ZZ Ward Interview

ZZ Ward is a Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter. Ward is an extremely soulful vocalist and songwriter. She is performing at the Midland October 11th. ZZ recently discussed her love of the blues, her songwriting process and naming her dog after Muddy Waters. For more info on ZZ Ward, check out http://www.zzward.com/

Live, you are insanely soulful. It’s one of those things, where you
can’t fake being soulful. You make music that is so real. What first
got you interested in music?
My dad was always into music. I, obviously, looked up to him. He was
always playing blues around the house when I was growing up, Muddy
Waters and Robert Johnson. I started getting into the blues through
him. He always encouraged me to sing in front of people. He thought it
was fun, and wanted me to think it was fun. I never really got scared
to sing in front of people. I always liked it.

Listening to so much classic blues can definitely teach you how to tap
into something real.
Definitely, in a live element. When I was growing up, I was playing
with older guys that were playing the blues. It definitely taught me
chops onstage.

How old were you when you first played onstage?
Probably 12 or 13, when I first started playing with the blues bands.

When did you first start writing your own songs?
I think I started dabbling when I was 13. The first songs I wrote were
really long songs. I didn’t know how to simplify parts. I’d write five
parts to a song. Every time, it would be like “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Epics, right?
Yeah, they are so epic.

Over time, did you teach yourself how to strip down songs and tighten them up?
Definitely. Yeah, how to shorten them a little bit.

Starting out, you have all these ideas. You try to cram in there as
much as possible. How does your songwriting process work these days?
I try to figure out things that I want to write about, that I’m
feeling at the time. I think it’s easier to write about something
where you have things to say about it. Finding a strong concept is
always a good start.

Do you start lyrics first or music first?
I usually start melody first. (Dog barks). Sorry, Muddy Waters is jealous.

You named your dog Muddy Waters?
Yeah. She just ate her breakfast, so she’s going crazy right now.

So, you basically start off melody first?
Yeah, usually melody first. Maybe this is deep, but I feel like sounds
come out of people before language. It just seems like it would make
more sense to write that way.

How often do you find yourself writing songs?
A lot. Whenever I’m not on tour, I’m writing. When I moved down to LA,
I just met so many songwriters and such a community of songwriters.
Sometimes, I write by myself. A lot of the songs on the album, I wrote
by myself. It’s always really inspiring when you’re around other
writers.

There is always so much to learn from other people that you can apply
to your own writing.
Definitely. There are always just a lot of ideas going around and
other people being creative. There are so many shows in LA, at any
given time you can go watch music. I grew up in a place where there
wasn’t that opportunity. You had to listen to CD’s and records. It’s
definitely great being in the city. It’s so inspiring.

Being able to see so much quality stuff live. It gives you so many
different ideas. To me, seeing someone live is the ultimate test of if
they’re good.
Definitely, I think so.

You know how to put on a great live show. You put on one of the best
live shows I’ve seen in a long time. You’re very soulful, and you know
how to connect with the crowd. That comes from years of skill.
Yeah, also I grew up listening to a lot of authentic, real artists. To
me, all of those artists, if they were going to be onstage, they were
going to be able to sing just like they sang on the record, if not
even more so. Playing live was the first thing. Recording was like a
new, fun thing for them. That’s what I grew up listening to. I’ve
always been able to do it live.

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