If you were alive in the ‘90s...in fact, even if you weren’t...you’re probably familiar with Jimmy Eat World’s generation-defining smash hit “The Middle.” The song peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100, but its impact has lived on much longer than anyone could have anticipated, as it ended up being one of the most successful rock anthems of the past several decades. While the band has never produced another charting hit quite as big, they have continued to churn out excellent rock tunes, and their fan base has remained intact throughout the years.
We spoke with Jimmy Eat World frontman Jim Adkins recently about their recent releases and how they feel about their biggest hit so many years later.
Just listening to the two songs you put out last year. Is that part of a project? Were they just one-offs? What's going on there?
Jim Adkins: “Love Never” is kind of like...I guess it sort of fits in what we're doing now in a weird way. We just got into a phase where we were writing a lot of more guitar rock kind of songs, and that's part of that patch. The other side, “Half Heart,” that's kind of an old idea that we had floating around for a while and just kind of imagined and came together one day, and we decided to put out both those songs.
It's a super exciting time to be a musician because, like I said, with the touring industry and on the business side of things, the rules are constantly changing, and I think that's the same way on the creation side of things. It's never been easier to have an idea in your head and get pretty close to hearing what that sounds like, and then turning that around and being your own worldwide distributor for that in a second.
It's never been a better time to be a music fan, that's for sure.
Adkins: The benefit to everybody having that access is there's a whole lot of content now.
Jimmy Eat World is 25 years old now. Did you ever think, when you started this band, you'd get that far?
Adkins: Not at all, man. When we started, I don't know what we even thought, but it certainly wasn't, "What are we going to be doing in 25 years?"
We just had a really good focus on short, attainable goals, and always prioritized fun. That’s the only thing you can really have. When we started, there was no internet. There were no cell phones. Putting out music was hard. Recording music was expensive. You really had to have your foot in the door with somebody to get any kind of distribution to put yourself in front of people that might have a chance of liking it.
But now, the fundamentals are still the same. You have to prioritize the reward of challenging yourself to do the best work possible, because really, that's the only thing you can control. Everything else is going to change, especially now. It's proven time and time again. In three years, after we put out our new album and have some time to tour on it and come back and reassess what we want to do, the model of distribution could be totally different. Things we've taken for granted right now could be gone.
But still, what is left after the dust clears there is being proud of your own work. Are you getting some kind of personal reward from this work? You prioritize that, and after a while, you've been doing it for 25 years.
You just wake up one day and you're there.
Adkins: Like, holy shit! I guess this is a career. I guess if I've done it, it's a career.
Who knew? When I say "Jimmy Eat World" to a lot of people, they go, "Oh, I love that song." Is there a song in your discography that you wish had reached the same level of attention as “The Middle,” that you thought deserved it?
Adkins: That's a good question. First off, that never bugs me when somebody might say that they really, really like one of our more commercial songs. I never understood that, why some bands freak out about that or get upset about it. It's like, wait, you're telling me that millions of people like something that you did, and that's bad why? You go on with that song and people freak out for it every night you play it, and that's bad why? If I ever get disturbed about that, you can tell me just to quit playing music.
It's like, what are you doing it for? I don't know. It might sound like a cop out, but it's true. I view everything that we put out as something that could be a single that I want to play for everyone. I don't think you should put something out that you don't feel like is your best work. That's why it takes us three years to put out a record, because it takes that long to get to the point where we feel like everything we're doing here is something we're so proud of that we'd put it up against anything else that we've ever done.
When people have a big hit, one is always interested in their thoughts, because half of musicians are like, "Yeah, I'm tired of it," and half the people are like, "No, it's great. I'm lucky. That's it."
Adkins: I don't know, man. I guess everyone's different, but you can't tell me it's not amazing.
Photo Credit: Jimmy Eat World