars for Jim Ward. The Texas native achieved worldwide fame with his original group, hardcore’s At the Drive-In, then by starting the rock band Sparta.
The buzzing in his ears must have gotten to him, because in the middle of the aughts, he ditched the electric for an acoustic, and started plugging away as a solo singer/songwriter.
“There was a desire to play something quieter, something stripped-down, sparse and alone,” Ward said.
“Going from the loudness of those bands to the super-personal, intensity of this … I like the spontaneity of it. There’s a real recklessness there. It’s not so rehearsed, which I kind of enjoy.”
The soft, indie folk maintains the core of the rock melodies that made him a renowned musical force, but it’s a stark departure from the chugging guitars and howling vocals for which he was known.
It took a little time, but Ward released his first EP, “Quiet,” in 2007, with two more following in 2009 and 2011. He assembled the trio into his proper full-length debut, released earlier this month.
“I’ve known for a long time it was going to be a set of EPs that would come together into this singular thing,” he said. “It was in my head the whole time that this is what it was going to be. It had to be tied all together.”
Ward is already heading in new directions. He plans to continue touring through spring, and then leave the album behind for a Sparta reunion tour and LP, followed by more recording and traveling with his other project, the alt-country act Sleepercar.
“It’s a short life span for the solo stuff,” Ward said. “I’ve got too much on my plate to devote myself completely to it.”
Beyond his endeavors, he’s busy cultivating a music scene in his hometown of El Paso. He’s recently opened a recording studio, and debuted a 1,300-capacity concert venue and bar, becoming a Wayne Coyne-like figure in the Texas border town.
“When you are stuck somewhere, you romanticize other parts of the world. When you get to go out and appreciate it, you can come back and know what you have,” Ward said. “You have a studio you can record in, and a venue that you can play in and host your friends, and have a bar to hang out in. You hope that it makes the city a special place.”