El Paso’s Jim Ward – a founding member of the popular bands At the Drive-In, Sleepercar and Sparta – has traveled the world thanks to his musical endeavors. 

But being away from the Sun City has also driven home his indebtedness to it, and says he is constantly looking for ways to give back to the community he loves. 

The 43-year-old singer-songwriter has taken the stage with his guitar and fellow musicians to fundraise for various causes, including the El Paso Community Foundation of which he’s now a board member. 

A former owner of Tricky Falls – the Downtown El Paso venue that for years packed music goers before closing down in 2018 –  Ward now owns the Westside restaurant Eloise, with his wife of 19 years, Kristine. 

El Paso Inc. Magazine caught up with Ward to talk about his city, his music, Sparta’s latest album and more.

What do you love about El Paso and what do you envision for the city as it grows through its music, art and culture?

I love the people the most. I hope most for our city is a continued growth of our confidence. We make great art, great music, and have a fantastic culture that the world needs to see more. 

You’ve traveled the world with your musical endeavors. Still, you always look for ways to give back.

I was anxious to escape my surroundings, and experience something different after high school – touring in a band gave me that chance. Through those travels, I got to see other parts of the world. As much as I enjoyed that, I really discovered my appreciation for El Paso. If there is something you appreciate, you want to do right by it, to return what it has given you. 

You sang “My Town” at Beto O’Rourke’s 2018 campaign rally. the song became even more relevant after the Aug. 3, 2019, mass shooting. Does it hold a different meaning today?

It was incredibly hard to even get through the song at the rally following the shooting; we were so raw, tired and sad. I doubt I’ll ever play it again and not go straight back to that time.  

You were candid in Your video message to 2020 graduates about accepting failure. Why did you choose that message?

It is so important not to be scared or ashamed of failure. The fear of failure will keep you from trying anything at all – but you should go into the world knowing and appreciating that. Fall down, get up, try again. 

Sparta recently released “Trust the River,” the band’s first album in more than 10 years. Critics describe it as raw and personal. What was the story you were looking to tell?

I am trying to write good, honest songs and get better at my craft. I see life differently now. I am in my 40s, things change. I have no interest in revisiting or trying to be something I was, just in being who I am. 

You host Friday Beers on Instagram Live. How else are you adapting to life as a musician during this pandemic?

The good side of the coin is that we have a lot of time to write. The bad side is that we cannot tour, which will have brutal consequences for so many musicians. Keeping busy and trying to stay positive brought me to Friday Beers and playing shows online. 

You’ve also had to adapt to change with your restaurant, eloise. How do you remain hopeful that better days are coming?

We do have a responsibility to do our part in protecting the public. There has been a failure from our leaders to actually lead us through this, so it’s up to us. We won’t open the inside space at Eloise until it is safe to do, no matter the economic consequences. We have pivoted to limited outdoor seating, curbside pickup, delivery and try to keep our heads up. We need to keep the focus on the bigger picture and not just our business.  

What’s next for you as a musician, businessman, El Pasoan? 

The most important thing for me is to continue creating. We will see where we land when it is all said and done – then we will get up and try again.

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