Singer-songwriter ZZ Ward loses control
The musician rolls with the hiccups, punches and other good times
For ZZ Ward, the past two years have been out of control. Since appearing at South by Southwest in 2012, the singer-songwriter has released her debut full-length album (Til the Casket Drops), an EP (365 Days), and headlined or co-headlined several national tours.
Ward’s first single, “Put the Gun Down,” landed in the top 10 on AAA—or adult album alternative—radio, and she is currently touring on the strength of her latest single, “Last Love Song.”
Despite such successes, Ward knows there can (and will) be hiccups—you just have to learn how to roll with the punches.
“You never know how things are going to come off onstage; you can’t control the electricity,” Ward said with a laugh during a recent phone interview. “You can’t control the sound. But you can try and make sure everyone has a good time when they’re there, so that’s what I try to focus on.”
And the good times are happening for Ward and her fans.
The singer’s latest tour has given Ward her largest audiences yet, and the accolades continue to pour in.
The craziest part? Ward, born Zsuzsanna Eva Ward, is still just getting started.
“I’m a new artist, so I think the beauty to that is that it’s not like people were waiting for this record,” Ward says. “They didn’t know who I was, so people are still finding out about me, and that’s a great journey to be on.”
Casket makes for a vivid, multigenre experience. “Put the Gun Down” is hip-shaking, piano-tinged hip-hop at its finest. “Cryin Wolf” strolls into five-alarm-fire-style R&B with a cameo from Kendrick Lamar; “365 Days” is a danceable mashup of Motown soul and rock ’n’ roll; and “Lil Darlin” is a bluesy, jazzy number that sounds like it should be sung in a smoke-filled nightclub with a spotlight on Ward behind her piano.
Throughout it all, Ward leads with her distinct vocals, sounding at times like a sultry chanteuse (“Criminal”) and at other times proudly defiant (“If I Could Be Her”).
Music runs in Ward’s family. Essentially, she was destined to perform. Her father fronts a blues band, and, starting when Ward was 13, sometimes let her perform onstage with him.
From there, Ward carved out a niche in rural Oregon as she combined a love for rock, hip-hop, blues and soul.
Now, although she jokes that she’s planning to retire soon, the reality is anything but. Later this spring, in fact, Ward will play a string of dates opening for Eric Clapton.
“There’s nothing else I really felt like I was put on Earth to do,” Ward said.
“I felt like this was my calling, to sing, to play music and share my songs with people. I grew up admiring artists like Etta James, Muddy Waters, David Bowie, Tom Petty, Neil Young—people who just really played music all the time,” she said. “It is a really surreal feeling. I am very thankful for my life and getting to do what I love.”