Jimmy Whispers readies for his ‘Summer in Pain’


Courtesy of Todd Diederich

Chicago-native artist Jimmy Whispers’ debut album, Summer in Pain, will be released March 24 after roughly four years of anticipation and recent Soundcloud teases.

By Managing Editor

Aside from a couple clips on the Chicago public-access TV show, “Chic-a-Go-Go,” and a few songs he’s recently uploaded to Soundcloud, Chicago-native artist Jimmy Whispers, who got his nickname as a child because he was shy, has kept his music under wraps.

Some might think this was a choice made for the sake of savor- ing the mystery behind his music, but Whispers said he finds the use of sites like Bandcamp to be too commonplace and wanted to release his music in an original way.

But there is more to Whispers than his childlike love songs. He worked with CeaseFire, an anti-violence organization now known as Cure Violence, to create a “Summer in Pain” festival in 2013 after experiencing a physical assault.

He also published a zine in 2012, Summer in Pain, that discussed issues like gun violence, romance and even sharks.

He’s also been slapping his street art stickers on structures throughout the city since 2012.

After keeping his upcoming album, Summer in Pain, in the vault for roughly four years, Whispers’ official debut will come March 24 and he will play a set at this summer’s Pitchfork Music Festival for the first time.

The Chronicle spoke with Whispers about his love for the city, his anti-violence efforts and his tendency to make music with his iPhone.

THE CHRONICLE: What do you love about most about Chicago?

JIMMY WHISPERS: I’m from here. I’m proud of it. Chicago has world- class character. Recent generations have this whole thing about leaving your family and exploring the world and moving away. I’m old school. My family is here and from here. I’m from here, so that’s where I’m gonna stay.

Do you feel ready to finally have your debut album out there?

It has always been ready, I just wanted to test myself. Now that I have, I’m not worried and I have a clear idea. I’m looking forward to everything happening with it and to all the future records. Every day is something new.

What do you want people to take away from listening to your music?

Love and mercy and forgiveness for everyone, forever, all the time. 

How were you approached about playing at Pitchfork this summer?

They asked me. I got an email while I was taking a s–t at Starbucks. And of course I said yes. It was the best s–t I ever had.

Do you enjoy performing for large crowds or more intimate gatherings?

New crowds. I like the idea of performing to someone for the first time and winning them over. It’s a little challenge to myself. It’s fun. It’s exciting. Seeing people’s pure reaction for the first time.

Why did you wait so long to start releasing your music?

I wanted to build true word of mouth and get something rolling, and I also wanted to test myself. I wanted to see if what I was doing was worth it and wanted things to develop naturally, not just throw a bunch of s–t on the Internet without thinking.

Your Summer in Pain zines dealt with the concept of broken romance. Would you say you believe in love?

Yes. That’s pretty much all I believe in. You can’t count on it, but you can believe in it. You can strive for it.

What would you like to achieve as far as helping to eliminate violence and pain in Chicago?

Violence is a huge problem in Chicago. Though, my experience in being assaulted had nothing to do with my motivation to work with CeaseFire. I have always been an advocate for peace, and I had already been planning out the concept of those CeaseFire benefits years before I was assaulted. The timing [was] just very ironic. Violence is everywhere, though. It is a sickness, and we all need to do our part to raise awareness about it and act positively.

How do you suggest people transcend painful feelings through forgiveness? Do you consider yourself to be a forgiving person?

Love and mercy. Yes.

Why do you choose to record your music on your iPhone?

It started as a way to demo songs. I recorded on an iPhone voice memo playing a vintage electric organ that has beats and bass lines built in. But the feeling that came out of it felt unique to me. Often, I was singing lyrics off the top of my head for the first time while recording it was really honest. The sound stuck out, so I adopted it. I still record this way—I don’t want to sound perfect.

Have you always done street art or has that been something of interest just in the last few years?

I just specifically did it to put the Summer In Pain message [of anti-violence] out there in the world. I’ve always drawn but never wheat pasted until then.

What compels you to share your street art, zines and music?

Love and mercy.