This year marks the 20th anniversary of one of alt-rockers Third Eye Blind’s most beloved and important singles, “Jumper,” a song that is as relevant as when it came out, if not more. In an era when mental health, suicide, LGBTQ rights, and bullying are hot topics, the song continues to connect with listeners of all ages.
Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment backstage at New Orleans’s Voodoo Music + Arts Experience before performing “Jumper” and other hits for a crazed crowd, 3EB frontman Stephan Jenkins recalls the inspiration behind the heavy track. “It’s really like what I would have said to a friend who jumped off the Coronado bridge and killed himself because he was gay in high school, and he chose that over being subjected to bullying,” he says.
Over the past 20 years, however, “Jumper” — originally written as a “noir, talking from after death,” with Jenkins pleading, “I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend” — has become a positive, crowd-rousing anthem. “The message of the song is to suggest that we have more understanding available for each other than we might give each other credit for,” Jenkins explains. “It says, ‘I would understand,’ and that’s become such a big, lifted part of the show. … I don’t know that it’s become larger because of the assertion of LGBTQ rights; what I do notice is I see young gay kids at our shows. … We saw there’s a lot of LGBT young kids who go to our shows, and I think that [song] enlivens the place.”
“Jumper” has connected with many younger artists over the years. At Las Vegas’s 2017 Life Is Beautiful festival, Mike Xavier, whose friend’s 12-year-old daughter had attempted suicide, was so affected by Third Eye Blind’s performance that he sampled “Jumper” for his own song, “Suicide Jumper.” And at the 2015 iHeartRadio festival, Third Eye Blind fan Demi Lovato, who for years has struggled with depression, an eating disorder, self-harm, and addiction (and sadly relapsed his year), had Jenkins fly out to join her onstage for a surprise “Jumper” duet — explaining that the song meant a lot to her and saying, “Everyone’s got to face down the demons.”
“It’s a very strange life that child stars live, especially transitioning into being serious artists,” Jenkins, who came to fame relatively late in life, in his 30s, muses sympathetically when discussing Lovato. “She’s a really good singer. She’s a really, really talented person, and I hope she’s doing well.”
Jenkins says there’s another 3EB song “that’s really been resonating” in concert lately in light of the current news cycle, “so we’ve been playing it more”: 1999’s “Wounded,” off the band’s third album, Blue. “It’s about a friend of mine and she got raped, and she was so out and extroverted and she really pulled back into herself [after the assault],” he says. “And it’s a song about how her community of friends could sort of bring her back into the fold and bring her into that sense of fullness and aliveness. That’s the one that really seems to be humming.”
Considering how outspoken Jenkins has always been (in 2016, for instance, Third Eye Blind played an anti-bathroom bill benefit in North Carolina to support trans kids, and they also trolled Republicans at a Cleveland fundraiser during the Republican National Convention), rumors have circulated that he may one day run for office. But right now, Jenkins is focusing on campaigning locally in his native Northern California for Democratic congressional candidate Andrew Janz. As for whether he feels artists are obligated to use their voices for political and social causes, he says, “I don’t know if it’s an obligation for artists. It’s my obligation. I feel obligated. I feel obligated to use the voice that I have. I was raised in civics by my family. I was raised to get involved. I was raised that if you see a fight, that you have to pick a side and get in it. That it’s on me. I think that really came from my mother. She was very much like, ‘The fight is on you. If you see it, you’re the one who gets involved.’”
Third Eye Blind will begin recording its sixth studio album next month, and there’s no doubt that they’ll be making music that, like “Jumper” and “Wounded,” will reflect current events and connect with devoted fans. “I’m always writing about what I’m impacted by in the moment that I’m living in,” Jenkins says. “I don’t know that it’s outwardly political, but it’s certainly something that’s going to be making a dent.”
This article originally ran on Yahoo Music.